Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi attends the celebrations for the 40th anniversary of Mozambican independence from Portugal at the Machava Stadium in Maputo.

Mozambique turned 40 on Thursday, mixing formal military parades with exuberant African dancing as it turned from a generation of civil war and poverty to look to a more prosperous future, powered, it hopes, by vast amounts of natural gas. In contrast to the early years of independence from Portugal in 1975, when the challenge was navigating the choppy waters of the Cold War, the Southern African nation's leaders now face the burden of the growing expectations of its 26 million people.

Underpinning the national optimism in this $17bn economy is the prospect of massive revenues from an estimated 180 trillion cubic feet of off-shore gas - enough to supply Germany, Britain, France and Italy for nearly two decades.

The deposits in the northern Rovuma Basin, near the border with Tanzania, may be a decade from production but the impact of foreign investment the IMF says could amount to $100bn is already being felt. "The future is in our hands," President Felipe Nyusi said

in an address at Maputo's national stadium, after a fly-by from one of the military's few air jets. "Mozambique has all the conditions to emerge within the next decade as a united and economically strong country."

The economy has posted seven percent growth for the last five years, spurring a construction boom in a capital that is quickly shedding its reputation as a sleepy, beach side backwater. Shiny new headquarters of foreign energy and engineering firms sit alongside mobile phone shops and high-end boutiques, jostling for space on bustling city-centre streets with branches of European and South African bank.

Jobs are being created beyond the narrow confines of hydrocarbon development, and the surge in the country's metical currency resulting from its gas prospects is hobbling other more labour-intensive sectors such agriculture, manufacturing and tourism.