Picking up the Pace of Poverty Reduction in Mozambique

December 21, 2016

Mark R. Lundell

Mozambique has made great strides in reducing poverty. But with nearly 50 percent of the population still living in poverty, progress has not been fast enough. What’s more, poverty is concentrated in rural areas, and the regions of Zambezia, Sofala, Manica, and Gaza even saw an increase in poverty in the 2000s.

One of the main reasons for the mixed picture of poverty in the country is that growth has been a much weaker driver of poverty reduction than in other countries in sub-Saharan Africa. Consider this: for every percentage point of economic growth between 1996 and 2009, poverty went down by 0.26 percentage points in Mozambique. That is only half of what growth in other sub-Saharan African countries has created in terms of poverty reduction, on average.

Perhaps more concerning, however, is that growth has not benefitted everyone equally- and this lack of shared prosperity has kept many poor Mozambicans in poverty. Recent estimates show that more than 2 million additional people could have been lifted out of poverty had Mozambique’s economic growth between 1997 and 2009 been more equally shared.

To make economic growth work better for the poorest, it will be critical to equalize access to basic services such as education, sanitation, electricity, and health. With over half of Mozambicans aged 20-30 years unable to read, and only 8 and 4 percent of rural households having access to electricity and sanitation, respectively, people’s potential to contribute to and benefit from the process of economic growth is being curbed from the start.

But a focus on improving basic services is not enough. People have to be connected to job markets and economic processes. Even when people living in Nampula and Zambezia have been able to improve their education and health at a faster pace, they have been unable to put their skills and ability to good use, since they are cut off from the broader economic landscape.

Mozambique’s poorest and the country as a whole can see huge benefits through improvements in agriculture. Most of the population, and nearly all of the rural poor are farmers, but low productivity, lower use of technology and inputs, and limited connectivity have made it harder for them to earn enough to move out of poverty. A Mozambican farmer that uses fertilizers, for example, can produce 40 percent more than one who does not. And, farmers who sell part of what they grow see yields that are 25 percent higher on average than those who must use all of what they grow to feed their families. Much more can be done to improve this sector, which is primed to drive growth for all and reduce poverty.

Even if agriculture is improved, however, extreme weather still poses a threat. Three in four Mozambican farmers report losing crops, animals, or equipment due to climactic shocks. Beyond this, children that grow up in areas affected by floods- like the ones the country saw in 2000- are more likely to be undernourished, drop out of school, and consequently not get jobs later in life than those who grow up in areas with normal weather conditions. It is crucial to put systems in place that protect those who are most vulnerable to extreme weather.

Mozambique can continue its progress on poverty reduction, and even speed up the pace, by focusing on investments in basic services, connectivity to job markets, agriculture, and programs that keep people from falling through the cracks when hit with a storm, a drought, a flood, or any other kind of shock.

There is already work being done in these areas. But we can, and we must, do more. The World Bank Group will continue to accompany the government and the people of Mozambique on the path out of poverty. We look forward to an even brighter future for Mozambique, starting with better opportunity for the country’s poorest people.

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