Holding its own

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Mozambique has heaps of potential and has evolved into an important African business travel destination, thanks to its natural resources. But it does have its challenges.

Mozambique was one of world’s poorest countries in 1975, but has emerged as one of Africa’s fastest growing economies, largely as a result of its status as potentially one of the world’s largest exporters of coking and thermal coal, as well as liquefied natural gas.

Since independence from Portugal in 1975, Mozambique’s transition from a post-conflict country to one of Africa’s ‘frontier economies’ has been nothing short of impressive, although it did take a peace deal in 1992 to end 16 years of civil war. Since then the country has made much progress in economic development and political stability.

Economic growth has been bolstered by important foreign direct investment into the burgeoning energy and natural resources sectors, among others, and the country has become a destination for mining and natural gas developments. Alongside its natural resources, Mozambique’s long coastline positions it as a natural gateway to global markets for neighbouring land-locked countries.

Further to that, Mozambique’s economy grew 7.5% in 2014, with similar growth predicted for 2015, driven by gas finds as well as strong performances in the agriculture and construction sectors.

All of that being said, political instability is never too far away, despite the ruling Frelimo party managing a working relationship with the opposition Renamo movement over the past 23 years. That could change, as early May saw Renamo warn of a growing risk of instability after parliament rejected a bill that would have given it autonomous powers in regions where it has strong support.

Renamo, which lost fractious national elections in October, put a bill before parliament that would have given it rights to elect its own governors in six oil, gas and coal-rich districts where it won a majority at the polls. However, Frelimo voted against the measure, consigning Renamo to a resounding defeat.

“One thing is certain, the country is sitting on a barrel of gunpowder,” said Renamo parliamentarian José Manteigas.

The tensions threaten to disrupt plans by Mozambique to bolster its economy through its untapped natural gas reserves – some of the biggest in the world. The main energy hub is in the north of the country around Beira.

“Given that you have one main road travelling up from Maputo to Beira, it wouldn’t take much of a military presence to cause a disruption,” said political analyst Gary van Staden of NKC Independent Economists.

Political instability is the not the only challenge facing Mozambique, as it bids to enhance its status as an attractive African business travel destination. Early May also saw Mozambique’s attorney general announce that crime had increased by more than 10% in the past year. Beatriz Buchili was delivering her annual report to parliament, detailing crime statistics from 2014. She said crime had risen on average by 10.8%, and that murder and assault had increased nearly 15%, with theft and robbery by nearly 14%.

Buchili’s report won’t do much to encourage further foreign investment, although the prevailing feeling is that Mozambique is too resource-rich to chase investors away. Those with a vested interest, however, would do well to keep one eye on the political situation.

CITIES
Maputo, the capital of Mozambique, is located to the south of the country. All embassies, ministries and major companies’ head offices are based in Maputo. It’s the heart of the business sector.

The second major port of Mozambique, Beira, is located at the mouth of the Pungwe River in Sofala province, whilst Nampula is the third largest city in Mozambique.

Pemba is a cosmopolitan centre that lies in the third largest bay in the world, where the bush meets the beach, and forests of baobab trees stretch down to the water where many dhows can be seen making their way across the bay.

Tete is located on a plateau on the Zambezi River, about 500 metres above sea level. It is one of the hottest places in the country, the largest city on the river, and has huge coal reserves. 

AIRLINES & AIRPORTS
Maputo International Airport is located three kilometres north-west of the centre of Maputo. Most international flights arrive from South Africa, although direct international routes also exist between Mozambique and Swaziland, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Kenya, Ethiopia, Qatar and Portugal, with Turkish Airlines due to commence direct flights towards the end of the year.

South African Airways increased its services to Maputo at the end of 2014 from 17 to 21 weekly flights. Privately-owned South African airline Airlink also made changes, commencing scheduled services between Nelspruit Kruger and Vilanculos, a popular leisure travel destination on Mozambique’s coast.

Airlink is a major supplier of flights between South Africa and Mozambique, flying direct to Maputo, Vilanculos, Beira, Pemba, Nampula and Tete, from either Johannesburg or Durban.

Maputo International has a rehabilitation programme in place, for which it has international funding, and this would follow the completion of new international and domestic terminals in the last three years. Maputo International has ATMs, foreign exchange, a duty free section, and a café, as well as two business lounges – the CIP Premium Lounge and the Flamingo Lounge.

The Cip Premium Lounge is situated airside, opposite gate 1 in the main departure hall, after the security checks and passport control. Its operating hours are 05h00-23h00 daily, although those hours sometimes vary according to the flight schedule. Check-in facilities are available inside the lounge, although at a cost.

