/ 14 September 2016

Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi in Washington to calm IMF, investor fears

Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi is set to be grilled in Washington over the alleged uncontrolled logging of forests
Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi has flown to Addis Ababa for a meeting with the African Union and to Brussels for a meeting with the European Union.

President Filipe Nyusi will be in Washington on Thursday for a meeting with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and to address a forum on Mozambique.

On Friday he will head to Texas where he will meet the oil and gas industry to talk about giant gas fields discovered north of Beira.

Nyusi (57) has been dogged by a scandal over money borrowed by the state before he took office last year, which is set to overshadow his meetings.

In 2014, Mozambique raised more than a billion dollars from Credit Suisse and other banks without clearance from Parliament, as required by law.

The IMF was also not consulted and there are fears Maputo may default, with total debt now equal to more than 80% of GDP.

When the loans came to light in April 2016, Moody’s downgraded the country’s sovereign debt to Caa3, well into junk status.

Lenders took comfort at the weekend from a statement by the president that he was not opposed to a forensic audit.

“The cases are already under way at the level of the attorney general’s office,” he said.

Nyusi, an engineer and former defence minister, was elected in 2015 when his predecessor, Armando Guebuza, stepped down in line with the two-term limit.

In Washington, the environmental lobby is also set to grill him over what they say is the uncontrolled logging of forests and a flotilla of illegal trawlers catching dolphins, sharks and fish in the Mozambique Channel.

Some of the money from the loans was used to purchase patrol boats that have been delivered and are set to make life harder for the factory ships.

Mozambique loses an estimated $63-million a year to poaching by foreign vessels.

Nyusi is expected to visit an oceans conference that will be opened on Thursday by US secretary of state John Kerry.

And at lunchtime, he will speak at an investment forum hosted by the Corporate Council on Africa, a leading think tank in Washington.

On Thursday afternoon he will be interviewed in Portuguese by Voice of America for broadcast on the station’s Africa service.

US ambassador to Maputo, Dean Pittman, is accompanying the president on his visit.

In 2015, Washington supplied Mozambique with more than $200-million in aid.