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Thomas J. Payne Market Development

"Big Expert"  meets "Big Boss" 

If Freddie Kruger designed a country, it would be Mozambique.  You gotta wonder about  a country who's national symbol is a crossed machete and machine gun with bayonet!  Tom has traveled to Mozambique, assisting the country's once flourishing cashew nut industry get back on their feet.  (note: photos are in thumbnail format.  Hit the image with your mouse to see detailed photo.)

Tom's " Big Expert" read on the situation:  The Portuguese explorers colonized this East African country in the late 1400s about the same time that Columbus hit the New World.  They colonized the coastline, and islands, and gradually worked their way in land creating vast farm plantations in the coastal interior.  They planned to stay.

Over the years, the Portuguese thrived in this rich country.  Colonists developed vast plantations.  They brought in East Indians (both Moslem and Hindu)   to work and oversee.  For the most part the Portuguese worked and lived autonomously from the indigenous black population which occupied the interior.  In fact, blacks were not even allowed onto most of the Portuguese Islands such as the beautiful Isle de Mozambique.  Lourenço Marques, their colonial capital, now Maputo, was a showplace of the empire with stately mansions, vast parks and the good life accompanying it for those who ventured into Portuguese East Africa. (Photo: My friend Safi Gulamo and staff of a bombed out cashew processing plant in Zambezia.   These two still report to work every day to help keep the equipment from walking away.) (Photo: My friend Safi Gulamo and staff of a bombed out cashew processing plant in Zambezia.   These two still report to work every day to help keep the equipment from walking away.)

The good life did not fare well for most Africans.  In the 1970's the the Front for the Liberation of Mozambique (Frelimo, from Frente de Libertação de Moçambique)headed by the great revolutionary , Samora Moïses Machel  who worked to overthrow the Portuguese in guerilla warfare in the north of the country.  Finally, in 1975, about the time when Portugal experienced political problems on their home front, Frelimo prevailed, and came into power after a bloody revolution.  The Portuguese "turned out the lights" and left the country.  Many went to South Africa where there is a large Portuguese population. (Photo: Catholic church, Quilemane, Zambezia.  I tried to visit and was screamed at by the caretaker. Obviously not used as a church for years).

This did not sit well with the South Africans, and neighboring Rhodesians who--as they say--"heard the bell toll."  Then funded counter revolutionaries, called the the Mozambique National Resistance (Renamo, from Resistência Nacional Mocambiçana).   According to most, the Renamo was comprised of some of the most ignorant and stupid idiots in the country who just wanted to make money from the South Africans and get into power themselves.  The Frelimo movement, sought aid, and looked to the West.  The USA could not help as they were afraid of crossing the Portuguese who were stinging from the ouster, and would certainly kick the US off of strategic air bases in the Atlantic Ocean, like the Azores.

Mozambique looked the other direction and found open arms in Moscow.  The Communist government welcomed Mozambique into their sphere, and assigned their satellite "partner countries" to foster the "workers revolution" in Africa.  Unfortunately for Mozambique, most of the better communist countries were already taken, and they were assigned Bulgaria and North Korea.  So, the country was systematically mismanaged into disintegration by the "worst of the worst."  Bulgarian doctors practiced medicine, North Korean agricultural specialists worked on projects in the interior.  Like other socialist aid projects in Africa, these projects were mainly complete failures.  Several aid workers were murdered.  Many skipped country, and by the time the Soviet Union collapsed, most had either left or wanted to stay to run businesses in Mozambique.  Some remain today. 

We are left with a new Mozambique.  Zamora Michel died in a plane Crash (yes, on LAM) , and a new Frelimo leader is in power,  Joaquim Chissano.  They really all look alike!  (Short cropped hair, a stern look on the face, and a fat wallet!)

