Cultural Diplomacy News (CDN)
Gildo Neves (Director General, Mozambique Tourism)

12.03.2011 - Interview conducted by Ashley S. Fitzpatrick & Kim Cornett

Q1. Mozambique has a young population, with 45% of the population being under the age of 15. Given this fact, what special role do young people play for tourism in Mozambique?

This is a very interesting question. At that age, these people are not yet allowed to work, and therefore cannot actually be involved in the development of tourism in the country, which has got a very high potential. So capacity-building is the way to go. Young people today are not only being trained in the tourism sector, but in other sectors as well, because, as you probably know, the country is still developing, and there is a need for skilled people in all vital sectors of the economy. There is a government plan for education - for primary, secondary, vocational, and university levels, and the country has 4 public universities to cater to this population. There are a lot more private universities. Not only that, but we are privileged to be in a number of different organisations, including, as was mentioned in the conference, the Commonwealth, the Francophonie. So there are a lot of chances for young Mozambicans to receive scholarships from different countries. Investment in education is a burden, initially, but it does produce longterm results.

Q2. We’ve talked about what young people can do for the country, and what tourism can do to assist this. However, HIV/AIDS still remains a significant problem in Mozambique. What can the tourist industry do to help solve this problem?

Again, by training young people to get formal jobs, we can help to reduce the number of youth turning to prostitution. We all know that tourism in some destinations has lead to increased levels of prostitution. So by training young people with vocational skills, we can enable them to get jobs, not just in Mozambique, but in neighbouring countries as well, because our schooling is also done in English and French. HIV/AIDS is actually a very big problem in Africa, and we must recognise that. The Mozambican government has created an institution which deals with the prevention of the disease. So there are big campaigns, aimed not only at young people, but at our society as a whole, to educate the population about HIV/AIDS. We have some illiteracy problems in Africa, so these campaigns rely on cultural events, or on humour to help illustrate the dangers. The government has put up a program to help prevent the disease in the country.

Q3. Mozambique is a multilingual country. Though Portuguese is the official language of the country, approximately a third of the population doesn’t speak it. Is there a problem of language barriers in the country, and does this affect international investment?

This is an interesting question. We have about thirty three languages in the country, plus each region can have different dialects. One good thing the Portuguese have done for us was to teach us their language. We are all taught Portuguese at school, and after independence, the Portuguese language was a symbol of national identity - the first government took Portuguese as our official language. If we try to only teach our own languages, as in other African countries, we will have problems of tribalism. Many conflicts in Africa are simply because of language. We were one of the last countries to gain independence in Africa, and because of that, we have been able to learn from the mistakes of other countries. By uniting the country through language, we have managed to avoid conflict. As I have said, we do still have a problem with illiteracy, and the government has invested in programs combating that - we even put older people into schools to teach them the Portuguese language. Interestingly, there are even tourists who go to Mozambique to learn Portuguese.

Q4. Here in Berlin, we have a large Turkish population, and a number of people in the younger generation communicate with each other in a mixture of German and Turkish. Is there a similar situation in Mozambique, where a mixture of languages is spoken at once?

That’s actually a sign of development. When there is development, there is also innovation, and we want to keep ourselves innovative to differentiate our country from others. In Mozambique, there is slang, but not a creole, as is the case with Cape Verde or Guinea-Bissau. If you go to Southern Mozambique, some local words and phrases are incorporated, but we are still able to communicate freely with people from Portugal and Brazil.

Q5. Mozambique has a long coastline. What is its potential for tourism and investment, and how well-developed is the infrastructure in the area?

We have a lot of untapped potential. The coast is very long, and, in some places, was only developed to benefit South African tourists, for whom Mozambique has always been a popular destination. With independence, we want to diversify our market. That’s why we are bringing in investors from Europe and Asia. We are having some luck in this, with Portuguese, Italians, and Spanish investors in the area, but we still have a lot to give. What we are trying to do is to create partnerships, so that local people can also benefit from the development of our coastline. We still have a long way to go, but it’s promising, and we are already seeing major hotel chains being established here. We are also promoting ourselves to investors, participating in investment forums worldwide. This one in Berlin was our first, but we plan to go to others in Europe to actually contact potential investors, and to show them what we can offer.

Thank you very much for your time and input.