An exploration of contemporary Mozambique, which has one of the fastest-growing economies in the world.
Despite the southern African country’s impressive economic growth over the past two decades, many of its citizens have been left behind during the wave of prosperity. Though Mozambique has been lauded as an enviable success story, its politics are still defined by the long-running civil war that devastated the country after independence from Portugal in 1975—and the threat of a resumption of conflict is possible. The country has continued to draw increasing international investment, but many ambitious Mozambicans want to move to their far more prosperous neighbor South Africa. Gerety, a veteran radio and print journalist who has been a longtime contributor to Marketplace, has lived and worked in Mozambique, and this book is his attempt to come to grips with these paradoxical trends. The subtitle indicates that he might be pursuing a consistent theme of “chasing prosperity,” but ultimately, he does both more and less than that. He does more because his curiosities are wide-ranging; he is interested in nearly everyone involved, including peddlers, warlords, beggars, and politicians. He wants to know how systems work and how ordinary people are able to subvert those systems. However, the narrative is also highly episodic and lacks a coherent argument. Gerety has spent plenty of time in Mozambique, but he offers few conclusions for what should happen in the country. Most of the book is based on his time in Mozambique in 2011, so while it is putatively based on recent experiences, his reportage is six years old, and the author fails to provide an adequate level of follow-up on the individuals that comprise his cast of characters. Despite these flaws, though, Gerety effectively illustrates Mozambique’s complexities and how people navigate difficult circumstances.
As the author shows, chasing prosperity is rather different from catching prosperity.