European countries have long been enticing destinations for the world’s desperate, who seek better fortunes in the north. With the current economic crisis in Europe, however, migration flows seem to have reversed and perhaps the power balance shifted.
The Danish television program Horisont, which reports on global topics and dilemmas outside Denmark’s boundaries, had an episode called From colonial master to subject, reviewing the current trend in migration flows from Portugal to its former colonies: Brazil, Angola and Mozambique.
Whereas Portugal has suffered economic crises and high rates of unemployment, Mozambique’s economic growth has been phenomenal, with an annual growth rate of almost 8 % (compared to -3% in Portugal).
The profile of the new immigrants has been the young and well educated, who are willing to work hard, but who don’t have many options at home.
They flee unemployment, downsized salaries and the consequences of desperate times in Europe.
In Mozambique, there have been lots of opportunities for these new immigrants. The former Portuguese colony is experiencing a surge in foreign investment, as coal reserves are discovered in the north, urban centers developing and with the country’s booming construction industry. This has led to a long line of Portuguese seeking work permits in Africa.
In 2011, 44,000 Portuguese emigrated, many to the former colonies.
However, although certain industries are benefiting greatly from the tide of well-educated Portuguese that are flowing into the country and have taken up employment, there has also been hesitation from Mozambicans. Certain industries might be flourishing, but the money rarely trickles downward and not everyone gains from Mozambique’s growth.
Despite this annual growth of 8%, Mozambique is still one of the world’s poorest countries. 54 % of the population lives on less than a dollar a day and the number of poor has risen with 2 million people.
The country is vulnerable to the interests of foreign multinational corporations, and segments of the population fear the risk of a new era of colonization, with exploitation and a hollowing out of the countries natural resources.
As with similar tales of African growth, one must consider the parallel developments of documented economic growth, which for some are economically beneficial, but for others can be a hollowing out of their means of existence. It is important to start from below, letting small businesses support themselves and secure the livelihoods of the community around them.