TBY talks to Marcelo Nuno Duarte Rebelo de Sousa, President of Portugal, on visiting Mozambique, the effects of cyclones, and managing the COVID-19 pandemic.

What was the outcome of your recent visit to Mozambique?

My official visit to Mozambique at the beginning of 2020 had a very positive outcome and was a success. It was an honor to be present at President Filipe Nyusi's oath of office for his second mandate, as it was an honor to have him in Lisbon when I took mine in 2016. Given the common history between Portugal and Mozambique and the existing friendship between our two countries, there is always room to opening further possibilities of cooperation and investment, and this trip was no exception.

Marcelo Nuno Duarte Rebelo de Sousa with President Nyusi.

What are the key areas in the bilateral relations between Portugal and Mozambique?

Our common historic ties have granted both our countries with the opportunity to develop a multitude of areas of close partnership. Besides our shared language, which in itself constitutes a whole universe of possibilities to explore, I would definitely underline the importance of the Portuguese community in Mozambique and of the Mozambican one living in Portugal. Of course, we then have all the traditional areas of a friendly and flourishing bilateral relationship, namely a robust political and institutional cooperation, in particular between our two governments, a dynamic cultural collaboration, and a strong economic and commercial partnership to which the private sector has been key player. We have also been working hard in order to advance and expand on the education and academia fields, as children and youngsters will constitute the base of our common future. Furthermore, I would have to highlight the importance of all the projects and initiatives Portugal has supported, in close cooperation with Mozambican authorities and other partners, for the development of Mozambique and furthering of its economy and growth. It has been a central element of the Portuguese foreign policy to fund and support initiatives in the most diverse areas in and with historical partner countries such as Mozambique. No less important, I consider elementary to accentuate Portugal's long lasting and unbreakable commitment to support, in any ways deemed useful by our Mozambican counterparts, the complete stabilization of the peace process in the whole country. Finally, I would also mention our bilateral cooperation within the international arena, more broadly at the UN, where we, Portuguese-speaking countries, have created a curious web of mutual understanding and support, and on a more specific note, at the CPLP, a community that embodies not only a shared language, but also an increasingly common way to relate and cooperate.

Marcelo Nuno Duarte Rebelo de Sousa on his recent trip to Mozambique.

In what ways has Portugal committed assistance to Mozambique in the aftermath of 2019's catastrophic cyclones Idai and Kenneth?

Idai and Kenneth cyclones were major catastrophes for Mozambique, and Portugal has been deeply committed to the recovery plans of Mozambique's most affected areas since the first moment. In this sense, our financial support to the recovery and reconstruction efforts underway has been considerable (a total amount of EUR70 million until July 2019) and directed mainly to Portuguese and Mozambican companies operating on the most affected provinces; hence, helping them not only to reconstruct economically in the short term, but also to create jobs and improve the living conditions of Mozambicans which will, in the long term, be most beneficial.

Marcelo Nuno Duarte Rebelo de Sousa participates in an inauguration celebration in Maputo.

Europe has had to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic a few weeks before Africa, and many fear Mozambique has still to see the worst effects. What lessons can Portugal teach Mozambique in terms of managing the pandemic?

The COVID-19 pandemic is certainly the most demanding challenge we have globally faced in this 21st century. This is a threat that knows no borders, economic or social inequalities, religions, or cultural differences. This is a threat that calls for a common response and for the solidarity between all international players. Numbers show that Portugal has apparently already reached a plateau. This doesn't mean the menace has been tackled or that the crisis has been overcome. There is still a long way to go, and now, more than ever, we need to be resilient and thorough, to trust the opinions and guidelines of the scientific community, which also integrate the recommendations of the World Health Organization.