The country

Tom's Visits the Beek!  I visited the rest of the country.   After a week in Maputo, I was totally ready to hit the bush.  Maputo is a wonderful city if you have a lot of money, and can stay at the $300 a night hotels like the magnificent Polana!  The city, maintains most of its pre-colonial grandeur, except everything is run down.  Churches and synagogues were turned into museums during the Marxist regime.  You pay admission to visit the large and interesting Jewish and Chinese cemeteries, which reflect the fact that during Portuguese days, this was a magnet country!  Military police are everywhere, armed to the teeth with machine guns.  I was arrested four times during my brief stay--twice in one night.   The routine, turn over the passport and wait while the police slowly look through each and every page.  (takes well over one hour)  I was accused of having an expired visa, and was freed when I showed the officers that the expired visa was really from Taiwan not Mozambique.  Anyway, they were looking for a handout, which I never gave.  I just told the officers, "take me to your leader," and the thought of them being off the street, meant that they would loose the opportunity to shake down more foreigners.   So, they backed down always!  After a while, word got around and they did not bother me any more. 

Everyone in Maputo has their hands out.  Understandably, the young children are mostly orphans from the civil war.  They have nothing and survive on the street asking for handouts, or swarming visitors in mass attacks and

Everyone has their hands out in Maputo.  I can understand the kids.,   But, even adults on the street instinctively put their hand out for an offering when you pass.  There is an underlying spirit that things are getting better.  I met a young man who has purchased a beat up bus from the south.  In most likelihood, it was stolen from South Africa, like most of the automobiles I rode in while in Mozambique.  He has a plan to operate bus service around the town and between cities, making big bucks.  He has  it all figured out, was not asking for any handout, and certainly will be rich.  I sat and had strong Portuguese coffee with this new friend, and at the end, he tried to pick up the tab--which is something I never saw anywhere in this country!

If you visit Maputo, make your visit short.  See the train station, the market place, but be careful, and that is about it.  There are some hotels there for 100 dollars a night.  The street names are a kick: Avendida Keneth Kaunda named after the former dictator of Zambia, Avendida Che Guevara, named after the guerrilla movement leader in Cuba, and of course, Avendida Kim Il Sung, named after the "Great Leader,"  the self proclaimed "smartest person ever to live".  This brought back memories of sitting in an office in Dandong China on the North Korean border flipping through a commemorative book on the 80th anniversary of the Great Leader.  Showed a page with a photo of a Mozambican standing in a field with a sign stating: "Happy birthday to Great Leader, Kim Il Sung, the smartest person ever to live."   (Photo:  view of the Hotel Polana, one of the grand hotels of East Africa.  $300 per night and you get a swimming pool.) (Photo:  view of the Hotel Polana, one of the grand hotels of East Africa.  $300 per night and you get a swimming pool.)

Whatever you do, make sure to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner at the Peri Peri restaurant on Avendida Mao Tse-Tung!  This is the finest hot and spicy chicken in the whole world.  (I give it a five machete rating!) The sauce is made on site, no commercial product, although I did smuggle a pint out of the country in a Agua Minarale bottle and cherish it drop by drip.  It drove a macho chili loving friend from East India to tears and the water jug!  It is a treat to sit on the sidewalk of the peri peri and order the half chicken cooked with chilis.  Top it off with excellent Mozambican beer, Three M's, or Manica.  Go for the Manica, as the three M's are having quality control problems.  Their cans rust quickly and unless you need more iron in your diet, go for the Manica which is world class.  The waiters at Peri Peri are classics, and will remember your face and name after years of absence.  Have been there for ever.  I never saw a tourist there, as it looks a bit tatty, and tourists are always advised to stay in the hotels.  Anyway, the meals are superb.  On the street, security guards,  draw a line on the pavement, where beggars cannot cross.  It is a macabre scene with an endless stream of beggars, and hawkers selling goods.  I love African art.  but, the stuff being sold was the most gaudy and large stuff I have ever seen.  Imagine an old man with a land mine induced stump of a leg, hobbling up to you with a six foot hardwood carving of a giraffe!  You learn to ignore, and count the minutes till you get out of this town.