Beira Airport is serviced by airlines such as Airlink, LAM, and Malawi Airlines. Nampula Airport is a hub for Kaya Airlines, and is also served by Airlink, Kenya Airways, LAM, Malawi Airlines, and Precision Air. Pemba Airport is quite small, and caters for limited international and domestic flights. Chingozi Airport (or Matundo Airport) is an airport in Tete, and plans for a new airport are in the pipeline.

HOTELS
Maputo, like any capital, offers good quality accommodation, with hotel group representation from Carlson Rezidor, Tsogo Sun, Pestana, Serena, Lonrho Hotels and Girassol.

Located on the Maputo beachfront, the refurbished Southern Sun Maputo is a popular haven for business and leisure guests, and is a mere seven kilometres from the airport. It recently added new conference facilities to its offering, and is now able to accommodate both large and small conferences and events. Following the completion of a $30 million refurbishment in 2014, the hotel also now offers 269 guest rooms and an expanded restaurant and lobby.

The magnificent 5-star Polana Serena has long enjoyed a good reputation, and belongs to the Serena group. It has always lent a touch of class to the Maputo hotel scene, but definitely benefitted from an extensive renovation programme.

A showcase of modern design, the Radisson Blu Hotel, Maputo is obviously the ‘new kid on the block’. It is located near businesses, embassies and consulates. The hotel overlooks the Indian Ocean and places visitors within easy reach of the airport and the city centre. The Radisson Blu Hotel, Maputo has 154 rooms and complimentary wi-fi, while the Filini Bar & Restaurant serves Italian food and there are three bars on site. The hotel also has a fitness centre, swimming pool, three meeting rooms, a versatile conference room, and a pre-function area.
Lonrho Hotels has a presence in Maputo in the form of the Hotel Cardoso, which has 130 rooms and sits on the Maputo cliff top with spacious gardens, a large swimming pool and inviting terraces.

In the heart of Maputo, in front of the Old Cathedral, you’ll find the 4-star Pestana Rovuma Hotel & Conference Centre, which is popular with business travellers. It has 117 air-conditioned rooms with satellite TV and great views of the city from the rooms’ balconies. There’s also a pool, health club and sauna, whilst the Monomotapa Restaurant serves both buffet and a la carte meals across breakfast, lunch and dinner. As a convenient extra, there’s a mini shopping centre on the ground level, with a variety of shops and services, including a coffee shop and bakery. With regards conferencing, the hotel can accommodate 400 delegates.

Further options in Maputo include the Afrin Prestige Hotel and the Hotel Avenida, whilst Girassol offers two 4-star properties, in the form of the Indy Congress Hotel & Spa and the Bahia Hotel.

Girassol also has a presence in the coal-rich city of Tete, in the north-west of the country, with the Songa Hotel, whilst Carlson Rezidor is the big international brand there, with the Park Inn by Radisson Tete, which has 117 rooms and is only three kilometres from the airport.

There are no big international brands in Beira, with TripAdvisor citing the Sena Hotel, the Golden Peacock Resort Hotel, the Hotel Tivoli Beira, the VIP Inn Beira Hotel, and the Rainbow Hotel Mocambique as the top five options to consider.

With regards Nampula, it’s another city with a Girassol hotel, in the form of the Nampula Hotel, but again there is little in the way of brands, with TripAdvisor recommending the Luna Hotel Executivo, the Hotel Milenio, and the Hotel Residencial Quality.

The same can be said for Pemba, although 2014 did see Minor International open the first Avani-branded hotel in Africa – the Avani Pemba Beach Hotel & Spa. The former Rani Resorts Pemba Beach Hotel & Spa is situated in the northern province of Cabo Delgado, in the port town of Pemba. It has 185 rooms, villas and self-catering apartments, as well as a food and beverage offering that includes Quirimbas, Clube Naval (‘south-east African and Mediterranean tastes by the marina’), and the Niassa Bar, which serves light Asian bites.

CARD ACCEPTANCE
The metical (meticais plural) is a relatively stable currency linked to the US dollar. Despite that, Mozambicans prefer payments in meticais, and Mozambican law requires that all transactions have a meticais payment option. However, in areas that are heavily influenced by South African tourists and tour operators, cash payments in rands may also be accepted.

The importation and exportation of meticais into and out of Mozambique is limited to 500MZN. It is wise to ensure that you do not arrive or leave with more than that amount. It is also against the law to destroy Mozambican currency.

Travellers cheques are not accepted and are expensive to exchange in the banks.

Exchanging dollars, euros, and rands is easily done at airports and banks. Familiar pan-African banks present in Mozambique include Stanbic, UBA and Ecobank. Exchanging money on the streets or with individuals at the border posts is illegal and often expensive.

