Projects that Drive the Future
With an international presence that spans across 20 countries, Mota-Engil, a multidisciplinary construction company, has always had a relationship with Africa since it was first established in Angola in 1946.
Mota-Engil is Portugal’s largest construction company and the company’s “Ambition 2.0” is a strategic plan to further expand into Africa by increasing activity within the Southern African Development Community.
“As of now the company has a bigger focus in Africa,” says Gilberto Rodrigues, CEO, Mota-Engil Africa. “It originally was a construction company, and construction is part of the company but today we are quite diversified. We are in the business of the environment, energy, logistics, mining, so the company is a powerful house on its own and is becoming more institutionalized.”
Mota-Engil wants to broaden its activity in Angola, Mozambique and Malawi and to branch into logistics, the environment and energy sectors which will support the construction aspect of its core business.
“In order to keep the pace that we have, in order to diversify and to grow into a more balanced business in Africa, and also in order to mitigate any type of risk we have decided to follow the following strategy,” explains Rodrigues. “(We want) to be in countries where the GDP is growing above 6 percent and to be in countries where oil and gas have got a presence. We believe that oil and gas are the key drivers of the economy. And we also believe that Mota-Engil should be based in Africa.”
Rodrigues says that Mota-Engil has been very successful in Zambia and while Tanzania has been slow, Mota-Engil has already bid on projects in Kenya, Ghana and Uganda since “Ambition 2.0” was initialized.
“In this process, we would like to single out Angola because it is our biggest market in Africa,” he says. “Angola for us is critical. First of all we have historical ties but secondly because there is enormous potential. It’s really quite vast. It’s one of the fastest growing economies in the last 20 years.
“They’ve got oil and gas and a very ambitious population. So every day the country has been transformed into a different country. We are keen to grow into other fields like energy, logistics, and mining in order to balance our holding book and activity in the country.
“But we are following the pace and the huge determination that Angolans have put in order to transform their country…And by us being there for 67 years, we are aware of the challenges the country’s had to overcome to become a more developed country.”
Mota-Engil’s Angolan branch is a well-structured construction company which is diversifying into various sectors including waste management and Rodrigues says that the company has bought “a small operation which will translate into quite an interesting operation in the future.”
The Great East Road
Earlier this year, Mota-Engil was awarded a contract worth almost 120 million euros to build the Great East Road which will connect Zambia and Malawi. The road is part of the Nacala corridor and is expected to improve the trade links in the area.
“Zambia is extremely critical for us, because Zambia has a strong economy in the region,” explains Rodrigues. “The country has a number of resources, with copper being the leading one but also today Zambia has got oil.
“And in our operation Zambia is in-between Angola, Mozambique and Malawi. We are very strong in all of those three countries. So Zambia for us makes a lot of sense and we have decided to enter in the country using EU tenders and now we are trying to find other opportunities which can leverage our business in the country.”
The project is expected to create nearly 1,000 jobs for the local community with the capacity to generate more indirect employment.
Along with other developments in Malawi, Mota-Engil is currently building a railway for Vale SA, one of the world’s largest mining companies. The railway has positioned Mota-Engil to become the first company in the last 60 years from Europe to build a rail line in Africa.
“I think in the last 60 years, only the Chinese have built a railway on the continent,” says Rodrigues. “It’s a challenging one and we are on track. By mid next year the rail line should be finished, and we’ll be in position, I think, to have contributed towards the logistics and solutions for Vale and at the same time, we will have contributed for Malawi to become unlocked.
“Malawi will benefit tremendously from this infrastructure which can bring and take commodities…the cost of life will drop and the country will be healthier in terms of economics. That is one of the projects we are very proud of…the project itself, but also because of the social and economic issues surrounding the success of the project.”
Lake Malawi’s Clinic
Mota-Engil’s corporate social responsibility to fight poverty and social exclusion is well documented. A significant project which the company is involved with has the potential to serve the health care needs of 15 million people.
Mota-Engil is currently working to renovate the Chauncy Maples, Africa’s oldest ship. The ship was named after Chauncy Maples, a bishop who drowned in Lake Malawi in the 19th century. Mota-Engil acquired the ship when it bought the Malawi Lake Services, now called the Malawi Shipping Company; and along with the government of Malawi and other partners, Mota-Engil is working to turn the boat into a clinic which will provide basic healthcare to Malawi’s lakeside people. The clinic will deliver services to combat malaria, TB, HIV/AIDS and it will offer maternity care.
“We love this country. We do a lot of social responsibility projects. From giving ambulances to hospitals, to providing medicine to others and supporting church organizations which look after kids,” says Rodrigues. “We have a strong, sense of social responsibility.”
Rodrigues says that he was once approached to get involved in the development of a small playground and game room for sick kids at a hospital in Mozambique. When he flew in from Lisbon to the opening of the playground, he realized that even a small gesture can make a huge transformation.
“When I went to the inauguration of the playground that wing of the hospital had kids with terminal diseases,” he says. “They were just sitting around in the corridor waiting for their days to pass. Most of them had no family, no mother and no father. And that small amount of money, it changed their lives because we could see smiles on their faces and smiles in their eyes. They could play, they could watch some movies and they could use the playground. And it was just a small gesture but it helped.”
Mota-Engil’s ties to Africa have come full circle. While expanding its business across the continent, Mota-Engil has stayed true to the values of what built the company’s foundation nearly 70 years ago.