Living in Mozambique, we often find ourselves wishing we could quantify an impression. We say things like “salaries are low” or “a lot of kids get malaria”, but we generally don’t have a number to match words like “low” or “a lot”.

Fortunately, others do. What follows are some simple visual comparisons between Mozambique and Spain. Some charts (like the number of children living with HIV) are pretty dire; others (like the increase in schooling) offer hope. Have a look and decide for yourself.

Education

Education is one of those areas where it’s difficult to grasp just how quickly things are changing. A few decades ago, 1 in every 5 girls went to primary school in Mozambique; now, it’s greater than 4 out of 5.

Going to school is important, but only if the school you go to offers a good education - which is hard to do when there are 35 students for every teacher.

Even if the number enrolled in primary school has increased dramatically, 3 out of 4 Mozambican students drop out before finishing middle school.

Changes in culture and education have seen a huge increase in literacy. Nearly 50% of adult women and 70% of adult men can now read, more than double the rate from a generation ago. Lots of progress made - but still a long way to go.

Health

There are many health challenges in Mozambique. One notable one is the lack of doctors.

The difference in spending on health in Europe and Africa is astounding. If you take into account both public and private health care, the average Spaniard spends nearly $3,000 on health per year; in Mozambique, that number is $42.

The lack of money invested in health care is due to a lack of resources, and not a lack of need. Take, for example, the more than 100,000 children living with HIV in Mozambique; in Spain, that number is closer to 100.

Mozambique, like much of Southern Africa, has an extremely high prevalence of HIV among the adult population.

The incidence of malaria has gone down rapidly, but remains unacceptably high: 1 (clinical) case per person every 3 years.

Stunting - meaning being abnormally small due to chronic malnutrition - is sadly very common in Mozambique.

Stunting is not the only effect of malnutrition. 2 out of every 3 Mozambican children are anemic.

Today, nearly 1 out of every 10 children will die before turning 5. That’s half the rate from a generation ago.

About 8% of Spanish babies are born at low weight (below 2.5kg); the rate is more than double that in Mozambique.

Life expectancy remains low in Mozambique, largely as a result of poverty and illness. Spaniards, on average, live 30 years longer than their Mozambican counterparts.

Wealth

The average amount of money that a person makes in a year (even after adjustment for “purchasing power”) is about 3% of the value in Spain. That means it takes a month of work in Mozambique to earn what a Spaniard gets in a day.

Society

Walking around town, it feels like children are everywhere. And the data confirm it - about half of Mozambicans are children.

Development in Spain has seen a continual decline in the percentage of land devoted to agriculture; in Mozambique, you can see the opposite trend.

Essentially all Spaniards get their water from an “improved” source (ie, plumbing, a well, etc.). Half of Mozambicans don’t (meaning they get their water from a river or lake).

The health risks posed by getting water from a river or lake are exacerbated by the fact that many Mozambicans live in areas where there is no system for dealing with human waste.

For every 41 tourists to Spain, 1 tourist goes to Mozambique.

Technology

Though increasing rapidly, still fewer than 1 in 4 Mozambicans have electricity.

Cell phones tell a different story. Approximately two thirds of Mozambicans have a cell phone, and that number is likely outdated.

Conclusion

This is where a clever conclusion should go which summarizes the above into one neat, clear message. But the reality is, there is nothing neat or clear about Mozambique (or the world, for that matter).

Sometimes, a “conclusion” over-simplifies the true complexity of things. So, we’ll leave this post unconcluded, and allow the data to speak for themselves. As the late, great Hans Rosling said: “let the dataset change your mindset.”

Data source

All data are from the World Bank. R Code for the charts is here.