ACROSS THE BOARD

Mozambique 2016 | INDUSTRY | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Dr. Joel Samo Gudo, President and CEO of Ka Matsolo Investments and shareholder and Director of Escopil International, on diversification, the potential of agriculture, and public-private partnerships.

 Dr. Joel Samo Gudo
BIOGRAPHY
Dr. Joel Samo Gudo went to medical school at Eduardo Mondlane University in 1990 and started his career as a doctor in the blood transfusion field in 1997. He was the director of the Maputo Central Hospital Blood Bank, a national referral blood transfusion service before working as the national blood transfusion program manager. In 2001 he went back to university to do a master’s degree in public health. In 2007 he left the public sector to work in the public sector. Currently, he focuses on public health research and holds management positions in several local private companies where he has shares.

How is Escopil's business divided across different sectors?

The company is divided along its engineering and industrial activities and its IT operations. We are not a specialized company that only covers automation or focuses on just one area of engineering. We carry out electrical and mechanical maintenance and other types of activities related to maintenance, mainly in aluminum plants and the coal-mining segment. We also provide technologies for certain services like driving licenses. We are also pioneers in introducing the mobile ID technology in voter registration processes in Mozambique.

What are some of Escopil's upcoming projects?

In 2015 we founded Ka Matsolo Investments, a 100% Mozambican company to help the government implement its strategy of poverty reduction. This entity is meant to identify grey areas in the market that could trigger development in certain areas of industry that could help the development of industrial projects in the country. For example, in Maputo province, where the biggest industrial park in the country is located, there is a shortage of SMEs that can link big industries with the local market. The government has identified SMEs as its main strategy to tackle poverty in the country. Ka Matsolo Investments is developing a small industrial park where SMEs will have the opportunity to implement their projects in an integrated manner where clients—big industries or local companies—will have a one-stop shop for technology, services, and products. This is just one project of many to be identified and implemented in 2016.

Diversification is an important subject on President Filipe Nyusi's agenda. What sectors should be looked at in the near future?

Speaking as not only a Mozambican but also an African, I believe agriculture is the most important sector. People need to eat, so it will always be important. You do not need very highly skilled people and agriculture can be an industry that provides a large number of jobs. Natural resources such as oil, gas, diamonds, and gold are resources with limited lifespans. We know the oil and gas sector, for example, will not last forever, but it offers us an opportunity to invest in other areas that are more sustainable.

How do you envision the role of public-private partnerships (PPP) in Mozambique's development?

Many African governments are not strong enough to implement these major infrastructure projects alone, and there is no country that has the complete set of skills needed to do so. We have to work together and share the workload between the state and private entities to develop the skills and resources and ensure that the economy benefits and grows. The relationship will always be there, and although the concept of PPPs is new in Mozambique, it will develop and become stronger over time. Challenges remain, but so far it is working and the challenges are related to the rapid growth rate of these projects. We have experience in other countries where, due to the need for investment and reliable financing models, the only option is PPPs. This will ensure that the investments that are put in place can be paid back and the projects can be run in a sustainable manner.

What are your expectations for the year ahead?

The biggest factor is peace. If Mozambique can manage to maintain peace then its potential is unlimited. There are so many opportunities here, and all of the necessary ingredients are present. Our main projects are in the oil and gas sector, and this will serve as a major driver in the economy. One area that concerns me is the government's policies on healthcare. Officially, we are talking about 66% health service coverage in the country, and since many African countries are now talking about universal coverage, this suggests that we are far behind. As a country we need to start discussing this issue to understand the challenges and possible solutions the government and private sectors can provide.

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