Mozambique 2019 Crime & Safety Report

The current U.S. Department of State Travel Advisory at the date of this report's publication assesses Mozambique at Level 1, indicating travelers should exercise normal precautions. Exercise increased caution in Maputo due to crime. Reconsider travel to some northern districts in Cabo Delgado Province due to violent extremism.

Overall Crime and Safety Situation

The U.S. Embassy in Maputo does not assume responsibility for the professional ability or integrity of the persons or firms appearing in this report. The ACS Unit cannot recommend a particular individual or location and assumes no responsibility for the quality of service provided.

Review OSAC's Mozambique-specific page for original OSAC reporting, consular messages, and contact information, some of which may be available only to private-sector representatives with an OSAC password.

All of Mozambique's borders, including the eastern coast and airports, are porous and facilitate trafficking drugs, humans, and illicit wildlife products. While lack of opportunity prevents most illegal traffickers from settling in Mozambique, the constant flux of people and goods brings with it nefarious elements and businesses.

Mozambique is a developing country that has been steadily rebuilding its economy and civic institutions since the 16-year civil war ended in 1992. Despite high economic growth rates in recent years, in 2016 GDP growth fell to a 15-year low and is now below 2011 production figures. Mozambique remains among the world's poorest countries, with a gross national income (GNI) of approximately US$420 per capita. Ranked near the bottom of the UN's Human Development Index, poverty is endemic. High unemployment rates, weak investment in employment-generating industries, and low incomes associated with work in the informal sector create conditions of gross economic hardship. Mozambique's inability to service US$1.4 billion in previously undisclosed, state-backed loans helped fuel a devaluation of the metical (MZN) by 33% against the dollar and inflation rates of 25%. High inflation rates and a depreciating currency dramatically increased the costs of goods for Mozambicans who depend on imports for much of their consumption. The difficult economic forecast for Mozambique could lead to a continued rise in crime.

Crime Threats

There is serious risk from crime in Maputo. The rate of violent crime is comparable to most other African countries. Assailants occasionally use forceful tactics, operate in organized groups, and carry weapons that increase the possibility of physical harm. Carjackings are rare.

Foreigners are frequent criminal targets due to their perceived wealth. The majority of crimes against foreigners are non-violent crimes of opportunity (e.g. pickpocketing, theft of unattended possessions, vehicular break-in, bag snatching). Thieves often attempt to distract a victim by asking questions, begging for money, bumping/jostling the individual, or offering to sell items. While the victim is distracted, an accomplice may take a piece of luggage or pick the victim's pocket or purse. Criminals frequently target people walking the streets alone, especially at night, with purses, bags, or backpacks, especially for electronics they can sell easily on the black market.

In the past few years, Mozambique experienced a steady level of robbery and theft. The most frequent types of robberies generally involve several assailants who brandish weapons (e.g. knives, machetes, firearms). In most cases, assailants break contact with the victim after receiving cash/cell phone. This type of crime increases in frequency in December and January. If the economic downturn persists, the level of violent crime will likely rise.

The Marginal (coastal) Road in Maputo (south of the Gloria Hotel) and the green space winding up the hill above it is an area of increased violent criminal activity. Avoid walking along Avenida Friedrich Engels and Rua Caracol for the same reasons. Muggings of pedestrians have occurred at all hours of the day. Avoid isolated areas and walking at night, even in well-known tourist areas. Avoid walking along roads bordered by wooded areas, where criminals may hide.

Instances of credit/debit card cloning are on the rise, but remain low. Instances of financial fraud and identity theft are increasing slightly, as is the use of counterfeit currency. For more information, review OSAC's report, The Overseas Traveler's Guide to ATM Skimmers & Fraud.

Porous borders, endemic poverty, and proximity to South African markets make Mozambique vulnerable to organized crime. Narco-trafficking, human smuggling, and trade in illicit/endangered animal products represents a growing threat to stability and security in Mozambique and across the region.

Cybersecurity Issues

Cybersecurity capabilities are still developing. The National Institute of Communications is working to improve the cybersecurity infrastructure. Banks and other public institutions are beginning to modernize and digitize their information.

Other Areas of Concern

Avoid walking alone after dark. Do not walk on the beach at night.

There have been violent extremist attacks in the districts of Mocimboa da Praia, Nangade, Palma, Macomia, Ibo, Ancuabe, and Quissanga in Cabo Delgado, the northern province that borders Tanzania. These groups have used machetes and firearms to conduct lethal attacks, as well as burned vehicles and homes. While the attacks have been localized in the abovementioned districts, there remains a possibility that such violence could spill over into other districts bordering or near Macomia.

In the central and southern provinces (i.e. Sofala, Tete, Manica, Gaza, Inhambane, and Maputo) landmines may still exist in remote areas, away from main routes. Seek advice from district authorities if traveling in these areas.

Source: Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC)