Now Reading
Bernardo Aparício: “Mozambique’s Agricultural Sector is Set to Thrive”

Bernardo Aparício: “Mozambique’s Agricultural Sector is Set to Thrive”

Portuguese who are making a name for themselves abroad are helping to find out where business opportunities lie and what kind of companies and activities the country can attract. An initiative that brings together the Newspaper Negócios and the Portuguese Diaspora Council.

Bernardo Aparício is the Managing Director of Standard Bank Mozambique, the Mozambican subsidiary of the Standard Bank Group, the largest bank by assets on the African continent. Bernardo Aparício has over 23 years’ experience in the international financial sector, 10 of which have been in Africa.

a d v e r t i s e m e n t

He has held various leadership positions in different areas of corporate and investment banking in Portugal, Spain, the United Kingdom and Mozambique. His experience in Investment Banking has been in Project Finance in the European and American markets, and in Mergers & Acquisitions and Capital Markets in Africa.

What led you to leave Portugal?
I’ve actually left Portugal twice. The first time I left out of curiosity. Curiosity about getting to know other markets, curiosity about testing my ability to adapt, curiosity about other working cultures and curiosity about getting to know the world.
The second time, at a more consolidated stage in my career, was for the challenge of working in larger or more complex markets and opening up growth options for my career. Basically, I was looking for an opportunity to broaden the range of choices and opportunities in my career.

What advantages or disadvantages has being Portuguese brought you?
Our ability to adapt to other cultures and learn other languages are undoubtedly great advantages. Our DNA has specific characteristics that help us to reach a completely different culture and adapt more quickly than other nationalities. Another advantage is the fact that the Portuguese language has a very wide variety of sounds, which allows us to learn other languages more easily. The combination of these two factors makes it easier for Portuguese people to adapt to new cultures. The biggest disadvantage is that, because Portugal is a smaller economy, it doesn’t have the capacity or the mechanisms to support investment abroad that other countries have.

What obstacles have you had to overcome and how did you do it?
The biggest obstacle is always adapting our work culture to the local reality. Of course there are leadership characteristics that are common throughout the world, but one of the keys to success when you leave your country is to understand the nuances of each market, how to communicate effectively and what motivates people. In each country I’ve lived in, there has clearly been a process of unlearning the work culture of the last country and re-learning the culture of the new one, in order to practise more effective leadership. It’s curious that even today I do certain things in a certain way because that’s how I learned them in Portugal, others because they worked well in Spain, or I apply the rigour they demand in the UK, but always with an awareness of their impact on the culture of the country I’m in.
Despite this process, I am an inevitable product of all the professional experiences I’ve had the privilege of living through, and they all contribute in some way to adapting more effectively to each labour market. And at the end of the day, it’s the combination of these experiences that has allowed me to overcome the biggest obstacle of justifying why a Portuguese person should do a certain job, or why me.

What do you admire most about the country you’re in?
What I admire most about Mozambique is the resilience of the people and their good humour. These two characteristics combined lead to entrepreneurship and innovation. When we talk about Mozambique, the first thing that comes to mind is that it’s one of the poorest countries in the world in the south-east of Africa. A small economy with little going for it. In fact, it is a country of more than 30 million people, with more than 60 per cent of the population under the age of 25 and a high percentage of the economy still informal. These characteristics, combined with extreme weather events, mean that the country and its people have to be able to withstand extraordinary negative and innovative events.

What do you admire most about your company/organisation?
What I admire most about the Standard Bank Group is its ability to understand Africa and bring Africa to the world. Standard Bank is Africa’s largest bank, with a presence in 20 countries in Africa and 5 representations in various parts of the world. Our vocation is to serve our clients in each of these geographies, attract investment to the African continent and expand the base of trading partners. To understand Africa is to realise that the continent is made up of 54 countries, each with its own identity, all different from each other in terms of economy, culture, geography and, at the same time, to be able to operate in highly volatile environments. The Standard Bank Group has been one of the largest investment channels in Africa in recent decades, and continues to expand its presence to contribute to the development of the 54 countries on the African continent.

What recommendations would you give to Portugal and its entrepreneurs and managers?
The recommendations I would give to Portugal and its entrepreneurs is to look at Mozambique not only as a current opportunity, but above all as a long-term opportunity, for the next 10, 20, 30 years. In 2050, Europe will suffer a very serious demographic crisis, both in terms of labour shortages and demand. Our duty as managers is not only to prepare Portuguese companies for the short term, but also for the long term. In this sense, consider investing in markets like Mozambique, which today have low levels of demand and volumes compared to more developed markets, but which have enormous potential due to the combination of the population dividend and the increase in per capita income.
For these reasons, Mozambique should be an important country on the agenda of Portuguese entrepreneurs and managers.

In which sectors of the country where you live can Portuguese companies find clients?
The most interesting sectors for Portuguese companies would be infrastructure, construction, consumer goods, energy and agriculture. Infrastructure and construction because of Mozambique’s potential to be the gateway to the sea for some African countries that need access to global markets. We’re talking about roads, railway lines and ports with capacity for all the imports and exports of countries like Zimbabwe, Zambia and Botswana and South Africa itself. In addition, there are good opportunities in areas such as distribution and the consumer goods industry, despite strong competition from South Africa. Finally, my favourite sector, the agricultural sector, offers unparalleled opportunities in various types of crops, from vegetables, cereals, fruit, nuts and irrigated crops such as rice. Neighbouring Zimbabwe has been described as the breadbasket of Africa, so I see no reason why Mozambique can’t also be a powerhouse, given that the soil and climate are identical.

See Also

In which sectors of Portugal might companies from the country you’re in want to invest?
Currently, one of Portugal’s most attractive features is its political and macroeconomic stability. For countries where this volatility is part of the DNA of entrepreneurs, it’s important to have other options in which to invest savings in order to manage risk. In this sense, the property sector continues to be very attractive as it is a store of value with little volatility.

What competitive advantage does Mozambique have that could be replicated in Portugal?
The two major competitive advantages that Mozambique has can hardly be replicated. One is the existence of large reserves of natural resources ranging from natural gas, coal, heavy sands, precious stones and graphite. These resources will be the key to the country’s economic development. The second is the demographic pyramid and the percentage of young people in Mozambique. This advantage, common to almost all African countries, will be felt in 20 or 30 years’ time, but it will change the paradigm of economic growth and even international geopolitics.

Are you thinking of returning to Portugal? Why?
The last time I left Portugal, back then for the UK, it was to embrace new challenges and explore new career opportunities. In professional terms, Portugal always remains a great option, but the opportunities have to be challenging compared to what we have available globally. For a post-executive phase of life, Portugal is a very attractive destination for its quality of life, climate and geographical location.
In conclusion, if there is no professional opportunity that justifies returning, I believe that sooner or later we will return to Portugal as a family base.

Survey prepared and revised by Paulo Morgado, Coordinator of the Europe and Asia Regional Centres of the Portuguese Diaspora




Scroll To Top

We have detected that you are using AdBlock Plus or other adblocking software which is causing you to not be able to view 360 Mozambique in its entirety.

Please add to your adblocker’s whitelist or disable it by refreshing afterwards so you can view the site.