You will find peri peri chicken in every bodega in Mozambique.  Most likely, the owner will take your order, run outside, hail down a crowd of kids with chickens in hand, and buy, chop and prepare.  Very fresh, but tough.  Also, Mozambicans have another delicacy called Zambezi Chicken which has a coconut base.  This is the best chicken in the world.  Sorry, I changed my mind!  But, anyway the peri peri sauces of the world including the famous Nando's Chickenland in South Africa and also imitations here in the USA all need to learn from the Mozambicans.  Someday, you will see Mozambican peri peri, the real stuff in the TJP web site!  I promise!

My mission in Mozambique, was to study the effects of the elimination of an export tax on raw cashew nuts.  In other words, the country, places a 70 percent tax on the exportation of raw kernels or what they call castanedas.  This is supposed to compensate for the fact that the exported nuts will not be processed in Mozambique where the country's people and government will benefit.  My "Big Expert" opinion: made after about five minutes on the ground: Most of the processing plants were destroyed in the war anyway; nobody pays the export tax anyway!  So, my job was done very fast!  (Photo: formerly the largest cashew processing plant in Zambezia, was attacked on Christmas Eve 1988 and destroyed by rocket fire.  Renamo blames Frelimo, and likewise.  Used to be the largest employer in the region.)

When you are ready to get out of town, there is only one airline in Mozambique, and it is interesting enough called LAM.  (Lineas Aerolineas Moçambique).   Thankfully, this airline is pretty efficient, if you are a foreigner, and do not mind flying on old equipment retired form the rest of the world.  I booked a flight to the north for Nampula, which s the center of the Mozambican cashew industry. Mozambique is a long country stretching along the coastline.  It took more than three hours to fly form  Maputo to Nampula.  Wait a minute--take back the comment about efficiency --  they gave me the wrong boarding pass and almost caused a fellow passenger from Japan to get arrested.  I saw friends form the Mozambique  government in the lobby and they straightened it out.  If you fly on lam, remember, shoulder first, keep you hand on the boarding pass, and do not make eye contact.   Make eye contact with a security guard, and you are interrogated.  They all assume that nobody in their right mind would visit this place, and that you are up to no good for trying.

Nampula is a city of around 200,000 people in the north.  It was built in on a swamp.  It is an inland city which is unusual for Mozambique.  This is the center of the cashew and agricultural industry.  Immediately after arriving, I met up with new friends in the cashew industry.  They informed me that there would be a wrestling exposition in town that night.  I was in.  This must be the "D" division of the World Wrestling Federation (WWF)  I have no idea why they were there, who sent them...  But, I think that the last thing that this country coming out of 20 years of civil wars and revolution needs is a bunch of psychopathic violent wrestlers from the USA.  It was interesting and loud to say the least.   But, it seemed to fit right in in Nampula and the people loved their "American culture experience."  It also gave me a tremendous amount of credibility during my visit, as many people around town assumed that I was either with,  or one of the wrestlers!  The exposition was held at the Mini Golf Course.  For some reason, every city in Mozambique has a mini golf center.  Perhaps someone got a post card from Las Vegas in he 60s and decided this is what every legitimate city should have.   In fact the major night club in Maputo is called the Mini Golf.  Quite an attraction, which can rival some of the clubs in Las Vegas.  I was there for the Miss Mini Golf 1997 sow, which featured ambitious contestants from throughout the country competing for this prestigious honor.  The winner was hoisted from the stage in a giant clam shell, while disco strobe lights and the music of Kanda Bongo Man blasted in the background.  By the way, in Mozambique to refer to something as "Mini Golf Style" is to proclaim the ultimate in Western style!  I was once honored to be flattered as a "Mini golf style guy!

After watching some of the Brazilian imported television and new Christian fundamentalist action, I opted for Mini Golf, Wrestlemania and either brand of beer over the 24 hr a day faith healings being beamed into the country. 

Back to Nampula.   This was a hot zone during the war-- right on the front lines as they say.  I met mostly East Indian merchants, and African government officials.  The Africans hate the Indians.  The Indians run the businesses businesses like in the rest of East Africa.  The Indians must have had it rough.   My driver, a young Moslem chap, told me his story that he had been captured by both sides of the civil war twice each.  In fact, he was captured by both sides in the same day.  This was a common occurrence, and the reason why most of the Portuguese left.  But, now some are returning.

