News Column

Lack of Rural Banks "a Crisis of Growth"

June 23, 2014

Mozambican President Armando Guebuza on Saturday described the lack of banks in many of Mozambique's rural districts as "a crisis of growth", but expressed confidence that the efforts under way to expand the banking system would change the situation in the short term.

He claimed that over 60 per cent of the 128 districts are now covered, either by branches of the commercial banks, or by micro-finance institutions.

Speaking at a press conference in Chimoio, capital of the central province of Manica, marking the end of his "open and inclusive presidency" in Manica, Guebuza said that in the past there had not been sufficient agricultural production to justify opening banks in some districts - but today the situation is quite different, with farming communities in some of these districts not only guaranteeing their own food security but marketing a surplus.

"People are beginning to have money", he said, "and they want to use their savings correctly and take advantage of credit from organized institutions".

He insisted that, despite the slow pace, the spread of banking services into the countryside is a reality. On his visits to the districts Guebuza has frequently been faced with demands from local residents for the opening of bank branches.

In Manica, this was the case in the districts of Tambara and Mossurize. At Guebuza's rallies here people had complained that, in the absence of banks, they are obliged to bury all the proceeds from the sale of crops and other economic activities, with all the risks that this entails.

Such appeals, Guebuza said, "let the banks know that the people do in fact want banks, and have money".

Guebuza described his tour of Manica a success, and said he was impressed with the advances made in the districts. Thus he had found what amounted to a new town, with houses and services, growing on the higher area of Nhacolo, capital of Tambara district, in contrast to the recent past where everything had been confined to low lying areas around the banks of the Zambezi.

People were now living in the new, safer Nhacolo neighbourhoods, Guebuza said, and would never again risk seeing their houses submerged by regular flooding in the Zambezi basin.

He was also struck by the growth of Catandica, capital of Barue district, not just in terms of social infrastructures, but in the mentality of the local people who had accepted the challenge to increase their agricultural yields.

In Mossurize, Guebuza had arrived late for the rally. Dense fog had made it impossible for his helicopter to land at 09.00, as initially planned, and the President only arrived at about 13.00. But he was pleased that the crowd had waited patiently in order to make their contribution to discussing and solving the problems o the district and the country.

His Manica rallies had also been characterized by messages from the crowd condemning violence and attempts to divide the country. The people, Guebuza said, understood that development is under way, bringing changes to their lives, and that any threat to peace could reverse these changes.


Maputo, 23 Jun (AIM) - Ninety per cent of Mozambique's 128 districts are now free of land mines, declared Mozambican President Armando Guebuza on Monday.

Opening the third review conference of the Ottawa Convention banning the use, stockpiling, production and transfer of anti-personnel mines, Guebuza was optimistic that Mozambique can become the first of the five most heavily mined countries in the world to complete demining and be declared free of mines.

He noted that, when the first conference on land mines was held in Maputo, in 1999, only 45 states were party to the Ottawa Convention, but today that number has risen to 161. "This is a victory for the promotion of international humanitarian law", declared Guebuza.

In some parts of the world, accession to the Ottawa Convention is universal. Thus every state in sub-Saharan Africa has acceded to or ratified the treaty, and the same is true of the European Union. Every Latin American country except Cuba is a member of the Convention.

The main countries which manufacture land mines - the United States, Russia and China - are holding out against signing the Convention, as are India and Pakistan, and most of the Middle East.

Guebuza noted that there were various military arguments for the use of mines, either as an offensive or defensive weapon - but once laid, the mines cannot determine who will step on them. "They just wait to explode, whether set off by a person, an animal or a machine", he said.

The results are death, mutilation and the impossibility of carrying out social and economic projects in mined areas, thus severely affecting the development of the country concerned.

Jody Williams, the founding coordinator of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), work for which she won the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize, told the conference that the Ottawa Convention showed that "when we work together, we can change the world".

But, although there were now 161 states party to the convention, and although the number of land mine incidents had fallen dramatically, there was still a great deal of work to be done to end the scourge of land mines.

In remarks clearly addressed to the countries which have so far refused to join the convention, Williams said "Land mines are always a bad idea. The people who suffer the most are civilians".

The documentation produced for the conference notes there is now "widespread agreement that the use of anti-personnel mines is unacceptable and that its disastrous humanitarian and socio-economic consequences should be ended forever. For this reason, we will spare no effort to continue promoting universal adherence to the Convention and observance of its norms".

At the first conference in Maputo in 1999, the document adds, "the clearance of all mined areas was a distant prospect and perhaps, to some, unachievable. Today almost 30 states have completed this effort, which proves completion of our mine clearance obligations is within reach".

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Source: AllAfrica

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