Jobless Portuguese seek Utopia in Moz

2012-07-11 10:12

Maputo - Thousands of Portuguese have fled their country's economic hardships all the way to Mozambique, a former colony at the southern end of Africa, where a booming economy promises jobs and a better future.

"It is summer ten months out of twelve here," said Mafalda Soares at a party in honour of Lisbon's patron saint, Antonio, in the Mozambican capital Maputo, where fried sardines were served to the tunes of Fado music in the background. She arrived two years ago before things got really bad back home.

"When I send emails home I have new things to tell because this is a growing economy and things are happening, whilst there they are cutting budgets and cutting people," she tells AFP.

Portuguese, especially the young, are fleeing unemployment that may surpass 15% in their home country which entered recession last year. They head out to former colonies - first Brazil, then Angola, now Mozambique.

The latter promises 7% growth on the back of a natural resource boom - global significant natural gas and coal deposits.

About 25 000 Portuguese live in Mozambique - most Maputo. Arrivals have increased over the past two years and the Portuguese consulate now registers 100 newcomers a month, though not everyone bothers to sign in. Portuguese airline TAP doubled its flights from Lisbon to Maputo this year to meet the demand.

Diogo da register Cunha, 42, came to Maputo in March when clients' inability to pay their bills forced him to give up his baby lettuce farm. Today he sells imported bubble gum and whisky to shops.

"I did not have many options. Either continue going down or pay my debts and leave," he said.

New wave of immigrants

"I have a salary even if I have to live with my uncle. I see hope in all aspects of life. Not just work but socially too."

Portuguese emigration goes back to the time of Vasco da Gama. Only 10 million remain in their homeland, while 15 million others are spread around the globe. Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho last year advised jobless young people to emigrate.

Virtually all Portuguese left Mozambique after the colony gained independence in 1975. Some began trickling back twenty years ago after the end of Mozambique's civil war but the new wave of immigrant waiters, drivers, carpenters and construction workers is causing disquiet amongst locals.

"They take positions that Mozambicans could have," said Hortencio Lopes, the head of civil society group the Centre for Mozambican and International studies. Only the top 2% of society occupy professional posts.

"Qualified people tend to stay in Portugal and the least qualified come here. They are bringing their problems here," he said.

"Mozambique does not want to be colonised twice."

But Portuguese consul Graca Pereira disputed the claim.

"That is not true. The Portuguese create jobs," she argued, pointing to the Mozambican government's quota system requiring companies to employ ten locals for every foreigner. But she admitted the rules are bent in "special" cases, usually large construction projects.

Yet the end isn't rosy for everyone.

Business graduate Jose Soares is reluctantly returning home after his local employer decided he was too expensive.

Great opportunities, but great risks

"The owner opted to hire three Mozambicans instead," he said.

"I did not come here to colonise anyone. I came to do my job and teach people."

Many others are worried that salaries for foreigners are falling now that new immigrants are flooding the market.

"Two years ago the work of a foreigner was highly valued, now the demand is the same but the supply has increased dramatically," said Fabio Giao.

The upside is that labour costs are a fraction of what they would be in Europe. The 24-year-old started a catering company this year because of the quick returns on low initial investment.

It is exactly these low minimum wages and rising inflation that have been fuelling growing discontent amongst Mozambicans who feel they are being left out of the economic boom. Riots erupted in Maputo in 2010 over food price hikes.

For now, that anger is not directed at foreign investors, but newcomers fear rising government corruption and simmering discontentment will boil over.

For them Mozambique is not a permanent home.

"You need friends high up in government to stay here," said Giao.

"I am not thinking of staying here long term. We don't know what is going to happen. We see great opportunities, but great risks."

  • millionwatts1 - 2012-07-11 10:18


  • martin.marais.90 - 2012-07-11 10:52

    Net n donkie stamp sy kop 2x maal...

