On Thursday, June 12th, the Africa Program of the Woodrow Wilson Center hosted the Foreign Prime Minister of Mozambique, Oldemiro Baloi, in an informal discussion with the director of the Africa Program, Ambassador Howard Wolpe.

Before beginning with an overview of Mozambique's current political, social, and economic climates, Mr. Wolpe provided a brief biography of Baloi's achievements and rise to his current position. Baloi then began his presentation by stating that Mozambique's peace and stability are enduring and the economy is growing. Despite this relative stability, however, Mozambique is plagued by several all-encompassing crises, particularly poverty. A central element that brought up foremost by Baloi entails a prioritization of the development of communal self-esteem and confidence throughout the country. People must be self-reliant. A widespread change in mentality takes times but Baloi feels nonetheless that a manifestation of self-reliance has begun to take off throughout the country, and with it, a lessening of dependence on donor programs. Insistent on keeping Mozambiquans energized, Foreign Minister Baloi stated, "We have to be the owners and leaders for our developmental process. We must be in the driver's seat if we expect to accomplish our main goals and the tasks at hand."

Baloi noted that the current priorities for Mozambique set forth by his ministry encompass the following:

  • Poverty Eradication: All donor programs currently in the country aim at solving this. The majority of Mozambiquans are hit with poverty, and some, with extreme poverty, or less than a dollar a day. Baloi continued by inferring that the misconstrued vision of Mozambique shared by some visitors and foreigners result from being channeled in and out of Maputo. The minister describes Maputo as a "very wrong image of the country" in the sense that it is a city with basic amenities that the majority of the rest of the country lacks.
  • The Spread of Endemic Diseases: Baloi sees a cyclical trend, particularly with malaria and the relatively recent spread of AIDS. He states that the trend over the past decade has been a negative one; diseases and rates of infection are worsening. Disease prevention is emphasized, but Baloi assures that antiretral viral medicine would be available when needed for those who are already infected.
  • Infrastructure: The health status of all Mozambiquans is directly related to the maintenance of strong and sturdy bridges, safe roads, clean water access and proper sanitation. Baloi believes that this is a crucial responsibility of the government.
  • Legal and Judicial System: According to Baloi, to have a sound democracy, these systems must be working properly. Unfortunately, this is not happening yet. Public sector reform is being implemented thoroughly by the government conjointly with its partners. As the process continues, however, the complexity of the rules and regulations increases.
  • Empowerment of Women: Baloi states that women are both the main targets and the main actors, and thus at the center of development strategies. Society has been structured around women as the head of the family and provider of nourishment. Yet because these women give food rations to their children and husband first, when rations run short, they are first to feel the effects. By correlation, women fall victim to illness more often and earlier than men. Baloi states that the country must undertake rural health initiatives to provide nourishment to these women. More incentives, such as reasonable housing and reliable transport, need to be offered in order to provide poorer districts with consistent access to medical doctors. Fiscal responsibility in overseeing these placements is key: spending must be both effective and accountable. Local chief efforts will be needed and meetings with local governments will be conducted, followed by an open public rally.

Placed within the context of southern Africa, Foreign Minister Baloi is sensitive to levels of peace and stability currently intact, particularly concerning Zimbabwe and the Congo. Baloi discusses the concept of "quiet diplomacy," which is historically the way African governments conduct business. This means that methods of policy are rarely criticized publicly. Baloi states that despite this African tradition, the courage to speak out within the Zimbabwean government is vital to its status and future. Unfortunately, those in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) who have publicly criticized Zimbabwe, for example, have experienced a loss of ties and dialogue with leading representatives and other political leaders. A joint subcommittee has been set up to prevent and monitor violent situations and contain army dispersion within rural areas. Baloi articulates that is it absolutely critical that the "quiet diplomacy" evident on the continent is marked by a higher concern for African opinions rather than the common approaches of the United States or the "West."

Baloi is content with the recent establishment of the African Union and his main objective is to make the AU into a real union, socially, economically, and politically. He also believes that NEPAD (New Partnership for Africa's Development) is based on self-reliance, unity, training, and principles of accountability, determined by peer-review. Mozambique is one of the first countries to adopt the ‘09 case of peer review which will be received in front of the African Union. Baloi would like to capitalize on the experiences gained through other countries' conflict resolution endeavors and apply them to current issues.

The floor was then opened to questions that pertained mostly to future economic and SADC endeavors of the country and continent. In concern to a question of SADC's peace impact on the continent and Zimbabwe, Baloi affirms that SADC's peace is a key to relative prosperous living within southern Africa while at the moment, uplifting Zimbabwean confidence. On a larger scale, SADC crucially provides stability in the south to African Union efforts. Baloi affirms that increased interaction between African regional blocs is needed to allow peace to prosper, communication to openly flow, and donor programs to work properly.

Drafted by Molly Wilkin, Intern and Justine Lindemann, Program Assistant, Africa Program