The Business Year

Emanuel Chaves

MOZAMBIQUE - Transport

Hub to Be

Chairman & CEO, Aeroportos de Moçambique

Bio

Emanuel Chaves is the Chairman & CEO of the Aeroportos de Moçambique. He obtained his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Economics and Management from the Catholic University of Mozambique. He moved to Maputo in 2006 and became head of ADM in 2013.

How has the recent wave of investment coming into Mozambique, particularly in the coal and gas sectors, changed the role of the air travel business? The advent of coal and […]

How has the recent wave of investment coming into Mozambique, particularly in the coal and gas sectors, changed the role of the air travel business?

The advent of coal and gas in Mozambique caught us almost unprepared. Luckily, due to the importance of tourism in the transport sector, Aeroportos de Moçambique (ADM) was already preparing a plan to sustain tourism. This was part of our 2025 agenda, which included the modernization of Maputo International Airport. We already had a plan in place for expansion to facilitate greater air travel capacity before significant coal and gas reserves were discovered. That being said, some aspects were not included in it. The need for an airport in Palma wasn’t in our plans, for one, and neither was the need to rethink its location, because we didn’t know at the time that there was coal beneath the airport. In the near future, we will also need an airport in Metangula, since coal has been discovered around Lake Nyasa.

How were you able to adapt this to the 2025 plan?

Nakawa was already part of the 2025 project, having been recognized as a strategic location. The renovation of Pemba Airport was also already a reality because of the area’s important tourism status. The only component we really had to add was the airport in Palma, which is where the LNG plant will be developed, and where up to 10,000 people will be relocating to for the construction phase. The investors are a group concession comprised of Eni, Anadarko, and ENH. We have been approached to manage and operate the airport once completed. Currently, we are improving Mocí­mboa da Praia Airport allowing passengers to get within driving distance of Palma, which isn’t more than 200 kilometers away. Anadarko has an operation in Mocí­mboa da Praia and wants to expand because the terminal and runway are too small to handle cargo aircraft.

What adds to the significance of Maputo International Airport?

The original project involved the renovation and expansion of the existing airport. However, we subsequently decided that a brand new airport was required; a truly modern facility, right through to the smallest detail, which is what we have today. Even the lighting system is almost completely natural. During the day, you don’t need to flip a single switch. We also have the most modern facilities in terms of environmental standards, use of rainwater, and minimal emissions, among other things. We are all very proud of this airport, as should all Mozambicans be too.

“ The advent of coal and gas in Mozambique caught us almost unprepared. “

What are the plans for Nacala Airport, and what role will it play in the system when upgraded?

Nacala Airport is included in a strategic air transport plan that divides the country into three main areas: south, central, and north. This is a big country and traversing these areas takes at least an hour by air. For example, it takes more than an hour to get from Maputo to the north, meaning it is difficult for Maputo to support that part. That is why we have divided the country into three major areas for practical purposes. For example, if someone flies to Beira in central Mozambique, he or she can then access the rest of central Mozambique via a half-hour long flight. Similarly, Maputo covers the southern region, while Nacala covers the north. That is the first part of our domestic strategy. We also have a regional strategy for the east coast of Africa, including Cairo, Addis Ababa, and Nairobi. Between Nairobi and South Africa there is no other practical airport. Dar es Salaam is too close to Nairobi to be truly effective, as two hubs cannot coexist in close proximity. But from Nairobi to Nacala, it is almost a two-hour flight, and roughly another two-hour flight from Johannesburg to Nacala. The trend now in the air industry is for long haul planes to fly you into a major airport, from where the regional airlines fly you to smaller destinations. Regional flights are profitable only when they are less than an hour and a half in duration, since they use smaller planes. That is why Dar es Salaam will not succeed, and neither will Maputo, which is too close to Johannesburg. Our aim is to make Nacala an important hub in the future. Perhaps in 20 years, it will have even superseded Maputo. Meanwhile, Nampula, which is also in the same area, has certain constraints, namely its being surrounded by mountains. It’s costly and expensive to expand an airport there, and there are bad weather and wind conditions because of the terrain, with considerable wind shear. In this regard, Nampula will remain a regional airport serviced by smaller aircraft. Nacala Airport will be ready by around June 2014. To put a new airport on the map is not easy. You have to make it known, get airlines to fly there, and make sure it is well connected to special economic zones. We are really doing something unique in terms of air transport development in Mozambique overall, and are achieving this thanks to solid leadership.

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