  • priyal.pillay - 2012-07-11 11:01

    Same story in Angola. Crazy how many arrivals they have there too

  • fidel.mgoqi - 2012-07-11 11:37

    Who'd have thought. It's like the 1600s all over again. The recession in Europe must be really that bad.

      Freddie - 2012-07-11 15:07

      Not the whole of Europe, specifically Portugal, Greece and Spain... at the moment.

      Tommo - 2012-07-11 17:42

      @Freddie. And Greece. And Ireland. And Italy. And France. And England...

  • Noedig Greene - 2012-07-11 12:03

    but there r sum idiots who want 2 leave SA and go live in Europe

  • Irene - 2012-07-11 12:04

    Pity the South African unemployed don't flock there too.

  • lerato.kay.3 - 2012-07-11 12:18

    This is good news so all those who are always talking about leaving SA's crime and incompetent who cant afford an Australian visa or ticket can just go to Maputo !!! You better hurry whilst there is still space. Its funny how European economies are collapsing and I feel for some of our uneducated privilledged minorities who are always bad mouthing SA with the same rhetoric that they are leaving for Europe or Australia. If educated Europeans are relocated to Africa because life is getting tough I dont think our uneducated baas will survive there, anyway good luck

      ricky.hammer.92 - 2012-07-11 13:03

      "uneducated privilledged minorities"...really. I guess the majority are all rocket scientists then huh?

      lerato.kay.3 - 2012-07-11 13:19

      Yes you heard me right! Because the \educated privileged minorities\ know what they have and are a pleasure to work with can't say the same for the unschooled \privileged minorities\

  • fidel.mgoqi - 2012-07-11 12:33

    This is what happens when you build your country's economy based on slavery and colonialism. Once the slaves break free from the chains, you are left with nothing. But Europe is still rich, the problem is the wealthy elite, who do what they instinctively do, steal everything, hoard everything.

      AnthonyfromAfrica - 2012-07-11 13:00

      Fidel, Although your comment is totally irrelevant to this article, it must make you very happy, to make an other anti Western comment. Keep it up !!

      ricky.hammer.92 - 2012-07-11 13:09

      Nonsense Fidel. Europe's in trouble due to it's socialist policies.Waisting money on things like the dole or free healthcare. Wait until RSA can't pay the bills for all the freebies the anc dishes out on people who are commonly called NAFAI (no ambition,f all intelligence).Can only tax the taxpayer of what he has,then it's the begging bowl. Child grants,free education,national health ....etc . At least these 2nd wave portuguese colonists bring something the locals will never in a million years have-Intelligence.

      fidel.mgoqi - 2012-07-11 13:38

      "Freedom without Socialism is privilege and injustice... Socialism without freedom is slavery and brutality." Mikhail Bakunin

      fidel.mgoqi - 2012-07-11 13:58

      @Anthony There is nothing anti-west about my comment, this is a stated fact. It's no coincidence that Germany is the life blood of Europe, because Germany was weaned of colonialism at an early stage (after WW1) and they learned to be resourceful and not rely on their colonies for their livelihood, same with the Scandinavian countries. The UK is next because too much of its resources and too many of its brightest individuals have gone into the financial services sector, pursuing quick bucks ponzi wealth schemes. The US is only on life support because of the petro dollar and the willingness of most countries to still accept the US dollar as the reserve currency. But this is also changing as the BRIC countries have started using a basket of their own currencies for trade. Why do you think oil producing countries are being bombed and being kept on side by the Americans, to spread democracy? The refusal of most countries to accept the US dollar for trade transaction will be death knell for the US economy and you will see all those armed Americans on the street baying for the blood of their politicians. 300 million Americans all armed, primed and ready to kill, now that is not a pretty picture!

