Maputo Profile

Maputo Profile

Until 3rd February 1976, Maputo was known as Lourenco Marques after the 16th century Portuguese explorer who explored the area in 1544 and later settled there with his indigenous wife and children. The modern day name of Maputo was taken from a Ronga Chief whose people lived in eastern and southern Africa, much of modern day Mozambique. By 1787 the Portuguese had constructed a fort at Lourenco Marques which existed within an uneasy and often turbulent relationship with the Ronga people who occupied the territory further inland not least because when the British arrived in the area their trade, mainly for ivory, was considered to be superior by the Ronga than the Portuguese.

By the mid-nineteenth century Lourenco Marques was still undeveloped however in 1876 the Portuguese started building there in earnest with it becoming a capital city in 1887 once the area had been gifted to Portugal at the Berlin Conference of 1885 as Portuguese East Africa. This development was spurred by the defeat of Ronga Chief Gungunyane when he was captured, taken to Lisbon, then died in exile with his successor committing suicide rather than being captured. This action effectively ended the Rongo conflict against the Portuguese. The city then grew in prominence thanks to the construction of a railway to Pretoria in neighbouring South Africa that started in 1895 and, by the start of the 20th century, Lourenco Marques was a bustling city port with a strongly cosmopolitan European look and feel (see image slideshow below).

Colonial Maputo




Much of this elegance was destroyed during the civil war that engulfed the country following its independence from Portugal in 1975 that was to last until 1992 and claim the lives of some 900,000 of its population, displace around five million and left many more injured and amputees through the deployment of landmines. Maputo was left shattered, teeming with refugees with all major services such as electricity and water no longer functioning. Even today bullet holes adorn many of the colonial buildings that line its once proud tree-lined avenues. The city of Maputo has been slowly rebuilt, however has yet to reclaim it full former glory.

Some 1,121,697 (2021) live there with a wide income gap; many live in poverty and squalor in the city's numerous slums with concrete tower blocks overlooking affluent Portuguese style villas with multi-million pound houses straddling the bay. Maputo has a vibrant cultural scene, with many restaurants and performance venues. Its economy is centered around the port through which much of Mozambique's imports and exports are shipped with main exports including cotton, sugar, chromite, sisal, copra, and hardwood. The city boasts several colleges and universities including Pedagogical University, Sao Tomas University, Catholic University of Mozambique, and Eduardo Mondlane University, the oldest in the country. Attractions include the Fortress of Maputo, the Museum of Natural History and the Tunduru Gardens.

Maputo Profile: Volunteer in Mozambique

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Maputo Profile: Maputo City Map

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Maputo Profile: Child Sponsor Mozambique

Child Sponsor Mozambique

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Maputo Profile: Mozambique Country Profile

African Country Profiles: Mozambique

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