"Mozambican ports need roads and railroads to assert themselves in the region" - Mateus Magala

“Portos moçambicanos precisam de estradas e ferrovias para afirmarem-se na região” – Mateus Magala

In an interview with Lusa, Transport Minister Mateus Magala argued that the country's ports are establishing themselves as an alternative on the Indian coast of southern Africa, but they need to be linked to new roads and railroads.

"Our roads were not built to withstand the loads that are being transported" and, moreover, "the road is not the only solution", he said.

"We had a tradition of rail transport" which "has been losing competitiveness", the minister described.

However, according to the government official, the situation "is changing" because the country has begun "to invest again in the railroads", so that there are inter-modal connections that match the current context of opportunity for Mozambican ports.

Demand for the ports of Maputo (south), Beira (central) and Nacala (north) has increased considerably in recent years, with regional operators looking for alternatives in the face of pressure on the ports of Durban and Richards Bay in neighboring South Africa, said Mateus Magala.

"It wasn't an automatic process: it wasn't just the problems in South Africa that translated into success for Mozambique. Our country was already prepared and able to offer competitive advantages," he said.

According to official figures, cargo handling at Mozambique's main port in Maputo alone rose from 18.4 million tons in 2020 to 26.7 million tons in 2022, a record result, he said.

Magala says it is the visible face of a total investment of 700 million dollars since the infrastructures were concessioned in 2003.

"Mozambique has put in place the necessary infrastructure, developed the corridors, introduced discipline and invested in digitalization," he said.

"The level of theft, which used to scare exporters, is now at zero," added the minister.

So, "when things don't work out on the other side [in South Africa], our country becomes an alternative," said the Minister of Transport and Communications.

Integrating ports into an effective inter-modal system is a persistent challenge, he stressed.

In addition to revitalizing the rail system, another option that could be viable is the sea route itself, in a country with more than 2,500 kilometers of coastline, but this sector is not "cheap", warned the minister.

"Cabotage only works when there is cargo from one point to another" and the maritime industry "is capital-intensive", he noted, adding that the solution is to define public-private strategies to meet the demands of the sector.

According to the minister, any solution must be accompanied by legislation that encourages investment.

"We have to look at our legal instruments and make sure they are adequate to support the private sector in carrying out its task of producing in the most efficient way," Magala stressed.

If infrastructure and appropriate legislation can be combined, the "necessary incentives" will be created so that the best means of transport is naturally chosen by those who invest.

Mateus Magala was appointed Minister of Transport and Communications in June 2022, roughly halfway through President Filipe Nyusi's second term, replacing Janfar Abdulai.

Until his appointment, he was vice-president of Institutional Services and Human Resources at the African Development Bank (AfDB), the first Mozambican to become vice-president in the institution's 54 years.

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