Business is controlled by just a few East Indian and Portuguese trading companies.  They have small store fronts with old Indian men and women work the cash registers.  At the same time, these small companies may have a fleet of huge trucks, and block long warehouses and wharf's at the ports of Nancala.  It is best to seem understated, I was told again and again.

Roads are ruinous.  It took me one day to travel 70 kilometers.  You must get off the road by dark or else you will be attacked by bandits who fell trees on the roads.  The hotel Tropical was an armed camp. I once witnessed a local caught breaking into a UN Peacekeeper Range Rover parked in front of the complex.  The security armed with batons caught the poor young man and beat him viciously for what seemed to be ten minutes.  The howling was terrible, and attracted a counter offensive from a local shanty town.  A pitched battle ensued with rocks, sticks and especially raised voices wailing for almost an hour.  At high noon, a siren went off on the edge of town signaling the start of the Nampula Sport Soccer match with a neighboring city, and the battle quickly ended and the town streamed towards the stadium.  (Photo: main highway outside of Quilemane, Zambezia.  This is one of the more heavily mined areas of the war, very dangerous still.)

My congenial host in Nampula was a Frelimo fanatic, I will call "Mr. P."  All I can describe him as is: an "ass-hole."  Translated into Mozambican, he is a "big boss."  This means he is a well placed asshole.  A model of former big-big boss Zamora Michel.  Close cropped afro, beard, impeccably dressed, nice shoes.  His job during my stay in Nampula was to play his own agenda which was to get outside money to the city and to himself:  He paraded me around to the local big bosses, talking in Portuguese.  What little I know I understood as, "This esteemed gentleman is from the US and is here to bring money to Nampula!" Over and over.  We visited the local Indian and Moslem merchants.   I found it odd that the esteemed big boss seeded to be unwelcome in the complexes of the trading companies.  Later, while listening to his speech in front of a group of African cashew gatherers, I understood his other agenda.  He was lecturing that the Indians were ripping them off, and that they should take their own business into their own hands.  I can picture, these small holders, as they are called, living in the bush, organizing cashew exports around the world.  Of course, it would all be organized by Mr. P!

One incident puts the whole  "P" factor into focus.  While

The small-holders are some of the most wonderful people on earth, and I wish I would have spent more time with them.   Drive through the jungle at dusk, and you see them with wood on their backs headed to huts with small kerosene lamps burning.  The men are dressed in as nice a western clothing as they can find.  The women in colorful Tomba cloths which are like Indonesian Sarongs.  It is amazing how these folks could manage on so little.  I felt like a ragged zombie from riding around in Parerra's Land Rover, and these folks look fresh, free and content living on the dirt!  The small holders I saw were the creme of the crop, the ones who lived near roads.  These folks are in their fancy going to meeting duds headed to a distant road to stack up their wood or manioc to sell to a chance encounter with a monied person like me.  By he way manioc is one of the tastiest foods you can eat, as well as the wonderful bananas they sell on the road side.  Without this I would have starved!  Although the small holders seem content, many are looking for a better life.  They remember the good old days when they lived on the fringes of the plantations.  Seems like they had some sort of attachment.  The revolutions have been hard on them.  They are the ones with the stumpy limbs from the land mines, children with birth defects from easily cured childhood diseases.  It is a complete pity.  Am told there are hundreds of aid programs in effect for these folks, but the aid trucks do not venture this far out in the bush or outside of the capital of Maputo for that matter. (Photo: rural village, region of Monapo, Mozambique.)

