Diogo, Luisa Dias

views updated May 23 2018

Luisa Dias Diogo



Luisa Dias Diogo came of age in a time of liberating revolution and devastating civil war in the African nation of Mozambique. Though she saw her homeland ravaged by war, natural disasters, governmental corruption, disease, and bitter poverty, Diogo did not become hopeless or resigned. Instead, she studied economics and went to work in the government's Ministry of Planning and Finance, where she could have a direct influence on her country's economy. Diogo's hard work, resourcefulness, and hard-headed business sense enabled her to advance rapidly in the ministry, as she introduced many creative economic programs to help relieve poverty and improve conditions in the newly-independent nation. She became not only Mozambique's first female Minister of Finance, but, in 2004, at the age of 45, was appointed the country's first female Prime Minister.

Having earned a position of so much power, Diogo was keenly aware of a sense of responsibility to the citizens she represented, especially to the women, who did much of the work to create and sustain the community and often had little voice in its government. Along with working to rebuild a healthy economy in Mozambique, she has become an international ambassador, working with the United Nations and the World Bank to build bridges of understanding and support between the developing nations of Africa and the rest of the world.

Luisa Dias Diogo was born on April 11, 1958, in the Mágoè district in Tete province in the central inland area of Mozambique. She was the third of eight children born to Luis João Diogo and Laura Atanásia Dias. At the time of young Luisa's birth, Mozambique had been a colony under the domination of Portugal for over 200 years. The African residents of the area had experienced slavery, economic exploitation, and racist political suppression at the hands of their European conquerors. By the late 1950s, an independence movement had formed, initiated by farmers, who began organizing in order to keep control of the food they produced. Mozambique's freedom fighters faced more than two decades of opposition before their nation would finally be independent.

Grew Up Amid Revolution and Civil War

Until she was 12 years old, Diogo attended the Dona Maria Primary School in Tete City. Then she went to Tete Commercial School for two years before entering the Maputo Commercial Institute for high school. She was attending high school in 1975 when Mozambique became an independent state. One of the major organizations in the fight for self-rule had been the Front for Liberation of Mozambique (FRELIMO), which formed a new government. FRELIMO was a socialist party which believed in government control of many industries and resources and attempted to modernize Mozambican society by outlawing some traditional practices.

Soon another powerful faction arose to challenge FRELIMO's changes. The National Resistance movement of Mozambique (RENAMO) was made up of a variety of groups who opposed FRELIMO. These included traditionalists, who were offended by the government's new liberal rules about religion and the status of women. Also involved in RENAMO were white Mozambicans, many of whom had fled the country after the war of independence, and conservatives from neighboring countries who feared that the fight for liberty might spread across their borders. RENAMO grew rapidly and soon the newly independent nation was embroiled in a bitter civil war that raged from 1975 until 1992. Before it ended, over a million Mozambican citizens would be killed.

In addition to its political problems, the newly forming nation faced other serious challenges. Mozambique was an agricultural society, deeply affected by the extremes of weather that are common in southeastern Africa. During the early years of independence, the country suffered severe damage from floods, which destroyed food crops, leaving much of the population in extreme poverty. During the 1980s, a new terror became a part of daily life in Mozambique as doctors discovered a deadly virus they called Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS), which was sweeping the African continent south of the Sahara Desert.

Studied Economics in College

During the late 1970s, as Mozambique tasted independence and endured continued fighting, disease, and poverty, Luisa Dias Diogo entered college at Eduardo Mondlane University, a college in the capital city of Maputo which had recently been renamed to honor one of the heroes of the revolution. The excitement of liberation, coupled with the urgent needs of the new state had created unprecedented opportunities for young people, even women, who wished to serve their country. Diogo took advantage of this new atmosphere to study economics.

The economy of Mozambique had suffered greatly from decades of colonialism and cycles of drought and flood. Seventy percent of Mozambicans lived in extreme poverty. The civil war was still raging, killing hundreds of thousands, damaging roads and bridges with explosives, and leaving the land filled with hidden bombs called land mines. The nation was deeply in debt to other nations and to international organizations such as the International Monetary Fund. Just as often happens with individuals, poverty among nations can lead to a cycle of indebtedness, where the economies of poor nations become increasingly dependent on loans that they are never able to repay.

In 1980, during her second year of college, Diogo went to work at the Ministry of Planning and Finance. Her passionate enthusiasm for her country's well-being and her administrative skills led to quick promotion. By 1989, she had become director of the Budget Department with the important responsibilities of managing the nation's investments, state treasury, and defense budget. While working hard to stabilize her country's economy, Diogo continued her own training, earning a master's degree in economics from the University of London in 1992.

In 1993, after ably managing Mozambique's budget for several years, Diogo left her work in the government to take a job with the World Bank, an international financial institution with ties to the United Nations. Officially titled the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the World Bank provides grants, loans, and financial advice to developing nations. From 1993 to 1994, Diogo worked as the Bank's program officer for Mozambique, helping carry out economic relief programs and making many international connections that would serve her well in her later career.

Became Minister of Finance

The civil war in Mozambique ended in 1992, and in 1994, a new election put a FREMILO government in place. The new president, Joaquim Chissano, offered Diogo a job in his government as deputy finance minister. She accepted the appointment and left the World Bank to devote herself to helping create the new government's financial development plan.

At a Glance …

Born Luisa Dias Diogo on April 11, 1958, in Mágoè district, Tete province, Mozambique; married António Albano Silva, three children: Nelson, João Nuno, Laura Solange. Education: Eduardo Mondlane University, BA economics, 1983; University of London, MA economics, 1992.

Career: Ministry of Planning and Finance, Mozambique, 1980-93, department head, 1986-89, national budget director, 1989-93; World Bank, program officer for Mozambique, 1993-94; Mozambique national government, deputy minister of planning and finance, 1994-2000, minister of planning and finance, 2000-05, prime minister, 2004-.

Selected awards: The Banker magazine, Finance Minister of the Year, 2004, Order Eduardo Mondlane, 2004.

Addresses: Web—Página Oficial de Moçambique, www.mozambique.mz.

Seventeen years of civil war had had devastating effects on most aspects of Mozambican society. The country's infrastructure, that is, roads, bridges, power, and communication systems, had been demolished. Seventy percent of the education system and 60 percent of the health system had been destroyed during the conflict, and the nation faced a dire shortage of food and medical supplies. Diogo, as part of Mozambique's new government, began to work steadily to repair the damage and reform the economy in order to reduce poverty.

To help launch this new program of economic development, Diogo sought financial aid from the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and individual wealthy nations, such as the United Kingdom. She worked hard to obtain the aid in the form of grants rather than loans, hoping to stop the cycle of increasing debt in Mozambique. The contacts she had made while working with the World Bank helped her in raising the money her country needed, and, with the funds she raised, she began making improvements in agriculture, health, and telecommunications.

By 2000, Diogo's efforts led to her appointment as minister of finance. Though no woman had ever held the post before, Diogo was not afraid to take on the job. She knew from her own experience that women could do far more than men believed they could. She often told the story of how her grandfather, a respected man who made many decisions, regularly (and privately) asked her grandmother's advice on important matters.

Appointed First Female Prime Minister

In February 2004, President Chisanno appointed Diogo to be his prime minister. In Mozambique's parliamentary system of government, the president is elected, then appoints a chief minister to help govern. Diogo took on the important post of prime minister while keeping her job as minister of finance until the national elections in December. In the December 2004 elections, a new president, Armando Guebuza, was elected, and Diogo devoted herself to her new job as Mozambique's first female prime minister. In 2004, just before she left the Ministry of Planning and Finance, she was named Finance Minister of the Year by The Banker, a world famous financial journal.

One of her first priorities as head of the government was combating the spread of the AIDS virus. When Diogo took office in 2004, 1.4 million of Mozambique's 18 million citizens had AIDS, with 500 new cases reported every day. By July 2004, Diogo had set up an AIDS emergency program to increase education about the disease and provide financial support and medical assistance for people with AIDS and their families.

She also committed to improving education, literacy, and health care and promised to actively recruit more teachers and health workers. And she pledged to eliminate corruption within the government. Diogo believed that citizens in a democratic society had the right to ensure that the government lived up to their expectations. To oversee her government's progress, she set up a citizens' consulting group called the "Poverty Observatory."

Under Diogo's administration, living conditions in Mozambique have steadily improved. The country's chaotic economy has stabilized, and, since 1994, when Diogo became deputy finance minister, has shown a steady growth of eight percent per year. She has led reform of government bureaucracy and streamlined customs procedures to increase imports. She has also fulfilled her promises to rebuild Mozambique's infrastructure and prioritize health and education. Though the nation still suffers from extreme poverty, climate extremes, and the devastation of the AIDS epidemic, Diogo regards the problems with a typically female practicality. Speaking to Lucy Fleming in a BBC News interview, Diogo said that she approaches her job "like a Mozambican woman who has to create a meal for a large family, often without ingredients."

Diogo skills as an economist and a leader have attracted international attention, and she is frequently called upon to work in world forums as a representative of poor developing nations and as an African. In 2003, she worked with the World Bank to develop a joint project to fight HIV/AIDS, and in 2004 she was the only prime minister invited to meet with the general directors of the United Nations about the issues of developing nations. In 2005 she co chaired a 15-member United Nations panel charged with coordinating UN projects for humanitarian aid, economic development, and the environment. In February 2007, she was invited to be the keynote speaker at the 30th session of the International Fund for Agricultural Development. Her practical, competent approach to leadership in her country as well as in international forums has prompted both international political analysts and many Mozambican citizens to predict that Diogo will become president of Mozambique one day.



Banker, January 5, 2004, p. 26, July 2, 2004, p.121-2.

Global Information Network (New York), April 13, 2007, p.1.

New York Beacon, March 9-March 15, 2006, p.9.

Seattle Times, November 20, 2005, p. A.24.

UN Chronicle, March-May 2006, p. 56.


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Diogo, Luisa

views updated May 17 2018

Luisa Diogo

April 11, 1958 • Tete province, Mozambique

Prime Minister of Mozambique

Located in southeastern Africa, the tiny country of Mozambique is one of the poorest in the world, with approximately 70 percent of the population living below the poverty line. It is also a country frequently devastated by drought and floods, and in the early 2000s it was still recovering from a civil war that rocked the nation for nearly seventeen years (1975–92). Despite its problems, however, Mozambique is fortunate to have a visionary leader at its helm: Prime Minister Luisa Diogo. Diogo served as Mozambique's minister of finance for five years, from 1999 until 2004, and during her tenure the country experienced a slow but steady recovery. In February 2004, she was appointed prime minister, becoming the first woman ever to hold the post. Diogo has earned a reputation as a progressive reformer, a passionate advocate, and a savvy business-woman. According to Time, which ranked Diogo as one of the top leaders and revolutionaries in the world, she "leads a government that was once written off as a failed state but that now posts economic-growth rates of an Asian tiger."

A rocky history

Luisa Dias Diogo was born on April 11, 1958, in the western Mozambique province of Tete. She attended Dona Maria Primary School in Tete City until she was twelve years old and the Tete Commercial School until she was fourteen. Diogo's high school years were spent at Maputo Commercial Institute. Following high school Diogo went on to study economics at Maputo's Eduardo Mondlane University. After graduating with a bachelor's degree in 1983, she continued her studies at the University of London, where she earned a master's degree in financial economics in 1992.

