The entanglement of Mozambique’s colonial past and present in the Maputo, Beira and Nacala corridors

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Conference

ConferenceThe Coloniality of Infrastructure: Eurafrican Legacies
CountrySwitzerland
CityBasel
Conference date(s)24/06/2026/06/20
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Publication details

DatePublished - 28 Jun 2020
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

This paper examines the infrastructural histories and legacies of three contemporary transnational corridors centered on the Mozambican cities of Maputo, Beira and Nacala. Corridors have long played a key role in the production and maintenance of the infrastructural state (Mann 1984). Underpinned by physical infrastructures – e.g. railways, roads, or ports – corridors were key to the extractive European colonial enterprise in Africa. Corridors facilitated the flows of resources, goods and knowledge between metropoles, cities in Africa and their hinterlands. Nowadays, corridors insert African cities and regions into global circuits of capital and commodities that perpetuate past extractive practices and policies. Corridors are also powerful imaginary spaces for advancing particular political projects and developing specific configurations of government. As such, the idea of a corridor can remain useful over time even as claims for their economic necessity and appropriateness ebb and flow.

The paper looks at how the three contemporary Mozambican corridors are, in fact, a legacy of older colonial transit ways that connected the three cities to British colonial interests in (today’s) South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Malawi. The paper traces first the three contemporary corridors since colonial times, emphasizing the nature and direction of investment committed to them in Salazar’s economic development plans (1953-1974). The cities of Maputo and Beira had different positions in the Portuguese colonial enterprise, but they remained central to Salazar’s imaginary of a unitary Portugal – his own brand of a ‘Eurafrican’ nation (Hansen and Jonsson 2014) – an imaginary depicted in the infamous map ‘Portugal is not a Small Country’. Then, the paper examines the recent and contemporary investments in the three corridors. It examines the role played by the corridors in the construction of a ‘new’ Mozambican economic order that is, nonetheless, deeply entangled in the country’s past.

    Research areas

  • Eurafrica, infrastructure, development corridors, Mozambique, Postcolonial Studies

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