Relative peace and stability since 1992, when the country’s civil war ended, has made Mozambique attractive to investors. The economy has grown by more than seven percent each year over the last decade, with mining projects and recent discoveries of natural gas continuing to spur national economic growth. However, mineral and gas extraction projects create few jobs - less than four-thousand two years ago, according to ILO chief technical officer Igor Felice.
“We call these jobless activities in the sense that the investments have no direct impact on job creation, because they are capital intensive and not labour intensive,” Felice explained.
The multi-national companies extracting natural resource create few jobs for a labour force that grows by the hundreds of thousands each year. The few jobs that Mozambique's megaprojects create tend to be highly qualified positions that are often taken by expatriates. Moreover, the private sector in Mozambique creates few jobs with proper rights and regulations to protect workers, the bulk of them youths, who enter the labour market yearly, according to Felice.
Indeed, lack of jobs in their immediate neighbourhoods has forced many Mozambicans to migrate and look for work in Maputo, the country’s capital. Meanwhile, the country’s impressive post-war progress in reducing poverty has stalled in recent years. However, the government is promoting agriculture and this is proving to be a major source of employment in the country. This is the backdrop to the story of Amelia Macie, whose childhood dream was to become a secondary school teacher. Growing up in the Mafuaine village of Namaacha district some 40 kilometres in the south-west of Maputo, the young woman, now 29, endured the difficulties of a rural girl-child.
“I only did my first year of primary education and I could not go further because of the war; and my poor parents wanted me to help them at home,” she told APA.
Amelia is one of the millions of victims of the consequences of the armed conflict, which erupted between Renamo and the Frelimo government, soon after Portuguese colonial rule in 1975. Without formal education and having five children to look after, her dreams to become a teacher were unattainable; yet she and her dependents must survive. However, all was not lost. Amelia started working in a neighbour’s fields, but the paltry wages forced her to look for employment elsewhere.
Five years ago, she got a permanent job with a farmer called Mariza Esculudes, whose business is agro-processing. Esculudes attended UN ILO training courses in 2015, and also did technical courses in business development for women, with particular focus on agriculture. Amelia’s story is shared by the majority of young people in mineral-rich Mozambique which, ironically, is facing a dire youth unemployment crisis, despite the country experiencing impressive economic growth.
Thirty-three-year-old Salomao Massasse was a school dropout in his home province of Inhambane. He wanted to be a doctor, but had to migrate to Maputo to find work. He aspired to earn money to start his own business. Unfortunately, Massasse’s income could only sustain him, and he also ended up working at Esculudes’ farm in Mafuiane.
“I have been working here for three years now; and I’m happy that I earn a monthly salary, which I use to look after myself, my family and build a house.”
The Open Society Foundation in a 2016 report estimated that 70 percent of people under 35 years of age, who form the majority of Mozambique’s population of 25 million, cannot find stable employment. Unskilled youths like Amelia and Massasse, who are illiterate and speak Changana instead of Portuguese, Mozambique's official language, are worst off. Meanwhile, Mariza Esculudes believes strengthening Mozambique's agricultural sector will generate sustainable jobs for such youths. Gaining inspiration from their employer, Amelia and Massase plan to invest in agriculture once they have saved enough money.
“I am happy here, and I learn new things every day. There is no lack of employment opportunities; just look around yourself and you will see a lot of opportunities,” Massasse added. Meanwhile, Esculudes’ recommendation is to make agriculture a national priority, so as to help reduce youth joblessness and poverty in Mozambique.