Maputo is in the south of Mozambique and is the country’s capital and chief port. The city was once regarded as an African tourist destination to rival Cape Town. However, over two decades of civil war has left much of Maputo’s buildings in ruins.
At the end of the eighteenth century Maputo was a small settlement around a colonial fort. Its name is that of a Portuguese trader who explored the region in the sixteenth century. The town grew steadily and in 1887 it was declared a city. In 1895 a railroad connecting Maputo to Pretoria in South Africa was completed, and the city began to expand rapidly as a result. In 1907 it replaced the town of Mozambique as the capital of Portuguese East Africa. The city was at the centre of the country’s lengthy campaign for independence from Portugal, and eventually was named the capital of Mozambique in 1975. The Portuguese population immediately abandoned the city leaving it without an administrative structure. Independence also entailed the severing of political ties with South Africa and a consequent decline in Maputo’s tourist revenues. Stability and prosperity in the capital came under threat from the ruling Frelimo party’s conflict with rebel political groups opposed to its Marxist-Leninist ideology. In Oct. 1992 Frelimo signed a peace accord with Renamo, the most prominent of the rebel groups, thus ending the civil war.
Maputo is the country’s administrative hub, and a major centre for communications and commerce. Its economy is heavily reliant on its port on Maputo Bay. Major exports include coal, cotton, sugar, chrome, ore, cement and hardwood. Industries include shipbuilding and repair, brewing, iron working and fish canning. The city is connected to South Africa, Swaziland and Zimbabwe by both road and rail. The University of Mozambique is based in Maputo.
Places of Interest
The original fort is still standing and is the oldest of Maputo’s historic sites. The University houses a museum devoted to Mozambique’s history. The National Art Museum showcases contemporary art.