Mozambique gained independence after more than five centuries of colonial rule from Portugal on 25 June 1975. A long and devastating civil war ensued between the ruling FRELIMO Marxist government and the rebel RENAMO forces. This war all but decimated the country into the world's poorest status. Coupled with severe drought and powerful cyclones and flooding, the government had the good sense to change direction. In 1989, FRELIMO formally abandoned Marxism. Over the ensuing years the country has turned the corner and seen a marked improvement in their economy.
During the stone age, this part of Africa was inhabited by the hunter gatherer San people. In about 1000 AD, the Bantu tribes migrated to the region, and between 1200 and 1400 AD, what is present day Mozambique was a conglomerate of numerous tribal kingdoms. The Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama arrived on Mozambican soil, and the country was eventually colonized in 1752. The most significant African art form in this region are the Makonde wood carvings, a people who live in the northern parts of the country.
The main ethnic groups which now virtually comprise all of Mazambican society are Makhuwa, Tsonga, Lomwe, Sena and others. The religious makeup is 23,8% Catholic, 17,8% Muslim, 17,5% Zionist Christian and the rest being indigenous. The capital city is Maputo. Portuguese is an official language still spoken as a second language by a large portion of the population.
The currency is the metical.
The long coastline of Mozambique on the warm Indian Ocean known as the Mozambique Channel is magnificent, and not surprisingly, the climate ranges from tropical to subtropical. The country borders Tanzania to the north, Zambia and Zimbabwe to the west, and South Africa and Swaziland to the southwest. A large portion of the border with South Africa runs along the Kruger National Park.
Mozambique is roughly twice the size of California as a comparison, and the arable land surface is just over 5%. Farming produce includes cotton, cashew nuts, sugarcane, tea, cassava, corn, coconuts, sisal, citrus, tropical fruits, potatoes and sunflowers. About 80% of the active labor force derives their income from farming. Their is still enormous potential to develop the country's large unused fertile plains.
The islands of the Bazaruto Archipelago are a popular tourist destination that has been granted National Park status.
Mozambique has a population of just under 20 million people commonly known as Mozambicans. The labor force is just under half of this, a large portion of which serves the agricultural industry. About 70% of the population live below the poverty line. In 2003 it was estimated that the HIV/AIDS prevalence rate was 12%, and that 1,3 million people were living with the disease.