In 1980, while still in college, Diogo began working in Mozambique's Finance Ministry. It was a rocky time in the country's history; Mozambique was embroiled in political and military upheaval. In 1975, the nation won its independence from Portugal and became the People's Republic of Mozambique. Peace, however, was short-lived. A civil war erupted between two Mozambique factions: the Mozambique Liberation Front (FREMILO), a coalition of anti-Portuguese, Communist-backed, liberation groups that helped the country win its freedom from colonial Portuguese rule; and the Mozambique National Resistance (RENAMO), an anti-Communist political organization. (Communists believe in a system of government in which the state plans and controls the economy and a single party holds power.) Hostilities between the groups lasted for the next seventeen years, resulting in the deaths of millions.

" Working and struggling are things that do not scare us."

When Diogo joined the Finance Ministry the country was in year five of its civil war. The FREMILO party was in power, having established a one-party, socialist government, but it faced constant opposition from members of RENAMO. Guerrilla units (small bands of fighters that make surprise attacks) burned bridges, cut power lines, and blocked roadways. This resulted in food and medical shortages and increased unemployment and poverty. The economy of Mozambique was basically in shambles, and the government needed an infusion of new blood. Twenty-two-year-old Diogo proved to be just the answer, and she quickly rose through the ranks of the ministry, becoming a department head in 1986; in 1989 she was named national budget director.

Road to recovery

Diogo remained in the position of director for four years, but after she earned her master's degree she went to work for the World Bank, serving as program officer in Mozambique. The World Bank is an international organization composed of member nations whose primary goal is to assist developing countries. After the 1994 Mozambique elections, President Joaquim Chissano (1939–) invited Diogo to leave the World Bank and join the FREMILO government as deputy finance minister. This marked the economist's entry into the upper level of the Mozambique federal government. Diogo was just thirty-six years old.

As deputy finance minister, Diogo was a key player in drafting and rolling out the government's first five-year development plan. Because the country was still reeling from civil war, the main focus of the plan was on cementing peace within Mozambique's borders. By 1999, the second five-year development plan had room to focus on economic reform. That same year Diogo was promoted to minister of finance and she immediately tackled Mozambique's biggest problems: poverty and economic growth. The answer was financial aid. Because of her growing reputation as an able negotiator, Diogo was able to secure numerous grants from international finance institutions, including the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. By the early 2000s financial aid accounted for nearly 60 percent of Mozambique's government revenues. In addition, according to the January 1, 2004, issue of The Banker, by 2004 $7 billion in direct foreign assistance had poured into the country.

In 2004 alone Diogo was able to secure $790 million in aid from the World Bank. Such an infusion of funds helped finance much-needed initiatives, including advances in telecommunications, increased agriculture production, and HIV/AIDS (viruses that attack a person's immune system) programs. Although most of the nation's citizens remained poor, Mozambique's economy was starting to revive slowly but steadily. Analysts primarily chalked up the success to Diogo. In the same January 2004 issue of The Banker, she was named Finance Minister of the Year for Africa. According to the article, "It is possibly an overstatement to say that all reform roads lead back to Ms. Diogo, but only just."

Madam prime minister

In February 2004 the Prime Minister of Mozambique, Pascoal Mocumbi (1941–), resigned his post to take a senior position with the World Health Organization (WHO). WHO is an international health agency of the United Nations based in Geneva, Switzerland. (The United Nations was founded in 1945 and is an international organization composed of most of the countries in the world.) It came as no real surprise when President Chisanno tapped Diogo to be Mocumbi's replacement; she would also retain the position of finance minister until the December 2004 elections. According to the constitution of Mozambique, the president is the head of the government; the presidency is an elected position with elections taking place every five years. The president is responsible for appointing the prime minister, who assists him or her in leading the nation.

According to Bonifacio Antonio, in a Regional Economic Development and Integration report, Diogo's "appointment [was] viewed as passing the baton from the generation that fought for independence to the one that has been trained since independence." Mocumbi was sixty-three when he left the prime minister post, which meant he was entrenched in Mozambique's fight for freedom. Diogo was just seventeen years old in 1975, and as part of a new generation of leaders she was more forward-thinking and more willing to take risks.