The Indian traders are an amazing bunch.  They took me under their wing. Of course, they had their own agenda.  I hung out at their offices, ate in their homes, swam in their swimming pools.  I visited one chap who is married to a Portuguese bride from the country.  The live across the street from their father who is the head trader in he region.  They showed me their medicine room, where they have all of the things a person needs to survive against encephalic malaria and the other diseases of the region.  They  have their German shepherds trained to attack any black person who enters, or comes close especially Mr. P.  These traders stuck it out during the revolution and civil wars and are making good living now.  They import necessities from Portugal, India, such as the Tombas.  They sell what we call "luxury items" like canned foods or bouillon cubes at their stores to folks who come from the outlying regions by foot and take to street bazaars which are all over the country.   There are no supermarkets in Mozambique, especially Nampula.  Recently here are the rumors that the South Africans will move in with their big time supermarkets and

I am a  what is called a marketing expert or consultant.  But, I sure learned a lot from these marketers who cover all ends of the deal from growing to selling.   My fiend sent me an e mail and told me that " the rains in the bush (Actually a series of Typhoons which have recently hit) have caused lots of wild fruits and berries to grow throughout the hinterland.  This means the people will have full stomachs, and will be able to come into the city to buy luxury goods. They were even thinking of importing instant noodles from Indonesia and bicycles from China.  That is real market research for you.

Anyway, my visit to the North was one meeting after another where I was told how poor they were, how the civil war had ruined them, how the central government was failing them, how they needed help.  Lots of examples were given of failed programs, like the trucks from Germany which are now used as busses instead of transporting crops.  The people have been in the entitlement mentality for decades now, and see the outside bailing them out.  The Portuguese who are returning are doing it under cover and are afraid to get on the radar screens of Maputo.  There are so many problems, that it is difficult to assess where to focus solutions.  They have good ports, sparse electricity, horrible roads, a hungry and crippled people, and a lot of western aid which is there to help!

Every now and then I saw signs of hope.  On the Isla de Moçambique, I ran into a small village of Chinese who were operating a sea cucumber processing facility, catching and canning and shipping.  In Zambezia, I met Japanese who are running off shore shrimp fishing operations successfully.   I met a Japanese man who is selling packaging equipment to the cashew industry to do processing right there in Mozambique instead of shipping the raw material to India.   I made friends with a Arab trader who runs a successful printing business, and is looking to raise money to build a mung bean processing plant.  I met a returning Portuguese farmer who is trying to set up a dairy plant.  The coolest guy I met, was a Portuguese gentlemen who admitted that he was in the Portuguese secret police in Mozambique during colonial times, also spent time in Angola.  He has returned and now operates a security service.  Anyone who visits this country needs a former military commando with a machine gun, I learned.  This was nice to learn after being in the country a month!  They are all eager to keep their operations small, silent and outside of the grasp of the Mozambican Big Bosses! (photo: headquarters of Gani CommercialNampula region.  This is one of Mozambique's most dynamic private companies involved in everything from automobiles to Cashews)

Mozambique is a great place if you have cash, and after traveling weeks thousands of miles from the nearest ATM or credit card accepting establishment,  it was time to leave.  I made friends with the desk man at the hotel who woke me in the early morning with news that the LAM plane which was supposed to leave three days ago was going to leave this morning, get to the airport.   I found out when LAM cancels a plane the staff hide, so they do not take any complaints!  I fought my way through the airport lines, shoulder first.  I got on the old 737 plane and learned that this two-stop flight would be a non-stop to Maputo.  My seatmate managed to consume more than 12 beers on the two hour flight.  Got pretty sloppy towards the end.  Then he pulled his LAM captain's  hat out of the closet and staggered off.  Luckily he was sitting in the back of the plane!

Back in Maputo, the runway was filled with Lear jets with logos of the different aid organizations.  Lots of well dressed white people, shuttling in and out looking very important.  By this time, I was dressed in army boots, worn safari clothing, and looking pretty gaunt.  I went through the locals line instead of the VIP line, which I certainly was not looking the part!

One last gauntlet in exiting the country -- export customs.  The country is paranoid about losing its currency.  I was checked, re checked.  Unfortunately, I made eye contact, and was signaled out as a potential smuggler of my laptop computer and video camera.  By that time, I just snarled and kept walking and they did not mess with me. 

But, it appears that I passed the test.  In Mozambique, you don't mess with a crazy man.  I guess they felt one month in the bush qualified me!

Bon Dia!



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Copyright © 1998 Thomas J. Payne Market Development 
Last modified: May 03, 2003