Tete: a melting pot of colour and character
Tete: a melting pot of colour and character
Given the city’s location at the crossroads between Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe, and featuring one of Mozambique's few bridges spanning the Zambezi River, travellers and traders are nothing new in Tete. But with the region’s recent coal mining boom the number of expatriates has exploded, and they are building homes and establishing businesses. On the last count, there were at least 56 different nationalities represented in the city. While there are challenges associated with such dynamic demographic shifts, it is impossible to overlook the richness of world cultures and languages filling the once small and dusty town. Following is a sample of the city’s increasingly diverse population.
‘Originally hailing from Bangkok, I left Thailand at age 16 and set off on a colourful life abroad. After spending over a decade in Saudi Arabia, I went on to work for Mitsubishi in Kyoto, Japan and the Phillbeach Hotel in London, England. I made my first foray into the mining industry in 1995, moving back to Bangkok after nearly twenty years away.
Following a brief stint in Dubai and my subsequent return to Thailand, I moved to Africa in 2006 after receiving a job offer from ESCOM’s mining division in South Africa. I relocated to Tete in 2011, and presently work in Eqstra’s drilling and blasting department at the Rio Tinto Benga coal mine.
Aside from an annual trip to Bangkok to visit my family, I spend the whole year in Mozambique. Tete has quickly grown from a town to a city since my arrival, and it is amazing to see the immense changes. While the temperatures here are sometimes difficult, and malaria is always a threat, the kindness of the citizens more than makes up for the challenges. Tete is a stunning town with old world charm, and has plenty to explore on a day off.’
‘As a Brazilian woman living with my family in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, I never imagined moving to Mozambique. However, when my husband, who worked for Vale, was invited to relocate to Tete in July 2011, we decided to move with our daughter, Giovana, and seek new experiences abroad.
Our family wasn’t sure what to expect in Tete, but we see great opportunities due to the city’s rapid growth. We’ve witnessed many changes; new construction, people planting gardens, newly painted stores, and less unused space along the improved highway. Many have commented on the good timing of our arrival, following the opening of the VIP Supermarket and several restaurants.
I work at a Mozambican company, and I’m very happy with the position. Giovana loves studying at the Zambezi Junior School, and while we worried about her education before moving, her English and mathematics skills have improved quickly.
We hope to spend the next eight to ten years abroad, continuing to grow in our perspectives and world views. Our family tries to travel regularly, discovering new countries rather than returning to Brazil, and this has been rewarding. We look forward to continued growth and life in the city!’
Nick & Marlene Boyd
‘My wife and I are missionaries in Tete. Before moving here my wife was an immigration paralegal in San Francisco, California, studying to be a fashion designer with a dream of having her own clothing line and living in Paris or Italy. I was a project superintendent for a multi-million dollar construction company in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
Marlene moved to Tete in 2010 and began working with orphaned children who live on the streets. I came to Tete for the first time in August of 2011 to do a missions outreach. Prior to arriving in Tete I had never met Marlene. We fell in love with each other as well as these precious boys that live on the streets. We married in America and moved to Tete to make it our home in February of 2012.
We are currently building an orphanage called Shekinah Healing Home in the village Mpadue. We have a dream to teach these boys different trades and show them that they have a future, hope and a purpose in this world so they can become respectable, honourable men in this growing society.’
‘With its reputation as one of the fastest growing cities in Africa it is not surprising that Tete draws people from all over the world. Any trip to the VIP Supermarket in the city will throw up a number of different languages and accents, all of which will have their own stories of how they ended up here.
My own story started in England, where I was born. I left the UK shortly after and have been on the road ever since. I spent my childhood, until I was 15, in Hong Kong and have spent time working in Afghanistan, Iraq and Sierra Leone. Travel was natural and when the job offer in Tete came up I jumped at it.
I do sometimes struggle with the heat but it’s nothing a cold 2M or a boat trip down the Zambezi can’t solve. What I enjoy most about Tete is the vibrancy and the energy. I’m here setting up Mulitani, a secure housing complex on the Zambezi River, and being a part of the development of the city is very exciting. Working and living in Tete you get a real sense that this is a city on the move.’
‘Born in Livingstone, Zambia, I left Africa in 1986 at age 28, and spent the next twenty years with my family in England. Inspired by my reading of east Africa and curious about the region, I finally returned to the continent in 2008, accepting a position as a financial controller with a Canadian drilling company in Mwanza, Tanzania.
The same company offered me a position in Mozambique in 2011, and my Portuguese parentage, along with years spent in the coffee belt of Angola, equipped me with enough knowledge of the language to help establish their new Tete branch.
Tete appears to have doubled in size during the 23 months since my arrival, and the city’s potential as a mining supplier and logistics centre has firmly established its place on the map during that time. The region’s rich history has seen periods of both decline and growth, and significant mining successes have been instrumental in Mozambique's fast pace of development in recent years.
Tete, like many other towns whose fortunes and conditions have tested the population, is a magnet for interesting characters, and I have been fortunate to live here and meet many of them.’
‘I grew up in Porto, Portugal, known to many as the birthplace of port wine, and I initially found local employment after finishing my studies. After receiving an offer to work in Angola, which had been a Portuguese colony, I spent about two-and-a-half years in the southern African nation.
I first heard about the mining boom in Tete near the end of 2010, and after learning more about the growing opportunities, I relocated to Mozambique on the second day of the New Year. After initially accepting a position with a Portuguese-owned, Mozambican company, a South African mining company invited me to work with them, and I made the change to my current position.
Despite its reputation, Tete isn’t a bad place to live, and I see improvements almost daily. At the time of my arrival, there were very few restaurants or supermarkets, but now everything is available on both sides of town. I like being able to visit nice establishments on the Moatize side of the river, without having to cross the bridge into the city. While Tete still has a way to go, I think it will one day be a very nice place to live.’
‘If someone had told me a couple years ago that I would end up in Tete building warehouses for rent, I would have laughed. Nonetheless here I am in the 50°C heat of Tete, doing just that.
For a European, it is quite a change to come from the orderly old continent to this new Africa. I guess being Italian eased the culture shock just a bit. Many people take traffic rules more like guidelines than rules here, just like home. There are also many similarities between Mozambique’s and Italy’s bureaucracies. In fact, having spoken to some other Italians who do business both at home and in Mozambique, I am surprised to hear that everything is easier to do here. It is not only that Mozambique’s economy is booming, but there are also fewer constrictions to enterprise. The old continent seems suffocated in red tape, age-old privileges and pessimism.
Here, despite the many challenges, there is a young, optimistic vibe; one can really feel that 7% GDP growth in everyday life. Every time I leave Tete for more than a few days and return, I seem to notice new buildings popping out from nowhere, and it is great to be part of it.’
Read more articles from this issue:
Zambezi Traveller (Issue 12, March 2013)
Read more about the region in our destination guide:
Cahora Bassa & Tete