      AnthonyfromAfrica - 2012-07-11 15:55

      Fidel, Let me tell you what is not a pretty picture; You are an African, and by the sounds, a very proud one!! Good for you. But what is NOT good, is your 24/7 TOTAL OBSESSION with the USA and Europe, and with the slightest opportunity you get, you rubbish them. I take it, you live in Africa. I have been priviledged to have traveled 'through' over 30 countries in this continent, and to this day travel frequently to African capitals. I have met the most amazing people, more beautiful, more kind hearted, and more willing to work, than I have witnessed on any other continent. But there is also a sad side to Africa. A continent ravaged with poverty and decease, and very few jobs!! Now, if you like it or not, the USA and Europe are the ONLY ones who invest in Africa, create jobs, direct or indirect, send hundreds of millions US or euros in aid to fight poverty, hunger and life threatening deceases. Your hero Russia, does absolutely NOTHING in Africa, as a matter of fact there is plenty evidence, they hate Africa and it populations. The cash that China sends to Africa, one cannot call investments, but rather 'buying' parts of Africa ! The Chinese actually destroy jobs ! So, we come back to the West! If they would pull out of Africa, and stop their investments and aid, it would be a CATASTROPHE for this continent. Maybe, being a proud African, you should 'think' before your next anti Western assault !!!!!

      fidel.mgoqi - 2012-07-11 16:13

      It is incalculable how much your post wallows in lameness. This article is about the declining European/Western economy or recession. What's your take on that?

      liana.loots - 2012-07-11 16:33

      You are missing the point Fidel, or maybe did the point miss you. You can count your lucky stars that you are residing in a country of white milk & honey (hehe). Many of those Europeans are emigrating to SA, so jobs here are getting less & less. Stop being derogatory and start working on improving your outlook on life

      AnthonyfromAfrica - 2012-07-11 17:31

      Fidel, What is my take on the European/Western economy and recession ?? When I see 'top' economists the world over, having such different opinions about this issue, I rather shut up, and would suggest to the fools, who claim to know it all,and make all these 'hollow' predictions, rather to buy a caravan, park it under a tree and start a 'fortune telling' business. My other take is; 80 % of the population of Africa, must know something, the other 20 % does not know, Cause if 80 % had a chance, EVEN WITH THE ECONOMIC SITUATION IN THE WEST, they would still all, MOVE to Europe and the USA !!!!!!! Now, what you think of my 'take' ?????

  • wesleywt - 2012-07-11 13:05

    So...where are the haters of Africa?

      fidel.mgoqi - 2012-07-11 13:39

      They are probably having half a dozen bitter lemons surgically removed from their mouths as we speak.

      rob.bayliss.94 - 2012-07-11 14:18

      fidel and wesley: It is not about hate it is about realism and sustainability. In other words, for some, Africa may offer opportunity to make something but definitely at a higher risk of losing it and your life. So when you are young maybe go for it. But consider the individual wealth in some countries, including those in Europe that you perceive to be failing. I am talking about GDP per capita ( All in USD per year Mocambique: 1,000 Angola: 8,200 South Africa: 10,700 Portugal: 23,000 Italy: 30,500 Austria: 40,400 Wealth comes from creating things not consuming them, so despite the problems that Europe continues to experience (in part to providing bloated welfare to immigrants) they have a long way to sink before reaching the poverty of even Angola.

      wesleywt - 2012-07-11 14:51

      criticallyhonest. Clearly you don't understand economic growth or any economics for that matter. Hit the road with your negative attitudes to Africa, while I will enjoy peri-peri prawns in Maputo.

      rob.bayliss.94 - 2012-07-11 14:59

      wesley: go and consume the prawns, as I said, wealth comes from creating....and getting someone else to consume at the highest margin that is sustainable for the term of your business plan. When the prawns are finished be sure that your medical cover is in place! On a different note, where do you find any negativism in my comment? Realism is not negative.

      fidel.mgoqi - 2012-07-11 15:04

      GDP growth in fiat currency is just a number.

  • Tommo - 2012-07-11 17:38

    If I was a Mozambique citizen I would never have the Portuguese back after what they did when they left the country. They deliberately broke absolutely everything!!!

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