One of Diogo's first moves was to address the problem of AIDS, a disease that had ravaged the country for more than two decades. In 2004, an estimated 1.4 million of Mozambique's 18 million citizens were infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS; approximately 500 people contract the virus every day. In July 2004, Diogo officially launched an AIDS Emergency Programme. The goals of the program included educating citizens about AIDS prevention, providing income for people infected with HIV and their families, and giving assistance and home care to people living with AIDS and for children who have been orphaned by the disease. The program came with a hefty price tag: $8.6 million. But the ever-resourceful Diogo assured the nation that funds were already forthcoming from the World Bank and the Common Fund against AIDS. In a press conference reported on the Africa News Service, Diogo declared, "Despite all the measures so far taken to control the epidemic, the disease continues to spread. We can never accept the situation that is now happening in Mozambique."

Diogo spent the majority of 2004 fine-tuning the govern-ment's next five-year development plan. She was committed to expanding health and education services, promising to annually recruit six thousand new teachers, eight thousand literacy workers, and almost two thousand health workers. In addition, Diogo proposed reforms in several areas, including an overhaul of the judicial system, which had been plagued by accusations of corruption during the Chissano years (1986–2004). There was also a need for a revamped police force; open sales of drugs were prevalent in many Mozambique military neighborhoods. Above all, however, as Diogo explained in a press conference reported in the Africa News Service on March 15, 2005, "Our central objective remains the same. It is the combat against absolute poverty."

A new era

Following the December 2004 elections, President Chissano was replaced by FREMILO candidate Armando Guebuza (1943–), who ushered in a new era in Mozambique politics. Diogo remained in her post of prime minister, but she was relieved of her minister of finance duties so she could concentrate on more extensive government leadership. Her participation in international affairs was also growing because, according to Time, "Her achievements were increasingly attracting global attention." In October 2004 she was personally invited to attend an annual meeting of general directors of the United Nations. Diogo was the sole prime minister chosen to represent all of the world's developing countries.

The tireless leader of Mozambique is also a wife and mother of three. She is married to Albano Silva, one of the country's leading attorneys. Her duties, however, keep her constantly on the go as she fights to resurrect the nation to which has devoted most of her life. One of her primary goals is to make Mozambique, and all developing countries, self-sufficient. Part of the 2004 five-year plan, which was approved in April 2005, included funding for technical and professional education. As Diogo stressed in the January 1, 2004, issue of The Banker, "Developing countries must deepen their knowledge and innovate, design, implement, assess, adjust and exercise ownership over their poverty reduction policies, plans, programmes and projects. Only if they do this serious work will they be able to formulate feasible strategies that have a chance of being successfully implemented."

The people of Mozambique will hold their prime minister accountable for the promises she has made. Diogo established what she calls a "poverty observatory," a forum composed of citizens and members of the media who periodically assess government strategies. "The media often detects government failings more quickly than government does," the prime minister admitted to The Banker in 2004. She went on to add, "Democracy in Mozambique is irreversible. People are increasingly accustomed to government delivering."

For More Information


Brown, Mark Malloch. "Luisa Diogo: Advocate for Africa." Time (April 26, 2004): p. 60.

Eedes, James. "Middle East & Africa: Mozambique—Ready for Stage Two Reforms." The Banker (July 1, 2004).

"Finance Ministers of the Year." The Banker (January 1, 2004).

"Government Determined to Speed Things Up: Diogo." Africa News Service (March 15, 2005).

"HIV/AIDS: We Are All Vulnerable." Africa News Service (July 12, 2004).

Web Sites

Antonio, Bonifacio. "Mozambique: Luisa Diogo, New Prime Minister." REDI News Features.http://www.sardc.net/Editorial/Newsfeature/04110204.htm (accessed on August 23, 2005).

"First Female Prime Minister in Mozambique." afrol News (February 17, 2004). http://www.afrol.com/articles/11288 (accessed on August 23, 2005).

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