Flying into the capital late last year, the Sawubona team and our fellow SAA passengers were amazed at the aerial views of Africa’s biggest suspension bridge, which is now complete. This is the sexy, new US$725 million dollar, 60m high, 3km-long Catembe Bridge, which has changed the landscape and flow of Maputo forever.
Built by the China Roads and Bridges Corporation, the bridge connects the two shores of the Bay of Maputo and finally completes the reconstructed road link from the north of Mozambique to the south, which was shattered during the civil war.
Both Mavalane International Airport and the highway into town were busy. The much-anticipated Mozambique Gas Summit & Exhibition 2017 was taking place and just about every hotel bed, in and outbound flight, restaurant, coffee shop, car hire service and parking space was full. In the north of the city, the opening of the Baia Mall’s massive flagship store – Game – was causing no small amount of consumer hysteria. And, of course, there was a heatwave.
The Sawubona team stayed at the Southern Sun Maputo, which was cool, calm and collected and 100% full. How extraordinary to witness a 250-plus-bed hotel in full flight, as it were, under the expert supervision of General Manager Bruce Chapman. It’s said that most of the capital’s business deals go down in the Southern Sun lounge – and the place was packed with VIPs, politicians, business people, army generals and their entourages.
The main driver of Mozambique’s upturn is foreign direct investment in the extractive sectors – mainly coal and, soon, gas and oil. China is one of the country’s biggest trading partners across a wide range of sectors from energy and timber, to roads and fishing. – and the Chinese Embassy in Maputo last year said its country’s investment in Mozambique has been fast growing and in cumulative terms approaching $6 billion, and that there were now over a hundred Chinese companies operating in Mozambique. Mozambique also has numerous public-private infrastructural partnerships underway with other countries such as SA, Brazil, South Korea, Japan and Turkey.
The capital itself has undergone massive changes in the past few years – like the building of the 74km-long ring road that cuts in half the travel time to the nearest blue-water beaches and weekend escapes of Macaneta, the creation a $300 million MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Events) hub in the city and, of course, the Catembe bridge.
A great place to get a view of it all is from the city’s oldest hotel, Hotel Cardoso, which was also naturally full during the gas summit, but definitely open for a post-work drink on their legendary pool terrace which looks out across the Indian Ocean and the Port of Maputo whose harbour has expanded considerably. Looking over the city there are signs of economic progress: new buildings under construction, old ones under renovation, giant billboards for mobile phones, banks and the service sector.
The hotel market in Mozambique is expected to boom in the next couple of years. Hotel values in Maputo have jumped 133% in 2016 with a compound annual growth rate of 36,6% between 2010 and 2016, making it the most improved market in Africa. This is according to the latest Hotel Valuation Index (HVI) published annually by HVS Global Hospitality Service. And tourism and travel is set to contribute 7.7 percent to the country’s GDP according to to the World Travel and Tourism Council’s 2017 Economic Impact report on Mozambique.
Southern Sun is central to the city’s new $300 million MICE hub – which includes the 2000 person capacity Joaquim Chissano Convention Centre, the AFFEC Gloria Hotel, the Rani Radisson and the iconic Rani Towers. Southern Sun Maputo is part of the Tsogo Sun group who are expanding in Mozambique. Their new Stay Easy in Maputo opens next month and the Tsogo group has also opened the beautiful Tete Ferry Sun in Tete, set on the banks of the lower Zambezi.
The surge in business tourism is testament to investor interest in the country, said Natalie Tenzer-Silva, CEO of Dana Tours, a destination management company whose team has been ground-handling arrangements for inbound visitors for more than 16 years. Dana Tours offers leisure and corporate travel groups, port excursions, day trips and Tenzer-Silva’s average day can include anything from tracking down lost luggage to arranging a yacht for a visiting diplomat.
“We do lots for the oil and gas sector”, she said, “from accommodation up in the provinces to chauffeur to meetings in Maputo. We are Maputo-based, so we can deal with things on the ground. We’re also very safety conscious, we have good passenger liability cover and an excellent health and safety track record”. She said business travel to Mozambique is definitely increasing as a result of the new MICE hub. The MICE market is mainly from South Africa, while the cruise liner market comes mainly from European and American guests.”
