A brief conversation with Dr. Tomás Matola, CEO of BNI Mozambique Development Bank
For decades, Dubai has been an inspiration to African leaders and global entrepreneurs as an example to be followed in terms of development. With a growing African interest from Dubai investors and entrepreneurs the world over Africa is now becoming the next go to place for investment. Among the continent’s many countries, Mozambique stands out due to its wealth of natural resources. As part of the Global Business Forum Africa 2021, under the auspices of the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry, The Exchange had a brief conversation with Dr. Tomás Matola, CEO of Mozambique’s National Bank of Investment and Development, Banco Nacional de Investimento (BNI).
Dr. Matola, in your view, how can Dubai strengthen and promote its position as a gateway to the wider Middle East and the world for the private sector in Mozambique?
Dubai sits at the crossroads of the trading world and Mozambique has an unparallel number of commodities, agricultural and industrial opportunities to be developed that make for a very unique combination. I believe that the formula to establish Dubai as the gateway for Mozambican trade in the region is a two-way road: first, structured investments in Mozambican companies by Dubai entrepreneurs; and secondly, fiscal and trade facilitation on the Dubai side for Mozambican companies.
Dubai has one of the best and most generous double taxation agreements to invest in Mozambique and there are a number of institutions that can help this vision come to fruition. Among the leading ones I would highlight the Dubai Chamber for the excellent work they are doing including getting their people on the ground with a local office in Maputo. On the Mozambican side, we have the Investment and Exports Promotion Agency (APIEX) for their ability to inform foreign investors and our own BNI bank. As the strategic arm of our government, we match and structure projects where Dubai investors can rely on our local experience, technical know-how and strong market leverage.
You mentioned the Dubai Chamber. Do you feel you have access to adequate information to do business with Dubai’s private and public sector?
I think there is some information in line with the level of existing trade between Dubai and Mozambique, but there’s a lot of room to grow. My understanding is that with stronger collaboration among the relevant institutions of both countries, the Dubai Chamber, APIEX, CTA and BNI, we would experience better results. Just as Dubai is a gateway to the world, so is Mozambique for its hinterland neighbours.
In 2019 the volume of trade between Dubai and Mozambique was valued at US$626M, where a mere US$74M were exports from Mozambique, resulting in a trade deficit of US$478M. Greater access to information, technical support and a greater in-country involvement from Dubai-based companies have the potential to better balance these numbers while creating high-yield opportunities for investors. Everybody wins in this scenario.
What is your message for Dubai-based entities looking to come to Mozambique and how can BNI enable a more robust relationship between private-sector firms across the region?
My message to investors is simple – now is the time to invest in Mozambique! Despite the challenging past few years, the country has shown remarkable resilience by addressing governance and transparency. It has also sought to resolve matters related to the eradication of insurgencies in the north, partly due to the cooperation with our neighbours.
Energy initiatives such as the Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) projects are ranked as the continent’s largest financial commitment ever. These are poised to be back on track beginning later this year creating yet another set of opportunities. I would also point to the fact that the COVID-19 pandemic created a more even playing field. In many aspects the post lockdown environment of world economics brought international investors back to a starting line of sorts, particularly in projects spanning from hydrocarbon development to entertainment to agricultural development. As a result, this is an opportunity for Dubai investors to better compete with countries with a track record of investing in Mozambique such as China, those from the EU and of course the United States.
To answer the second part of your question, as a bank backed by the government, BNI is in a unique position to act as a bridge to the private sector. Our development mandate is focused on key market segments in line with the country strategic plan. These sectors represent an enticing and interesting opportunity for Dubai investors, namely in energy, agriculture, logistics, industry and infrastructure. As a bank we can support market entry, ramp-up operations from an advisory standpoint and assist in the financing of projects.
As for regional integration we are already working on enabling a robust relationship between the private sector across East and Southern Africa, creating partnerships with other development financial institutions to enhance their balance sheets. The hope is to collectively finance larger regional infrastructure projects. This is another area where Dubai can play a significant role. We see the role that Dubai Ports has played in various areas in Africa and globally: why not in Mozambique?
Recently through our partnership with the DBSA of South Africa, we financed a US$162M initiative for the Mozambique Electricity Company for the rehabilitation of a distribution plant. As a result, Zimbabwe and Malawi will also benefit. It is also worth mentioning our partnership with the Trade and Development Bank (TDB) which enabled us to finance US$100M for the Coral South floating LNG project at the Rovuma basin.
The goal today is for us to demonstrate our capacity both regionally and internationally. We feel that Dubai is an ideal market to do this, and we are looking to build a partnership with Dubai-based companies, thereby adding value to both Dubai and Mozambique.