Mozambique

Cahora & Tete

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Tete – the phoenix rises

Tete – the phoenix rises

Tete – the phoenix rises

Tete is punted as the fastest growing economy in the world. These are exciting times for Mozambique, a nation that has struggled through civil war and being listed as the poorest country in the world a short ten years ago.

Zambezi Traveller interviewed long-term resident Frank von Habsburg to discuss life in this now vibrant place, and his new business venture. Von Habsburg has worked in all the major industries in this area; kapenta fishing, tobacco and most recently mining. He played a pivotal role in the set up of each of these sectors.

ZT:  How long ago did you come to Tete and what brought you here?
FvH:  I came to Tete nearly 17 years ago on a bus called ‘Transporte Jesus’ all the way from Maputo, where I had met one of Cahora Bassa’s pioneering kapenta fishermen who desperately needed help with his business.

ZT:  Did you ever imagine that Tete would be the economic hot spot that it is today?
FvH:  Not in the least. In 1995 Tete was one of Mozambique’s backwaters, a town boasting one traffic light and one state bank. It was a transit place to avoid rather than do business in. I remember my neighbour drilling a borehole in Matema as the state water company was incapable of supplying drinking water, and hearing him curse as he hit brackish useless ground water after drilling through a coal seam. It never registered that we were sitting on this vast mineral resource.

ZT:  Can you share with ZT the most memorable moment of your working career in this part of the world?
FvH:  Laying the foundation stone for Universal’s tobacco factory below the Carroeira mountain on the outskirts of Tete. I believe this was the catalyst that kick started Tete as an important economic center, and it was a moment of great personal satisfaction as it was the product of hard work and dedication from a fine team of people in a fairly inhospitable place.

ZT:  Tete records the hottest temperatures on the planet and to the casual observer may not appear to be the most appealing place to live. You have been here for years; what do you do for recreation? Do you actually like living here?
FvH:  Even more so now as open cast mines crop up everywhere. I still find the Zambezi River is one of my favourite places to be, in my little boat, fishing rod in one hand and a cold beer in the other, with family and friends. You make your own entertainment; there is a captive community of people who make a great effort to organize events, competitions and gatherings. You make your own fun. It takes your mind off the furnace temperatures.

ZT:  These are exciting times for you now. You have set up a business consultancy giving people access to your years of experience in Mozambique. Are your company’s services directed at new investment or are you in the market to help businesses that might be struggling with the system?
FvH:  Since the word has got out, we have been approached by a number of foreign companies wanting to establish themselves in Tete from scratch, but amazingly an equal number of established companies have asked us to assist them as a result of dissatisfaction with existing service providers and overall frustration with government departments. I have a captive market, and I feel a bit like a doctor fixing people’s problems. I must just not forget to charge them…

ZT:  What is the single most important piece of advice that you would give to someone thinking about investing in Tete or Mozambique? 
FvH:  Have interminable patience, don’t take short cuts, and avoid paying bribes.

Read more articles from this issue:
Zambezi Traveller (Issue 09, June 2012)

Read more about the region in our destination guide:
Cahora Bassa & Tete