Until a few years ago, Mozambique was touted as one of sub-Saharan Africa’s leading success stories, with consistently high year-on-year GDP growth. In 2016, however, the country was hit by a “perfect storm” of unfavourable fluctuations in exchange rates, runaway inflation and a growing inability to service its debt burden. Observers believe Mozambique would have been able to ride this out, had it not been compounded by a scandal in which senior officials secretly provided government guarantees on several billion dollars’ worth of loans. Riding roughshod over constitutional and legal requirements, the money was then reportedly used to purchase a range of maritime goods, including military equipment for the state security services. Breaking in April 2016, the scandal crippled the government’s credibility just as it needed to demonstrate financial prudence to its donors and creditors.
Alongside enduring political instability between two rival parties, corruption is a major underlying cause of the country’s malaise, and has been recently estimated to have cost the country nearly US$5 billion between 2002 and 2014. Blighted by endemic corruption, Mozambique presents a textbook case of a country whose legal and institutional framework has been brought into line with international good practice, but whose good governance window dressing is unable to compensate for blatant abuses of power.