Thousands of Portugese nationals have fled the financial crisis and unemployment in their home country to start a better life in a former Portuguese colony, whose economy is booming.
Goncalo Fernandes inspects the construction site on the Avenida Aramdo Tivane in the center of Maputo every morning. The 31 year-old Portuguese engineer ensures that the 16 storey apartment block, which will contain 45 luxury flats and a swimming pool, is being built as it should be.
Fernandes has lived in the Mozambican capital since 2012 and says he has settled in well. He is employed by the Portuguese architectural firm Pitagoras.
Whereas there is little demand for new property back in Portugal, in Mozambique there is no shortage of work for a construction engineer. "There is a lot to be done, apartments, offices and other commercial property are shooting up. There is a lot of scope for growth," he said.
Fernandes is convinced that Pitagoras' future lies in Africa. According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) the Mozambican economy grew by 7.5 percent in 2012. Portugal's GDP shrank by 3 percent during the same period.
More than 17,000 Portuguese immigrants
The potential for economic growth, boosted in recent years by the exploitation of coal and natural gas and coupled with Mozambique's political and social stability, is turning the country into an attractive destination for foreign investors and immigrants.
In the first nine months of 2012, the Mozambican foreign ministry received more than 11,800 applications from foreign nationals for work permits, in particular from citizens of South Africa, China and Portugal.
Mozambique's cultural and linguistic ties with Portugal makes it relatively easy for Portuguese nationals to adjust to life in Mozambique. The Portuguese consulate in Maputo says there are 17,000 registered Portuguese nationals living in the southern provinces of Maputo, Gaza and Inhambane. The actual number is probably far larger because there are many foreigners who don't officially register. Many Portuguese arrive in Mozambique on a tourist visa and then find an illegal job in the shadow economy. Once their visas have expired, they leave the country and then return again, as tourists. Over the last few weeks, the Mozambican authorities have tightened border controls and expelled dozens of Portuguese with multiple tourist visas. Most Portuguese immigrants are young, well-educated and arrive in the country with a job already in their pockets.
Illusions on arrival
The Taverna restaurant serves Portuguese food accompanied by Portuguese music and has been run for the last seven years by Portuguese businessman Nuno Pestana. He has seen increasing numbers of his compatriots arrive in the Mozambican capital.
"Many come here expecting too much, much more than the country can offer them," he said. But he emphasized that "there is still a lot to be done, opportunities to be grasped, but a lot of investment is needed." Mozambique is now an expensive country to live in. Raw materials are costly, wages are not that high, but the workers are often poorly qualified and not very productive. Housing is expensive, so is transport. "That does not make it easy to invest in Mozambique," Pestana adds.
Fernandes says you need three things to invest successfully in Mozambique, capital, time and patience. His employers had to wait three years before they got a return on their investments. "It is a difficult market to break into," Fernandes said. "It is also difficult to win over the Mozambican authorities. We had to convince them that we have the best of intentions," he added.
Osvaldo Macama has been working as a taxi driver for the last 18 months. An increasing number of his fares these days are foreign nationals. There are some immigrants he believes should be made welcome in the country.
"Those who are on projects connected with the country's development or who arrive here to work for new companies," he said. But the 29-year-old Mozambican also complains that "too many are coming here without the knowledge of the Mozambicans and snapping up the few jobs that are available."
The risk of losing a job to a foreign national, as well as the differences in pay, is causing concern among Mozambicans and their trade unions. Sociologist Jose Bras from Maputo's Eduardo Mondlane University says the majority of Mozambicans are worrying unnecessarily. "According to our research, Mozambican workers are generally speaking poorly qualified. The foreign nationals apply mostly for the more skilled, specialist jobs," he said.
Almost all Portuguese firms employ Mozambicans. Nonetheless, the new employers are not always popular. "Many believe that the Portuguese haven't come here to develop the country, but just to do business," said Domingos Machava, an economics student at Eduardo Mondlane University.
No "new colonization"
Macvhava believes there could be a negative response if a group of foreign nationals achieve a higher level of prosperity that the local population. With his studies coming to an end, he regrets that "some foreigners have more opportunities on the labor market than Mozambicans."
When referring to the wave of immigration from Portugal, critics can be heard speaking of "new colonization" by the former colonial master Portugal. Bras vehemently rejects this interpretation, preferring instead to focus on the positive aspects of recent Portuguese migration to Mozambique. "They bring with them a new dynamism and plenty of experience. They come from a new Portuguese society, not the Portugal of 200 years ago. It is a society with a new vision, technical expertise and qualifications." That is why Bras is convinced Mozambique will profit from Portuguese immigration.