MAKING A COMMITMENT

Mozambique 2016 | CONSTRUCTION & REAL ESTATE | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Felix Martins, Managing Director of Odebrecht Infrastructure, on investing in people, its upcoming projects in agriculture, and being socially responsible.

Felix Martins
BIOGRAPHY
Felix Martins is the Managing Director of Odebrecht Infrastructure. He is a civil engineer, with an MBA in business management and a graduate degree in project management and corporate finance. He started his career in the Odebrecht Group 16 years ago and has served in many different senior positions, mainly in the areas of real estate and engineering and construction.

What challenges is the Mozambican civil construction sector currently facing?

The costs related to logistics are one of the main challenges. We expect that with the investments expected in the gas sector, Mozambique will develop better infrastructure, particularly roads and ports. This will certainly contribute to reducing the costs of logistics. Finding skilled local employees is another challenge, especially in the construction sector, and represents a relevant constraint. However, it is the responsibility of construction companies to train these people, which represents an additional cost. To us, it is an investment in people, and one that we make in every single country where we operate. We had very positive results in the construction of Nacala International Airport and a coalmine project in Moatize. Approximately 90% of our workforce comprises local employees. We find another important challenge in materials and equipment space. Most of the goods we use have to be imported, which represents a big burden in terms of costs. Financing is also a big challenge that requires entrepreneurs and the public sector to offer different financial structures and solutions, such as project finance and PPPs.

What activities is Odebrecht undertaking in the agroindustry sector?

Agriculture is a fundamental sector for the development of the country, and the main priorities of the government are to significantly reduce poverty, increase food security, improve the quality of life of the population at large, and foster the diversification of the economy. We are developing two projects in this area in Mozambique: a poultry production project to be implemented in Zambezia province, and a cassava project in Gaza province. All in all, the required investment for both projects is estimated to be around $85 million. Both are in the final stage of feasibility studies, and we aim to launch at least one of them in 2016. An important social component for the sustainable growth of these projects is the integration in the production process of small and medium-sized local producers.

How does Odebrecht approach social responsibility in Mozambique?

We take social responsibility very seriously, and I cannot envisage a situation where Odebrecht develops project without considering its impacts on local communities and the environment. In Mozambique, we have developed a series of social initiatives such as agricultural family programs focused on empowering women and the youth to promote the generation of income and improve the quality of life of the local communities in line with the government's priorities. We believe a country can only grow if its people grow as well; this is the main reason why we focus so much on training and education and we do it because we are committed to the country's development. This year in Panama we were hired to develop two projects—one relating to the construction of the second Metro line in the capital and the second for the urban rehabilitation of the city of Colon. The community of Colon requested that Odebrecht be the company to execute the project in recognition of our experience and our capacity not only to deliver, but also work alongside local communities. This is as important a result to us as financial ones, and shows that our operations are truly sustainable.

Looking to the future, which sectors are most attractive for Odebrecht?

Water, energy, and infrastructure are the most attractive areas for us. More specifically, infrastructure and opportunities related to the supply chain for the oil and gas industry. Currently, we have a few other companies of the Odebrecht Group evaluating on-the-ground opportunities in these areas. In the infrastructure sector, we are set to begin the construction of the Maputo Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project in the first half of 2016. This project will generate around 1,500 direct jobs and it will contribute to the improvement of Maputo's public transportation system.