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Mateus Magala: “Mozambique Ports Make a Stand, but Need Roads and Railways”

Mateus Magala: “Mozambique Ports Make a Stand, but Need Roads and Railways”

The Minister of Transport and Communications, Mateus Magala, recently argued in an interview with Lusa that Mozambique’s ports are asserting themselves as an alternative on Southern Africa’s Indian Ocean coast, but they need to be connected to new roads and railways.

“Our roads were not built to support the cargo that is being transported” and, furthermore, “the road is not the only solution,” he said. He continued: “We had a tradition of rail transport that was losing competitiveness”.

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However, according to Magala, the situation “is changing” because the country has started “to invest again in railways,” so that there are intermodal links that are up to the current context of opportunity for Mozambican ports.

Mateus Magala also noted that demand for the ports of Maputo (south), Beira (centre) and Nacala (north) had increased considerably in recent years, with regional operators looking for alternatives in the face of pressure on the ports of Durban and Richards Bay, in neighbouring South Africa.

“It was not an automatic process: it was not only the problems in South Africa that translated into successes for Mozambique. Our country was already prepared and up to the task of offering competitive advantages,” he said.

According to official figures, just in the main port in Maputo, cargo handling rose from 18.4 million tons in 2020 to 26.7 million tons in 2022, a record result.

Mateus Magala says it is the visible face of a total investment of $700 million (€649 million) since the infrastructure was awarded the concession in 2003.

“Mozambique has put in the necessary infrastructure, developed the corridors, put in discipline and bet on digitalisation,” the minister stressed.

“The level of theft, which was something that scared exporters, today is at zero,” he added.

Thus, “when on the other side (in South Africa) things do not work, our country becomes an alternative,” said the Minister of Transport and Communications.

But integrating the ports into an effective intermodal system is a challenge that still remains.

As well as revitalising the rail system, another option that may be viable is the sea route itself, in a country with over 2,500 kilometres of coastline, but this sector is not “cheap”, the minister warned.

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“Cabotage only works when there is cargo from one point to another,” and the maritime industry “is capital intensive,” the minister noted, adding that the solution involves defining public-private strategies to meet the sector’s demands.

According to the minister, any solution should be accompanied by legislation that stimulates investment.

“We have to look at our legal instruments and make them adequate to support the private sector to carry out its task of producing in the most efficient way,” Magala stressed.

If we can combine infrastructure and appropriate legislation, the “necessary incentives” will be in place so that the best mode of transport is naturally chosen by those who invest.

Mateus Magala was appointed Minister of Transport and Communications in June 2022, roughly halfway through President Filipe Nyusi’s second term in office, replacing Janfar Abdulai.

Until the date of his appointment, he was vice-president of Institutional and Human Resources Services of the African Development Bank (ADB), and was the first Portuguese-speaker to become vice-president in the 54 years of the institution.

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