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Fleeing European Austerity, Economic Immigrants Look Towards Africa
7/7/2013 5:31:37 PM

Women in Maputo, the capital city of Mozambique

(GIN)  In an about-face of familiar migration trends, Europeans are packing up and moving to Africa as unemployment in their home countries reaches record levels and recession moves into its third year.

Mozambique, the southern African nation enjoying a boom in oil and gas extraction, has become a magnet for newcomers, especially from the former colonial nation of Portugal.

Goncalo Teles Gomes, the Portuguese consul in Maputo, the capital, estimates that 30,000 Portuguese now live in Mozambique, the majority of them in Maputo.

"It is not like it's an avalanche or an invasion but we have seen an increase in new registrations of between 30 and 35 percent since 2009," said Goncalo Teles Gomes. "One hundred forty new Portuguese migrants arrive every month in Mozambique and others fly in and out, working in different kinds of businesses."

Mozambique won its independence from Portugal in 1975 after a bitter struggle. A quarter of a million Portuguese settlers fled the country, leaving the local economy in disarray. In addition, after Independence Day on June 25, 1975, the outbreak of the Mozambican Civil War (1977-1992) destroyed the remaining wealth and left the former Portuguese Overseas Province in a state of absolute disrepair.

The return of the Portuguese is being viewed warily by local Mozambicans who are also watching foreign firms snap up generous tax incentives from the government. Large blocks of potential oil gushers off the country's long eastern coast are being sold off to Asian and Indian companies.

One area, the Rovuma Area 1 block, is poised to make Mozambique the second largest liquid natural gas (LNG) exporter in the world after Qatar. For the Indian companies seeking the drilling contracts, the block contains 20 times India's current annual gas consumption and enough to fire 42,000 MW of power plants, more than the total capacity of India's largest power producer.

The Houston Texas-based company Anadarko also has one of the largest gas extraction wells in the country.

Despite major oil and gas reserves, there is little trickle down to the majority farmers and fishermen. The average life expectancy is only 48 years and about 55.2 percent of the population lives in poverty. About 70 percent of the people live in rural areas.

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