Mozambique is a country of extremities. Now in a period of relative peace and stability, two decades have passed since the end of the civil war that ravaged the country for fifteen years. Over half of the population live below the poverty line, while more than a fifth are unemployed. Only Niger and the Democratic Republic of the Congo rank lower than Mozambique on the Human Development Index. It is fair to say that the situation is extremely dire.
Ten years ago, tourism accounted for 1.2% of Mozambique’s GDP – well below the Sub-saharan average of 6.9%. However, in 2005, Mozambique’s tourism sector was the fastest growing in the world, at 37%. Tourist arrivals have increased from c.240 000 in 1999 to c.2 200 000 in 2009. While these figures are outdated, they do suggest that Mozambique was well behind the rest of Sub-saharan Africa in terms of tourism, but is making up some ground. There is hope for Mozambique in its tourism sector.
Mozambique has all the assets to become a thriving centre of tourism: the warm Indian Ocean meets sandy white beaches along a 2700 kilometre coastline (longer than the US west coast). Wildlife, decimated during the war but now recovering, and a unique cultural heritage add to its appeal. The government has recognised the potential of tourism to reduce poverty in Mozambique, with President Guebuza saying ‘we support tourism as an area of major importance in our agenda to fight poverty’. The nature of the tourism sector is such that the poorest members of the population, given targeted vocational training, can find work as cooks, waiters or handicraft sellers, to give but a few examples.
HITT is working alongside its partners in Mozambique to give the most disadvantaged informal workers in the tourism sector access to vocational training that will enable them to capitalise on the benefits brought by the growing tourism industry. This will have two primary effects: firstly, the individual beneficiary will be empowered to find more stable, higher paid employment or develop their own business; secondly, the overall quality of service and facilities will be raised, which will attract more tourists to Mozambique, fostering even greater growth.
Through training the informal tourism workforce effectively, there is the chance for Mozambique to experience extreme success through the blossoming of its tourism sector.