Beira, East Africa - Encyclopedia

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BEIRA, a seaport of Portuguese East Africa, at the mouth of the Pungwe river, in 19° 50' S., 34 50' E., 488 m. N. of Delagoa Bay, in communication by railway with Cape Town via Umtali, Salisbury and Bulawayo. Pop. about 4000, of whom a third are Europeans, and some 300 Indians. The town is built on a tongue of sand extending into the river, and is comparatively healthy. The sea front is protected by a masonry wall, and there are over 13,000 ft. of wharfage. Vessels drawing 24 ft. can enter the port at high tide. Between the customs house and the railway terminus is the mouth of a small river, the Chiveve, crossed by a steel bridge, the centre span revolving and giving two passages each of 40 ft. The town is without any architectural pretensions, but possesses fine public gardens. It is the headquarters of the Companhai de Mocambique, which administers the Beira district under charter from the Portuguese crown. The business community is largely British.

Beira occupies the site of a forgotten Arab settlement. The present port sprang into being as the result of a clause in the Anglo-Portuguese agreement of 1891 providing for the construction of a railway between Rhodesia and the navigable waters of the Pungwe. The railway at first began at Fontesvilla, about 50 m. by river above Beira, but was subsequently brought down to Beira. The completion in 1902 of the line connecting Salisbury with Cape Town adversely affected the port of Beira, the long railway route from the Cape being increasingly employed by travellers to and from Mashonaland. Moreover, the high freights on goods by the Beira route enabled Port Elizabeth to compete successfully for the trade of Rhodesia. In October 1905 a considerable reduction was made in railway rates and in port dues and customs, with the object of re-attracting to the port the transit trade of the interior, and in 1907 a branch of the Rhodesian customs was opened in the town. In that year goods valued at £647,000 passed through the port to Rhodesia. Efforts were also made to develop the agricultural and mineral resources of the Beira district itself. The principal exports are rubber, sugar, ground-nuts and oil seeds, beeswax, chromite (from Rhodesia), and gold (from Manica). The imports are chiefly rice (from India) and cotton goods for local use, and food stuffs, machinery, hardware and manufactured goods for Rhodesia. For the three years, 1905-1907, the average annual value of the imports and exports, excluding the transit trade with Rhodesia, was, imports £200,000, exports £90,000. Direct steamship communication with Europe is maintained by German and British lines.

See Portuguese East Africa; also the reports issued yearly by the British Foreign Office on the trade of Beira.

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