THE impact of Ireland's aid programme in an African country once ravished by civil war will be put under the spotlight this week.
Joe Costello, minister for trade and development, is celebrating St Patrick's Day in Mozambique visiting health clinics, training centres and small enterprises supported by Irish Aid.
During the trip he also aims to strengthen economic links between the two countries and hold talks on trade and investment with members of the ex-pat business community in the country.
"Mozambique has come a long way since the dark days of the civil war in the 1970s and 1980s which cost hundreds of thousands of lives and led to the collapse of social and economic infrastructure," said Mr Costello.
"Today, with the support of donors including Ireland, Mozambique is making real progress." Ireland's development programme is working and has focused on improving access to primary education, tackling HIV and Aids, improving public services and enhancing economic opportunities, according to Mr Costello.
"More than 66,000 pregnant women have received treatment to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV," he said.
"The number of children attending school has grown from 400,000 pupils in 1992 to almost seven million within just 15 years." As part of Ireland's EU presidency, Mr Costello will chair the EU-Southern African Development Community political dialogue in the capital Maputo where 15 countries in the region will discuss the political situation in Zimbabwe, Democratic Republic of Congo and Madagascar.
He will also meet leading business people to discuss bilateral trade and investment including in Mozambique's natural resources, said to benefit both countries.
"Ireland is already a strong investor in Mozambique. The country's strong economic performance opens up opportunities to greatly expand our existing links," said the minister who visited Tanzania and South Africa last week.
"The economy is growing at approximately 7% per year and the country is on the cusp of a resource boom which, if properly managed, could see Mozambique exit aid dependency within 15 years. However, they are starting from a very low base: more than 50% of Mozambicans survive on less than $0.50 per day."