Also in the MICE hub is Torres Rani or Rani Towers, the modern twin towers that have completely changed Maputo’s skyline. Sawubona first visited in hardhats and steel-toe boots some years ago when the towers were under construction. Now they are full of life and running at 90% occupancy. There’s an upmarket collection of stores and restaurants on the ground floor, state of the art office spaces in the one tower and residential executive units in the other. Developed by Rani Resorts the apartments have been hugely successful.
“Security is probably our main factor in that success”, said Elena Son, Africa Commercial director of Rani. “We have state of the art security and we can close down our property in any emergency, we have 70 guards, supervisors, operations staff, CCTV security room and hundreds of cameras on the property, all entry and exit have security and covered secured parking with tight access controls”. Impressive. They also have three generators that can keep the buildings running at hundred percent for a week, as well enough water from their own wells to supply the building at hundred percent occupancy for over a week.
Strategic public private sector partnerships within the country are crucial to economic development, said Alfred Mucavela (check position) of Standard Bank, a sponsor of the gas summit. The bank, which has been in Mozambique for 123 years, and is represented nationwide, is committed to promoting business in the country and most notably sponsors the Financial Times Summit and Economic Briefing, key events for business influencers and A-listers. Standard Bank also sponsors soccer and tennis events as well as the Standard Bank Acacia Jazz Festival; and are involved in key community activities.
Linking Africa with the rest of the world is the job of Internet Solution which is optimistic about business. They offer turnkey solutions -cloud products, virtualised hosting. “The business has a footprint across Africa and has been operating in Mozambique for over 20 years”, says De Wet Hugo, commercial director of Internet Solutions. “We have offices in Nacala, Nampula, Tete, Beira and Pemba and we build solutions and services tailored to the increasingly complex demands of organizations for system integration. We work with the public sector, global operators and small to medium-sized business sectors.”
Key service companies in Mozambique are repositioning and rebranding themselves as the economy improves – like Vodacom, who have launched a new communication strategy and branding. One of their successful projects has been M-Pesa which is a popular new form of transferring money via mobile phones. FNB Moçambique also recently launched a new brand campaign to position themselves “as a tailor-made bank, with specialized services and the best digital solutions. FNB aims to increase its brand visibility as a responsible bank committed to the growth of Mozambique” said Leila Amade Head of Marketing. FNB Moçambique also opened a business lounge at Mavalane International Airport to cater to all platinum and limited edition customers at the international departures at ORT in Johannesburg, King Shaka International in Durban and Cape Town International.
South African Airways has three daily return flights between Johannesburg and Maputo, says Thobi Duma SAA country manager for Mozambique. The first flight to Mozambique by SAA was in 1938 and in 1999 SAA began flying three times a week. The airline also offers weekend packages in partnership with Southern Sun Maputo, Dana Tours and Thompsons Tours.
The hot news on the tourism front is the easing of visa regulations for visiting foreigners. Mozambique instituted tourist visas on arrival earlier this year (business visas must be arranged in the country of origin) according to Abdulla Momade, head of investment at INATUR, the Mozambique Tourism Authority. Momade said the Mozambique government aims to improve the business climate through dialogue with the private sector.
While business tourism to the capital of Maputo is far higher than leisure tourism, that too is showing an upturn. “The efforts to attract more leisure tourists are already showing good results, said Belgineta David, Director of Marketing at Inatur. “There has been 7,9% annual growth, and we’re working hard on our digital media, including improving our website and marketing”. Inatur is also involved with the International Tourism Expo Fikani which is held in Maputo annually, and they participate in international fairs events along with the private sector to showcase the products and services of Mozambique. Inatur is also concentrating on developing the MICE market and are creating Convention Bureau that will bring international events, conferences and meetings to the country.
SOURCES: clubofmozambique.com, allafrica.com, worldbank.org, APA, macauhub.com