It’s been a long pot-holed road for Mozambique, but the former Portuguese colony that stretches out for over 2400 kilometres along the east coast of Africa appears to have turned the economic corner, as Richard Holmes discovers.
Much of the Mozambican economy is still reliant on small-scale agriculture and pockets of attractive tourist offerings, but a resource-boom is transforming the northern reaches of the country.
“Business travel to Mozambique has increased,” reports Michèle Abraham, Sales and Marketing Manager for Rani Resorts. “This can be attributed to companies freeing up budget for business travel following the recession, as well as a result of oil and gas discoveries in the northern regions of Mozambique.”
Oil and gas have had a major impact on the coastal regions, but the interior city of Tete is equally set to become a major driver of the Mozambican resource economy.
“By 2025 Tete could be producing 25% of the world’s coking coal,” Ben James, MD of Baobab Resources told the International Resource Journal. “We’re talking about a coal basin that has the potential to dwarf the likes of Australia’s Bowen Basin.”
Growth in the resources sector – the country also has deposits of gold, titanium, zircon and precious stones – has also seen far-flung districts of northern Mozambique become merely a short flight from Johannesburg or Maputo, as airlines expand their services to meet demand from corporate travellers.
“We have increased capacity and frequency to Tete… and we increased frequency to Nampula, due to demand,” says Karin Murray, Sales & Marketing Manager for Airlink. “The direct flights promote convenience, and the timing of our flights connect with international and domestic arrivals and departures worldwide.”
Tourism is playing an ever-increasing role as well, with both self-drive tourists and high-end foreign visitors paying top dollar to sample the palm-fringed paradise of Mozambique’s lengthy coastline and idyllic islands. While Airlink’s Pemba route is particularly popular, Federal Air has also seen an increase in demand for travel to Vilanculos, which is best suited for smaller corporate incentives, says the airline’s Jackie Reiser: “As awareness increases and new travel and accommodation options open, traffic into the area is expected to increase. Key to this has been the complete upgrading of the Vilankulo airport and associated facilities in mid-2011.”
However, while northern Mozambique is seeing much-needed development, Maputo remains the economic capital of the country.
“Maputo has experienced increased demand over the last eight years,” says Ewan Cameron, CEO of Lonrho Hotels, which runs the Hotel Cardoso. “But, in the last three years the increase has been greatest. The rest of Mozambique has also experienced considerable growth in last three years. The Maputo hotel market is dominated by the brands, with the rest of the country suffering from a limited supply. So, my advice is to book early.”
Corporate visitors are “definitely on the rise,” says Karim Merali, Executive Director of the city’s Polana Serena Hotel. “The current business climate and the growing business opportunities are all indicative of a growth trend.”
And one only has to drive through the capital to see how the country’s sustained 7% percent growth in GDP is trickling onto the streets of Maputo. New hotels add gleaming towers to the horizon; multinational corporations have headquarters on streets once named after communist luminaries, and business travellers from across the globe jet into an airport revamped in a partnership with China.
It’s all a far cry from the civil war that ravaged the country for years. Today, it’s mining of a different sort on the lips of Mozambicans, and corporate travellers would do well to take notice of this quiet corner of Africa.
Population: 23 million
Time zone: GMT +2
Electricity: Two-prong round pins, European-style
Dialling code: +258 + area code + number
Currency: Mozambican Metical. US$1=MNM26.9
GDP growth rate (2011 est.): 7.2%
Language: English is spoken widely in southern Mozambique, although Portuguese remains the country’s official language. If you’re travelling outside of the major cities, a translator may be required.
Important cities: The capital Maputo is the country’s political and commercial heart, although major towns further north have a significant impact on local economies. Beira, 700 kilometres north of Maputo, is the country’s second-largest port and the gateway to important trade routes into southern Africa. Nampula is the country’s third-largest city and a major trade and transport hub for northern Mozambique. Rich coal and iron ore deposits have made Tete – in the country’s north-west – a boomtown for the mining industry, while the coastal city of Pemba has enormous economic potential, thanks to tourism and a sizeable natural harbour.
