Portuguese find the good life in Mozambique

A beach in Mozambique

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Tropical beaches. Grilled prawns. Fine coffee. And an economy growing by almost 8% a year.

Who wouldn't be tempted by Mozambique?

"Here we can have a new life - a good life," says 32-year-old Marcio Charata. And he is not talking about a few weeks' holiday in the sun.

In his grey suit and tie, Mr Charata is one of a growing stream of unemployed Portuguese, fleeing the economic storms sweeping Europe and heading to their country's former colonies - Mozambique, Angola and Brazil - in search of jobs and opportunities.

Start Quote

We are not here to conquer a country”

End Quote Marcio Charata Portuguese expat in Mozambique

"Here is the opposite of Portugal - each day you see the economy of Mozambique is growing," says Mr Charata.

"When you open the newspaper you see hundreds of millions of dollars are to be invested.

"So it's a great atmosphere to be here and I'll say a safe gamble to come here to work," he says, eating lunch at an outdoor cafe in Maputo, surrounded by other young Portuguese.

"Of course it is quite ironic for Portuguese people coming here. Portugal as a colonialist country in Africa - we did a lot of mistakes and people my age are not proud of that.

"But I think our mentality is very, very different. We are not here to conquer a country," he says.

'Best and brightest'

After 18 months on the dole in Portugal, Mr Charata is now a financial director at a large Mozambique media conglomerate, earning "a similar" salary to what he could have expected in Lisbon.

Marcio Charata (R) with colleagues Marcio Charata (R) earns a similar salary to one when he could expect in Lisbon

He has no plans to return home: "In Portugal your effort doesn't matter. Unless you have a well-connected father there are no jobs in private companies."

But the exodus of skilled workers - 120,000 left Portugal in the past year alone, actively encouraged by their debt-ridden government - has attracted criticism.

"It's very distressing to see that Europe cannot make the right decisions to overcome the crisis and is again forcing the people of Portugal to emigrate," says Ana-Maria Gomez, a socialist member of the European Parliament.

"Portugal… is exporting the best, the ones that we need, our scientists, our teachers, our engineers - the best and the brightest that Portugal and Europe really need.

"It's a tremendous impoverishment to the country."

Looking out across the blue ocean in front of the Portuguese embassy in Maputo, Ambassador Mario Godinho de Matos takes a more sanguine view, pointing out that the Portuguese have always been explorers.

"The world has really changed. We are facing many challenges in our country. We must be realistic and try to adapt," he says.

"This is a country of big opportunities for young Portuguese people - mostly very young with very high degree of education.

"It's an opportunity for them to change their lives."

'Stealing jobs'

With Chinese and Brazilian mining firms already queuing up to do business in Mozambique, the government here has imposed limits on the number of foreigners each company can hire, and there are plenty of stories of disillusioned Portuguese heading home without finding work.

Start Quote

Daniel David, businessman

We must export, we must expose ourselves to good governance and accountability in order not to have the same problems that Europe is having now”

End Quote Daniel David Head of SOICO

There are also hints of a backlash from the Mozambique public, who have already taken to the streets recently to protest against rising prices and the country's growing wealth gap, and who now worry about a creeping re-colonialisation.

"They've been stealing jobs," says Carlos Litulo, a local photographer and entrepreneur.

"How can you bring someone from Portugal when you have qualified accountants here?

We have good universities - so they graduate people but when they go to these companies they don't get jobs."

He warns of trouble "in the coming years".

Much will depend on how Mozambique's government manages these boom years - whether they can spread the wealth widely enough and ensure that a soaring GDP translates into jobs for locals.

Daniel David runs the SOICO, the media conglomerate which recently hired Mr Charata.

He is also the chairman of the Mozambique Portugal Chamber of Commerce.

While some of his colleagues "laugh and joke" at the sight of their former colonial masters struggling, he sees this as "a learning process".

"What can we learn from this situation in Europe? What can we do so that in the future it does not happen to us.

"We must export, we must expose ourselves to good governance and accountability in order not to have the same problems that Europe is having now."

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  • rate this

    Comment number 31.

    @ 21 you are clearly a one off though. Young Spaniards have no hope in Spain as youth unemployment has hit over 50% i know many Spaniards who have found jobs in Britain and no plans to return to Spain for a long time!

  • rate this

    Comment number 30.

    Those commenting on the desirability of learning another language should know that practically all Portuguese can speak English and Spanish, especially those of higher education. This cannot always be said of the English, as a multilingual Englishman now resident in Portugal I know this to be true.

  • rate this

    Comment number 29.

