Marta Pinto Coelho Roff from Maputo Relocation in Mozambique explains how getting things done can be difficult in this booming country.
Reputable companies in the oil and gas sector, FMCG, mining, energy and other sectors of the economy are slowly establishing their businesses and organising their activities for the long-expected bonanza in Mozambique. Numerous local and foreign companies in the country are patiently waiting for the FID (Final Investment Decision) of the onshore LNG Project, which was recently announced for the second quarter of this year. This is it, the moment everyone has been waiting for.
With the third biggest gas reserves in the world and preparing for the largest private equity investment project Africa has ever seen, the country will surely have the means to implement the needed reforms in its education, health and justice systems. When the brutal civil war ended in 1992, Mozambique was one of the poorest countries. Since then, peace and extensive reforms have ensured a steady growth of its GDP, averaging 7% per year in the last decade, with mining, energy, and oil and gas overtaking tourism, agriculture and fishing as the most important sectors of its economy.
After the hidden debt scandal and the ensuing drastic reduction in foreign investment, we are finally feeling the buzz of the country coming back to life. However, one still has to expect to face the challenges related to an old-fashioned system; public institutions without paper, toners and other basic resources, public officials living with budget cuts, power cuts and increasing energy prices. Even so, despite these difficult conditions, we often find people that are eager to help.
Overcoming simple or complex problems for our clients always requires a smile. Without it, it doesn’t matter how much you know or where you’re from. Naturally, knowing the individuals, the process, the culture and the social norms is essential for ensuring results.
We recently faced a challenge with an immigration process. Our client had all the paperwork in order, but because the physical address of the company’s headquarters had changed, the system that connects the Labour Department, Social Security and the Tax Department had not been updated. As such, the application for the Work Permit could not be submitted. Frustrating, to say the least.
In some countries, it could be a matter of logging onto the system to update the information, or a phone call would resolve the issue, or just knocking next door and seeing the problem resolved there and then. It isn’t that easy here though. You need to go up and down six floors (the lift may or may not work). You need to chase other departments in different corners of the city to ensure they have the correct information on their system.
While you’re running around from one place to another without seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, your frustration starts to boil and you feel like screaming your lungs out. Big mistake: don’t ever do it, regardless of the circumstances or whose fault it is. Mozambicans don’t swear, nor do they speak loudly in the workplace. Raising your voice will only add to the difficulty in getting things done, if not ensuring that they’re not done at all. But if you act respectful and deferential and ask for assistance, are clear about what you want, most people will be the first to help if they can.
It took us almost two weeks going to each department, lining up, pleading for support, and returning again and again, always with a smile, as if it were our first time there. We spent mornings that turned into afternoons, we waited patiently and heard complaints in a crowded waiting room of people who face exactly the same challenges we do. The waiting room becomes a place where you laugh, you complain and meet people. The frustration turns into empathy. And today, in a record time we got it, beating all the odds, so our client’s daughter will be able to go on her school trip.
It takes patience, time, respect and above all, resilience to work in this environment, not only in immigration and relocation, but also in other walks of life. People from other countries who are used to immediate answers and services will probably struggle a great deal, become frustrated and unable to cope with the different perception of time and responsiveness.
Our clients do not see behind the scenes, they do not know the time spent chasing processes and getting things done. However, they feel cradled into this sometimes completely new culture and way of life.
At Maputo Relocation we are transparent and fully compliant with the law, respecting the rules and regulations of the country. Above all, meeting people and assisting them in settling into their new life, seeing them discover the culture and embrace the passion of its gentle and extraordinary people, is our greatest inspiration.
This year, Maputo Relocation is celebrating its 10th anniversary. Not much for some, but it has been an extraordinary ride for us and we continue to love our business just as much as when we began. The difference being that, having now relocated numerous families throughout the country, many of whom left in tears, carrying a suitcase full of memories, we are now more prepared than ever to assist the many more who are expected to arrive in the coming decade. With a smile and our passion for this incredible country and its people.
Photo: Marta Pinto Coelho Roff (left) with Madalena Baptista da Silva, Co-Founders and Managing Directors of Maputo Relocation Solutions.