Passport-holders of most southern African countries do not require a visa to visit Mozambique, and are granted a 30-day entry stamp on arrival. Most other passport holders can obtain a visa on arrival.
- Malaria is found throughout Mozambique, but is particularly prevalent in the north. Ask your health professional for advice at least three weeks before you travel.
- Changing money is rarely a problem in Mozambican cities, and VISA/Maestro ATMs are easy to find in major centres. Upmarket restaurants and hotels will accept credit cards, but it’s best to keep some cash for taxis and smaller shops. US dollars and South African Rands are widely accepted, particularly in the south.
Airlines and Airports
Mozambique is well connected to southern Africa, with a number of scheduled airlines serving destinations across the country. Outside of the major commercial centres you’ll struggle with long distances on pot-holed roads though, so you might want to make use of the relatively well-developed air charter industry.
Privately-owned Federal Air is famous for serving safari destinations across southern Africa, and its daily flights from Johannesburg to Vilanculos in central Mozambique have proven especially popular with leisure travellers to Bazaruto. Three flights a week stop at Nelspruit en route, but return flights are always direct to Johannesburg.
fedair.com or +27 11 395 9000
This regional airline offers a comprehensive selection of flights into Mozambique, serving a number of popular corporate destinations. From its hub at Johannesburg’s O.R. Tambo International Airport, Airlink flies daily to both Tete and Beira, four times per week to Nampula and twice per week to Pemba. There are also six flights a week from Durban to Maputo.
flyairlink.com or +27 11 978 1111
South African Airways and its affiliate airline SA Express operate five flights per day between Johannesburg and Maputo. SA Express also offers three direct flights per week between Cape Town and Maputo.
flysaa.com or +27 11 978 5313
Linhas Aéreas de Moçambique, the national carrier, offers a good route network across the country and sub-Saharan Africa. In addition to flights serving Tete, Nampula, Pemba, Beira, Vilanculos and Johannesburg, LAM also offers routes to Dar es Salaam, Nairobi and Luanda.
lam.co.mz/en or + 258 21 468 800
Within cities you’ll have no trouble getting around. Central business areas are generally safe to walk in during the day, while at night taxis are easy to find outside major hotels. Few taxis run their meter though, so negotiate a fare upfront. Hire cars are available in major centres, but poor road conditions between cities make driving an unenviable option. If you have to drive, it’s best to opt for a hire car with a driver.
Where to Stay
With its magnificent sea and city views, the Hotel Cardoso is a welcome escape from the hustle of Maputo, and its pleasant restaurant and poolside terrace are good for meetings over lunch or drinks. Free Wi-Fi is a bonus, and there are dedicated conference and events facilities.
+258 21 491071
Polana Serena Hotel
Maputo’s ‘grand old lady’ has had a $25-million facelift and is looking better than ever. The renovated rooms offer panoramic ocean views, while a selection of top-notch restaurants are on offer for impressing clients. Four new meeting rooms boast state-of-the-art conference facilities, while the restored 350-seater Grand Ballroom is available for large corporate events.
+258 212 41 700
Set in the heart of downtown Maputo, this 4-star business-focused hotel offers 119 rooms decorated in a rich African style. Its convenient central location makes it ideal for flying visits when leisure time is limited, although there is a pool, gym and sauna on-site. The flagship Monomotapa restaurant offers Mozambican, Portuguese and international cuisine, with sweeping views of the impressive Catedral da Sé. Conference facilities can accommodate up to 300 delegates at a time.
+258 213 05000
Pemba Beach Hotel
It’s no surprise that this hotel in the northern city of Pemba is often fully booked. Set on a sprawling estate of lawns and palm trees, the chic Arabesque style and excellent service make this one of the best hotels in Mozambique. With its modern spa and well-equipped water sports centre, this is an especially good option if you’re travelling with family, on an extended visit, or expect to have some downtime.
+258 21 301 618
Tete may be a boomtown for the coal industry, but hotels for corporate travellers are in short supply. The best of a bad bunch is Hotel Zambeze, where at least you’ll enjoy views of the impressive Zambezi Bridge. Plus it has air-conditioning, a must in this super-heated corner of Mozambique.
+258 52 2 3100