I saw an interesting program about Mozambique on TV which showed this “rapidly growing” economy,” in fact one of the fastest growing in the world.  When I think of the country I always remember my Portuguese teacher who called it, “Mozambi-que,” splitting the last syllable into two as it should be. 

Perhaps my greatest contribution to the world of development economics came in Mozambi-que.  In 1985 I was assigned to the Office of Southern African Affairs at the State Department to be the economics officer and officer for Mozambi-que.  New territory for me since I had not worked in or on Africa since I had left the Peace Corps in Eritrea in 1964.  The first day I was handed a briefing book and told that I would be part of the escort for the president of the country arriving that afternoon in Washington.  President Samora Machal had a very good visit and I did not commit any gaffes.

While most of my time was suppose to be devoted to the effect of the anti-apartheid campaign on US economic interests in South Africa, andI did write part of the “Anti-Apartheid Act” of 1986, I found myself wrapped up in Mozambi-que. 

Our policy toward Mozambi-que at that time stood in sharp contrast to our worldwide campaign to assist rebels, “freedom fighters,” fighting Communist governments in Latin America and elsewhere.  In Mozambi-que we were working with the Communist regime.  I had to answer a lot of letters from Congress by essentially saying, “there are many ways to contain Communism, we believe that working  with the government in Mozambi-que is more productive than fighting it, and certainly less expensive.”

I was given a specific task to shore up our policy.  We had convinced the Mozambicans to enact a special law for foreign investment.  I usually oppose such laws since I want foreign investors to be treated equally to national investors.  But in Mozambi-que we need the special law since local law did not allow private enterprise.  My job was to give substance to the new law by bringing American investors to the country.

No small task this since at the time Mozambi-que was faced with -  famine,  civil war, total lack of infrastructure, total lack of funds, and being listed by the UN as the poorest country in the world.  On top of that there had never been an American investment in the country, since the Portuguese reserved this for Portuguese companies during colonial times.   I said okay, if I could bring the first American investment mission to Turkey when that country was so short of foreign exchange it did not even have any coffee, I could find an investor for Mozambi-que.  I warned, however, that such investors would be companies looking to extract natural resources, you know, the ones that pillage the less fortunate countries ruthlessly stealing their national patrimony. 

I looked at the map of Southern Africa and in doing so experienced an epiphany.  All the countries of the region, South Africa, Botswana, Nambia, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Mozambi-que´s sister Angola, had economies based squarely on minerals exploitation.   Mining was the economic motor for Southern Africa except for Mozambi-que.  And it was not for lack of resources since the country enjoyed many of the same mineral resources of its neighbors.  Rather it was for lack of investment.  Bingo, I would find American mining operations to work in Mozambi-que.

I sent a cable to our embassy in the capital Maputo asking it to see what minerals the Mozambican government wanted to develop.  It came back with a wish list of dozens of minerals.  I went through  the list pausing to consider some good options but stopped cold when I got to one mineral which I circled and put exclamation marks beside - titanium! 

 Why titanium asked my colleagues?  I replied I would not know titanium if you put it on my desk in front of me but I did know that you could sell every ounce you produced and you produce it in tons, not ounces.  And why was this, because we had adopted laws limiting and even banning the use of lead in paint and the replacement for the lead was titanium.  Immediately there was a demand for tons of titanium.

After a bit of research I found that a company located in Washington DC was trying to get a concession to mine titanium in Mozambi-que.   All in the business knew that there were significant deposits located on the country’s coast that had been found and sited by the Soviets who chose not to develop them.  I visited the company which was an old lead mining outfit from the American Mid-West´s “lead belt.”   They were in Washington because they were the people who designed and built the special lead containers used to transport highly radioactive enriched uranium that they sold to the US government. 

On my first visit I asked the owner, Sam Edlow, why haven´t you gotten a concession from the Mozambicans yet?  He replied, “Those Commie bastards are stiffing me.”  I asked him to give me a chance to see what I could do.

I next visited the Mozambican Embassy where the ambassador told me, “We do not find Edlow Resources in the Fortune 500.”   I replied, “Mr Ambassador you don´t need a Fortune 500 firm, you just need someone who can mine titanium and Edlow is the right one.”

From that unpromising beginning I worked carefully and quietly to bring the two sides together including using a trap for the avowed “Communist” Mozambican Minister of Mines on his official visit to the USA.  My work paid off, Edlow became the first American investor ever in Mozambi-que.  In fact it was the first foreign investor in Mozambi-que since independence in 1970.

Next:  America´s second investment in Mozambi-que