There are many banks in Mozambique that take international credit and bank cards, and ATMs are found throughout the country’s larger cities, but not necessarily on the islands or near many remote beach lodges. ATMs in Mozambique dispense meticais only. We suggest you contact your bank before leaving home to ensure smooth access to your funds while travelling in Mozambique. You should also be aware that credit card and ATM fraud are common in Southern Africa. For your own safety, avoid using ATMs located outside enclosed areas, and avoid using ATMs at night.

Only MasterCard and Visa credit cards are increasingly accepted by major restaurants and hotels in the larger cities, where telecommunications allow for the transaction to take place. Outside the major cities, no credit cards are accepted, and that includes at major hotels. American Express, Diners Club and all other credit cards are not accepted in Mozambique.

VISAS
Travellers from the following countries do not require a visa to enter Mozambique: South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia, Botswana, Mauritius, Malawi and Swaziland.

All other passport holders require a tourist visa to enter Mozambique. An invitation or confirmed hotel reservation, as well as a return air ticket for those arriving by plane, may also be required.

In the past, Mozambique has issued 30-day single entry tourist visas at most major border points, but this is no longer the case. Citizens of countries with a Mozambican consulate or embassy representation must purchase a tourist visa prior to entry.

If you are travelling on business, ensure that you have the correct visa for the purpose and length of your stay.

Important note: when you receive your visa, verify the duration of its validity. Look for “autorizado a permaneçer pelo período de … dias” with a number. That number represents the number of days you are allowed to stay in Mozambique.

CONNECTIVITY
Mozambique has several cellular service providers who also offer 3G internet. Otherwise, there are internet cafes in most cities, and many hotels offer Wi-Fi. 

Mcel has the largest reach in the country, whilst Vodacom Mozambique is another notable player.

Both offer reasonable rates, but pay special attention to data roaming costs.

It is always worthwhile to use a local sim card to manage costs and stay connected.

HEALTH
Mozambique is a malaria risk country, and it’s recommended that you visit a travel clinic four to six weeks before departing. Have the recommended vaccinations and keep the record booklet. If you are visiting a malaria risk area, be sure to continue taking your anti-malarial drugs for seven days or four weeks, depending on which drug you’ve been prescribed, after you’ve left the area.

Remember to pack all regular prescription medications, plus any recommended medications, insect repellants and other supplies.

It’s also recommended that you are vaccinated against Hepatitis A and typhoid. You can contract both of these diseases through contaminated food or water in Mozambique, regardless of where you are eating or staying.

There is no risk of yellow fever in Mozambique, and the government only requires proof of yellow fever vaccination if you are arriving from a country with a risk of yellow fever.

TRAVEL TIPS
In the past, Mozambican border officials were fairly relaxed, but they are now clamping down more and more on people who want to bring plenty of supplies in from South Africa. All towns have basic supplies, and the bigger cities/towns such as Maputo, Xai-Xai, Inhambane and Vilanculos have just about everything you need. Ensure you travel with a big enough supply of prescribed medicines, medicine for mild pain (paracetamol), and insect (mosquito) repellent (citronella, Tabard etc).

South Africans should be sensitive to the fact that there have been retaliatory attacks on South Africans in Mozambique, following the xenophobic violence in Durban and Johannesburg that included attacks on Mozambican nationals.

CONTACTS
www.qe-mz.com/corporate-travel
www.danatours.net

FACT FILE
Population:
25 million
Time zone: GMT+2
Plugs: Two-pin round
Dialling code: +254
Currency: Metical – $1=35MZN
Language: Portuguese, English

OPINION PIECE
Paul Tracy
Vice-President EMEA Partner Network
BCD Travel
Mozambique is probably one of the most enjoyable countries to visit. From when you get off the flight, you are welcomed by friendly faces. The airport is a mere seven kilometres to the city centre, and it is safe to take a taxi from outside. If travelling for the first time, I would recommend you arrange a pick-up with your local host. Although Portuguese is widely spoken, most locals can get by with a bit of English. Travel with a little foreign currency. US dollars are accepted at the airport, as are meticais. I recommend that you buy a local sim card, snacks, and most importantly water, as the temperatures are usually very high. When you leave the airport, there are local taxis outside that can take to your destination, and you can obviously pay them in meticais or US dollars. Maputo is a buzzing city from day to night – it seems like people never sleep. The roads are in good condition, and there’s a noticeably high amount of infrastructure development. That includes the roads linking Maputo and Pemba, which are being built. Good hotels are in abundance and run very high occupancies. The average rate is normally above $250 a night in the city hotels. I stayed at the Southern Sun Maputo, which was refurbished fairly recently. All the rooms are sea-facing, there is complimentary wi-fi, and a great breakfast – all the ingredients for a productive business day. While you may well be tempted to indulge in the many excellent services and facilities offered by the hotel, and want to make it your office – I noticed that many business travellers use it for meetings – you will find wandering away from the hotel to discover the Mozambican culinary offering very rewarding.