Mozambique was colonised by the Portuguese in the 16th century. The 1960s saw the desire for independence grow. The struggle was led by FRELIMO who formed the first independent Government in 1975. However, Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and then apartheid South Africa supported an opposition force, RENAMO, which took the country into a disastrous internal war until a Peace Accord was finally signed in 1992.
The war resulted in over one million deaths, six million Mozambicans displaced from their homes, the destruction of much of the infrastructure, and a legacy of one million landmines scattered across the rural landscape.
Mozambique has a rich mix of ethnic and cultural backgrounds with 16 languages being spoken. Portuguese is the official language.
The country is now peaceful with multi-party elections and unprecedented economic growth. But it remains one of the poorest countries in the world. In 2009 its purchasing power parity was US$20.22 billion compared to Britain with US$2.128 trillion (2009 est.) and Sofala – Beira is its capital – is its poorest province.
The country suffers high rates of HIV/AIDS. It has a high level of debt and has seen many of its traditional industries threatened by unfair world trade rules- in particular cashew nuts and sugar. The country ranks 165 out of the 169 countries on the Human Development Index.
Beira, the capital of Sofala province, situated at the eastern end of the “Beira corridor”, is Mozambique’s second city. It is an important port, and features beautiful beaches and old architectures. It has strategic road, rail and oil pipeline links with Zimbabwe, and also serves the economies of Zambia and Botswana. Beira has a population of 500,000. The city depends on a variety of medium and light industries, fishing, tourism. Despite the extreme poverty, there is a vibrancy and dynamism in Beira. It has a buzzing social life.