    Some good destinations for Brits, with Aus at the top (personal view & experience). Great food, wine, weather and lifestyle. Active skilled migration policy. As good (if not better) health and education. Unemployment at 5%, no recession, less than $20bn public debt (to be zero next year!). Friendly locals and about 10,000 miles from the Luftwaffe Kommandatur, sorry, I meant ECB HQ. Unbeatable!

  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    well failed to fool me anyway.

    but succeded magnificently in its true objective to enslave the majority of mankind and to deliver ultimately a global dictatorship to the world

  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    free world, free market, what a joke, are people still really this dissillusioned. the reality is it has failed and we all better wake up fast before you cause even greater damage

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    There seems to be a perception that the western values of democracy and free market are over and did not work. While better regulation is needed, the problems relate to excessive state and lack of liberalization so the west actually needs an even more free and dynamic market to keep growing, not the opposite as being defended by leaders of the upcoming countries with a still low income per capita.

  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    How sad that people are always looking for revenge - the article and some comments reflect this. Why should anyone be happy that Europe is going through a difficult period, or why should any country make life difficult for honest people trying to make a living out of revenge from what happens in other countries? These countries desperatly need qualified people to grow so why chase people out?

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    It should be noted that foreigners or non-natives in any country become the scapegoats and blamed for taking jobs only when that country's economy is in decline. When and if the economy is booming and there are jobs for everyone, nobody seems to care. In fact, there are still more brain-drain of Africans in, Europe, America and in the diaspora than are of Europeans and others in Africa.

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    Re: Mr or Ms Erasmus's comment

    Britain (along with England) joined in the EU in 1973.

    Just speculating here, but I'm not sure Canada, with about 3/4 of its trade being done with the US would have signed up to a trading bloc that excluded it from its biggest market. I expect the Australian and NZ response equally would have been "on yer bike".

    I'm sure the CBI would have had a heart attack too.

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    the muslims should do the same and bring back darul islam (the land of islam) and get out of this stupid invention of the secular nation state we have inherited from our former colonial masters. In reality we will always be their slaves untill we can break free from their political and economic institutions. and bring back our political and economic systems.

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    Desiderius - blocked by language? 12 months ago I was made redundant in England. Now I'm happily working in Spain (a country with over 20% unemployment). My Spanish is worse than their primary school kids English and I manage and am learning rapidly. The only thing that blocks people is their mindset.

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    It is fortunate that the Portuguese can speak the language to get work in Mozambique. That rules out us Anglo Saxons. We should form a block of English speaking countries whereupon we can migrate to one anothers' countries for work.

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    for the last 40 years the us petro dollar (oil) has been functioning as gold. you have printed so much of this fraudulent paper money that now the chickens are coming home to roast. this will cause massive inflation and a huge drop in living standards. So demonatize the dollar so all those who hold lots of this fraudulent paper will help carry the burden. this is morally repugnent.

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    I have a feeling that these booming Asian, African, and Latin American countries won't welcome Australians, Europeans, or Americans with open arms.

    But yet they expect us to accept their mass migration to Europe and America.

    It just shows how hypocrital the world is.

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    Portugal is no different to the UK. The UK has an EXTREMELY small amount of good jobs & they are all occupied with people with connections, we have the highest unemployment rate ever with youth unemployment even higher, our government is destroying jobs as fast as they can & now they are destroying our social services/NHS. Brits need to be on our way to Mozambique too but we can't afford a ticket!

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    1. Desiderius Erasmus:
    "Unfortunately for the English we are largely blocked by quotas (US, Australia, Canada, New Zealand) or language (Europe) from going anywhere when times are tough."

    Learning a foreign language might help...!

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    knowledge, skills, leadership, technical and organizational know-how together with beliefs and resulting attitudes enable a nation to create wealth. Mozambican are smart and they know that we can not discuss how to divide a pie without a pie. so let the portuguese come and create jobs and increase our growth rate.

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    The premise of this piece is quite wrong. Mozambican employment legislation is highly protective. Foreign nationals may work in start-ups, for a limited time, or as proprietors. Firms and individuals trying to beat the system are reularly fined and deported, respectively

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    spain was a african muslim colony for almost a thousand years.

    parts of italy sicily, and france, greece, cyprus, gibralter.

    also many eastern european countries were held by the muslims and many africans were and still are muslims.

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    Just need to point a few home truths to GreenAlan:
    1. Europeans are not obliged to accept mass immigration from Africa - and they don't. Show me one place where Africans walk straight in legally.
    2. Europeans are taking the top jobs - take the person in this article for example. If he were cleaning toilets then I'd agree with you.
    3. I don't remember any European country being a colony of Africa.


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