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António Jorge Costa

MOZAMBIQUE - Economy

Come to Stay

Administrator, Visabeira Group

Bio

António Jorge Costa is the Administrator at Visabeira Group. He has also been the Administrator of AICEP Global Capital and President of the Portuguese Association of Logistics. He graduated in Economy from the Universidade de Moçambique and obtained MBAs from Universitá Bocconi and the London Business School.

"Companies thinking that they can operate here for two years and then leave have no future in Mozambique."

How would you describe the role that Visabeira has played in developing Mozambique’s economy over the past 22 years?

Visabeira has been operating in Mozambique for the past 22 years, with companies active in most sectors of the economy—telecoms, tourism, agriculture, infrastructure, and services. This means that no matter which component of the nation has experienced development, one of our companies has always played an integral part. We are part of a strong network of different partners in Mozambique, and currently have 2,000 employees. We place great emphasis on training our people because, without staff equipped with the proper skill sets, we cannot succeed. This rapidly became apparent when we came to Mozambique. In each country where we are present, we adapt our strategy to reflect real changes. In order to play a role in overall development, it is necessary to pay attention to the market, and to innovate. This is the only way in which to participate in the development of the country.

What motivated Visabeira to enter the Mozambican market at a time when there was still not much international interest in the country?

When Visabeira started out in Mozambique, we had considerable know-how in terms of telecoms infrastructure. Mozambique was on a development path, and Visabeira identified an opportunity to combine the market with the country’s capacities. When Visabeira decided to operate in what was a virgin market, we used our competencies to meet the market’s demands of that time, where few other companies were able to do so. Today, many companies are coming here to take advantage of the existing opportunities, but at that time we considered ourselves to be pioneers. Importantly, we believed in the true potential of the market, and identified its opportunities. Our group understood this 22 years ago, and today it is a market that relies on our know-how.

“Companies thinking that they can operate here for two years and then leave have no future in Mozambique.”

To what extent is it necessary to think long term when investing in Mozambique?

Mozambique is not a market for hot money. Companies thinking that they can operate here for two years and then leave have no future in Mozambique. It is a growing country, and so it is important for those companies entering the market to commit to it, and to its ongoing development. If you fail to take local realities on board, train local people, get to grips with regulations, or adopt a long-term perspective, you will fail. There have been oil and gas projects ongoing here for between 20 and 40 years. Everybody is aware of Mozambique’s oil and gas reserves, but many are unaware that the first cubic foot of gas will actually be extracted in 2019. This perfectly underlines the long-term perspective, based on investments that are being made “now” in order to be able to export that gas in 2019. Billions of dollars are being invested in tomorrow, while current coal exports are at just 20,000 tons today. Such investments require the establishment of a skilled workforce. This is a capital-intensive industry, and cannot keep pace with investment activities without trained local people, as exclusive reliance on expatriate workers is insufficient. I personally came here to stay and improve our capacities. It is even possible for Mozambique to develop operations in Tanzania, Zimbabwe, and Botswana in time, and this is the goal of Visabeira: to be active in each country at a local level, but with a more international perspective.

How is Visabeira building local human capital in Mozambique?

We build human capital in different ways. One is by bringing expatriates to Mozambique. They can carry out on-the-job training. In addition, we take people from Mozambique and relocate them to Portugal. For example, in the tourism sector, Visabeira hotels in Portugal have many Mozambican people in training. They remain there for one or two years to develop the required skills. Another way in which we build human capital is by paying for technical studies through scholarships. Another means of achieving a solid workforce came about from Visabeira’s decision 16 years ago to join an interesting local educational project. We duly became a shareholder in a vocational high school where students are being trained in the field of urban development, computer science, and telecoms engineering. This institution has evolved since then into the prestigious Mozambican organization called Transcom, which is part of the High Institute of Transport and Telecommunications. At mid- and high-school levels combined, we have about 2,500 students in total.

How many educational and training projects do you have in Mozambique?

I believe that the private sector’s most important responsibility is education. However, private companies creating educational institutions must believe in the long-term value of education—it should not be geared exclusively to meeting business needs. In the technical field, higher education is crucial for the development of Mozambique, and requires a clear focus on technical training. There should also be a focus on the humanities, which are important in developing broader-based cultural awareness. But at the end of the day, we have an absolute need for skilled people in technical fields. And as long as an adequate number of institutions providing civil engineering, telecoms, mechanical, and other technical courses exist, we are headed in the right direction. Technical education is an expensive business, but this is the trade off. The important consideration for Visabeira is working with these partners, but with an emphasis on technical education.

What are the growth sectors for Visabeira in Mozambique?

We have identified a number of key areas that include infrastructure and railways. We perceive a need for substantial investment in the railway system, and will be paying particular attention to infrastructure. We also note significant interest in gas-related investment. We have started to prepare companies to be suppliers for oil and gas operators in the light of this. Everything is connected to oil and gas, although coal also presents an opportunity. This is what we have in mind, and what we are currently working on.

What are your goals for Visabeira in Mozambique?

Our main goal is to be a qualified company, which means becoming a supplier of services or products at a senior level for the core sectors of the economy, especially in the areas of telecoms and infrastructure. Another target lies in the field of tourism—here, we again want to be a qualified operator, to address the needs of the coming decade. The most important facet of this is to be seen to introduce services that the people can really trust. We are from Mozambique, we are part of the economic reality of the country, and we intend to be a partner of the various operators. Our sole objective is to supply high-quality services to the different fields in which we operate. This is the fundamental consideration.

© The Business Year – March 2014

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