World Bank calls on Mozambique to address urban-rural divide 

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Infrastructure investment in Mozambique has been focused on urban rather than rural areas, exacerbating an urban-rural divide in the country, particularly in access to transport, according to a World Bank study released yesterday.

Over the past decade, access to water, electricity, and health facilities mildly improved, the World Bank’s analysis found, but access to transport deteriorated significantly, along with a moderate deterioration in access to primary schools, on average.

The average distance to a public transport stop in urban areas increased slightly from 19 to 26 minutes since 2009, but in rural areas it increased from 28 to 92 minutes. Similar trends were observed for access to market indicators.

Large increases in public expenditure during Mozambique’s boom years of 2009 to 2015 also failed to benefit the poorest and worst-served parts of Mozambique. “The provinces with the lowest levels of access to basic infrastructure in 2009 were amongst the least well-funded in subsequent years,” the report says, with per capita investment levels “relatively lower in northern and central zones, especially Nampula, Zambezia and Cabo Delgado, which are amongst the most underserved areas.”

Poor access to roads and markets in rural areas has a negative effect for urban areas, too, as it translates to higher food prices, the report points out.

The World Bank has a track record of providing funding for rural roads in Mozambique, including a $150 million grant in 2018 to improve road access in Zambezia and Nampula provinces. At the time, however, doubts were expressed over how effectively the money would be spent.

In the new government appointed by President Filipe Nyusi earlier this month, Celso Correia was given responsibility for rural development at the newly created Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development. Correia is seen as close to Nyusi and was previously Minister of Land, the Environment, and Rural Development — the ministry through which the World Bank funded its ‘Sustenta’ agriculture and conservation programme, one of the most significant donor-funded programmes of Nyusi’s first term as President.

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