What is the main task of AIMO?
AIMO groups over 300 members from all the sectors of industry, including major companies, SMEs, and business associations. Our main objective is to engage with the government to remove all fiscal and financial barriers and create a business environment where all industries can easily develop their activities. A central concern is improving the competitiveness of our industries to increase our relevance regionally and globally. Therefore, our agenda includes the implementation of training programs and assisting local companies with certifications, accreditations, and access to technology and innovation. We also collaborate with other sectors to enable the growth of our local market. One of our main objectives is to integrate the energy sector and agro-industry. With a long coastline and vast arable land, agriculture has huge potential to transform industry in Mozambique and serve the regional market. The potential is massive. Finally, we want to push for infrastructure development in the country and the integration of the transport, infrastructure, and financial sectors.
Are there specific policy recommendations that AIMO plans to advocate?
We are currently engaging with our partners to develop a framework that will allow the industrial sector to be attractive in the eyes of the financial institutions. This is critical for the development of a long-term policy to respond to industrial demands. The local banking sector is dominated by commercial banks, and we need more action on the production side, not just by providing incentives for industrial development but by creating specialized banks, such as development banks. Such initiatives can only come from the central bank or the finance ministry. Interest rates are still too high for local industries to be truly competitive—they are the reflection of a banking sector primarily focused on consumers. This is a significant challenge as the government does not have enough funding, but it is a priority. I would like to highlight the maturity of the dialogue between the public and private sectors, benchmarked by the 12 points of the World Bank's business environment indicators, about the removal of barriers to improve the overall business environment. This is an ongoing process, with new challenges emerging every day, but there is a strong commitment on both sides.
In what ways can COVID-19 represent a learning process for Mozambique's industrial sector?
COVID-19 is bringing two sets of challenges to the fore, which will expose the country's weaknesses and unpreparedness. One is related to health, as we do not have a strong health system in the country. If nothing, this will be an opportunity for us to come together, realize our weaknesses, and strengthen the system. The other issue will be the severe economic impact on our market and industries. We thought 2020 would the year of economic recovery for Mozambique, with positive indicators such as renewed political stability, increase in FDI, and the prospects of future gas revenues; however, our economy is too susceptible to unforeseen challenges. We cannot just wait for economic recovery; we need to work on producing effective policies for the creation of a healthy business environment to allow businesses to develop and motivate entrepreneurs. We need to rethink our economies, not just as Mozambicans but as Africans, to find our own solutions. We do not produce the products that we need on a daily basis, and certainly not on a large scale. In times of crisis, like the current one, this becomes a massive problem. We cannot rely on imports for our local needs; we need to write a new paradigm.