Russia and Mozambique agree big debt-for-development swap

Achieving zero hunger will soon be a reality in Mozambique. [@wfp_mozambique Twitter]

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) announced on Wednesday (8 November) the biggest debt-for-development swap in its history, involving Russia and Mozambique.

An innovative debt-swap initiative between the two countries has unlocked a commitment of US$40 million, which will be used by the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) to support the government of Mozambique to provide school meals for 150,000 children in the African country over the next five years.

In addition to providing debt relief for Mozambique, the initiative will free up new resources for development and support expansion of the Programa Nacional de Alimentação Escolar (National School Feeding Programme), which seeks to provide school meals to all primary schools in Mozambique.

WFP is the world’s largest humanitarian agency fighting hunger worldwide, delivering food assistance in emergencies and working with communities to improve nutrition and build resilience. Each year, WFP assists some 80 million people in around 80 countries.

“Russia’s innovative move to convert debt into development funding will help feed a generation of schoolchildren in Mozambique,” said WFP Executive Director David Beasley.

“We are grateful to Russia and Mozambique for their willingness to embrace new financing methods that promote government ownership and strengthen important programmes, and we encourage other government donor partners to look to these new methods that can help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.”

Despite Mozambique achieving its Millennium Development Goal of halving the number of hungry people in the country, nearly a quarter of its population face chronic food insecurity or malnourishment. Under the Mozambique Country Strategic Plan (2017-2021), WFP and its partners will work to ensure that children in chronically food-insecure areas have access to nutritious food throughout the year.

Russia is by no means a big development donor. In the G8 group (which meets without Russia in a G7 format since the annexation of Crimea by Moscow), Russia accounts for a tiny fraction of the development aid the other major countries provide.

G8 and development aid

Leaders of the Group of Eight (G8) countries are meeting in Lough Erne, Northern Ireland, on 17-18 June, under the group’s UK presidency. 

At the same time, Russia has well-developed relations with Mozambique, which date back to the 1960s, when Moscow began supporting the struggle of Mozambique’s Marxist-oriented FRELIMO party against Portuguese colonialism. Most FRELIMO leaders were trained in Moscow. Diplomatic relations were formally established on 25 June 1975, soon after Mozambique gained independence from Portugal, and economic and defence relations developed further.

This, however, began to change in 1984 when Mozambique joined the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. Western aid by Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Iceland quickly replaced Soviet support. Finland and the Netherlands are becoming increasingly important sources of development assistance. Italy also maintains a profile in Mozambique as a result of its key role during the peace process.

Relations with Portugal, the former colonial power, continue to be important because Portuguese investors play a visible role in Mozambique’s economy.

Mozambique sits on vast gas reserves and with good governance could achieve a quantum leap in living standards of its population.

IEA: Sub-Saharan Africa will produce more gas than Russia

Sub-Saharan Africa will outstrip Russia as a global gas supplier by 2040, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA), spurring European Union efforts to wean itself off its Russian gas addiction by investing in the region’s development.

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