On 23 October, President Filipe Nyusi traveled to the UAE for a four-day official visit. He and his delegation met senior Emirati officials, including the president of the UAE and ruler of Abu Dhabi, vice president and prime minister and ruler of Dubai, and the minister of state of foreign affairs and international cooperation. A series of agreements were signed, including on business facilitation, training for Mozambican nationals and a $25mn grant to finance SMEs. Other agreements were inked on security and counterterrorism, including intelligence sharing as well as training and capacity-building for security officials. Discussions were also launched on visa waivers and on establishing a direct air link.
The visit followed a series of meetings between both countries’ officials since Nyusi took office. In February 2021, a mutual investment protection and promotion agreement was signed. In October 2021, the governor of Cabo Delgado province traveled to Abu Dhabi and met with the minister of foreign affairs and international cooperation to strengthen cooperation ties between the UAE and the province. Talks were also launched on how the UAE could contribute to stability and security in the province, as well as in rebuilding infrastructure destroyed by armed insurgents.
Notably, relations between Mozambique and the UAE have strengthened since Nyusi became head of state. These have translated into deeper economic ties, with the UAE now Mozambique’s fifth-largest trading partner. All of this happened despite the fact that a UAE-based shipbuilding company is at the core of the hidden state-backed loans that were discovered in 2016 and which dented Mozambique’s reputation abroad. The scandal ultimately led the IMF to halt its assistance program and prompted other major donors to suspend direct budget support.
Nyusi regards the UAE as a suitable development model for Mozambique, given how it capitalized on a hydrocarbons bonanza to diversify its economy, particularly in the services sector. He furthermore considers the UAE a strategic partner in areas like hydrocarbons and logistics. Tellingly, during the visit, Nyusi visited the Port of Dubai, which is managed by Emirati firm DP World, and called on the company to expand its investments in Mozambique.
DP World is a shareholder in the consortium operating the Port of Maputo, which is currently engaged with the government to extend the management contract for another 10 years; doing so would open the door for more investment and an expansion of infrastructure. Nyusi has often praised the consortium and DP World for their role in developing the Port of Maputo. During the visit, Nyusi specifically called on DP World to invest in the Port of Nacala, in Nampula province. According to Mateus Magala, Mozambique’s transport and telecommunications minister, ports and airports are among the infrastructure with the greatest potential to attract investment from the UAE.
Of note, Magala was one of the two cabinet ministers who accompanied Nyusi in the visit. The other was Foreign Affairs and Cooperation Minister Veronica Macamo, whose presence was justified by the role itself. Tellingly, Nyusi was also accompanied by Deputy Economy and Finance Minister Carla Louveira and Deputy Minister of Public Works, Housing and Water Resources Cecilia Chamutota instead of the ministers themselves. Therefore, we assess that the decision to include Magala showed Nyusi’s top priority: promoting a greater role for UAE-based investment in Mozambique’s logistics infrastructure. Emirati investors may also be in a privileged position if the government contracts out the management of national airports to private operators and privatizes state airline LAM. Notably absent from the trip, however, were officials from the Ministry of Mineral Resources and Energy, given the UAE’s growing role in developing renewable energy sources.
The UAE is fast becoming a major diplomatic, trade and investment partner of Mozambique. Nyusi’s favorable stance toward the UAE opens possibilities for investors seeking to access opportunities in developing Mozambique’s logistics infrastructure, one of his top policy priorities. Apart from Magala, other important interlocutors include Mozambique’s ambassador to the UAE, Tiago Castigo (see our Personality of the Week), and Alberto Cuvelo, Mozambique’s consul in Dubai.
personality of the week
Ambassador to the UAE. Born in 1955 in Moatize, Tete province, Castigo has been a member of Frelimo since his youth. Although he has not held a senior office in the party, he has represented Frelimo at the Socialist International. Castigo worked at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for several years before being appointed high commissioner to Swaziland in 2006. Three years later, he moved to Gaborone, to serve as high commissioner to Botswana.
After five years in Botswana, Castigo returned to Mozambique as Nyusi took office as head of state. Between October 2015 and June 2018, Castigo established Sopal, a company operating in the mining sector. His business partner at that time was Armindo Tiago, who currently serves as health minister. Castigo and Tiago are also owners of Thandiza Investimentos, which operates in the tourism sector. Another notable shareholder in Thandiza Investimentos is Sergio Pantie, the head of the Frelimo parliamentary bench.
In June 2018, Nyusi appointed Castigo as ambassador to the UAE. In addition, Castigo is Mozambique’s permanent representative to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), located in Abu Dhabi, where he is based. He serves as diplomatic representative in one of Mozambique’s major bilateral partners, with whom relations have strengthened since Nyusi took office. Castigo is a married father of three girls and speaks fluent English.
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