Life and work in Maputo two months on

My situation here is now more or less settled, but not at all routine. I’ve been doing Portuguese language classes most days (reviving what I’d forgotten from Brazil 20 + years ago – at that time all without books or teacher). Now I’m speaking a fairly easy brasilo-mozambican ‘portugnol’ and can more or less manage anything informal, and mostly OK  in work meetings too. I listen to Radio Mozambique and other stations – a lot of phone-ins, pastors saving souls and some great music.

I’m working under the Ministry of Youth and Sports with some youth NGOs with a view to organising systems to enable young people to get vocational training and find paid work or get into self-employment or entrepreneurial activity.

The Ministry has an ambitious national plan for us to implement, starting in Maputo and Beira, and I fear it may be difficult to get funding for most of it. We’ll be setting up a first ‘job centre’ within an arts and crafts establishment where some space has been provided… step by step. Nothing is easy, the Ministry assures us there is money as they are hugely concerned about the youth (a massive % of the national population is under 18). But when will that be? We’ll be going to the commercial companies to ask for donations of computers, furniture, internet wiring – also possibly to the embassies for their locally administered funds.

One thing I’m supposed to do is design a national monitoring and evaluation system for this grand project. That feels like a ‘cloud nine’ idea right now.  I’ve never worked directly for ‘the Government’ before, and this was my main apprehension about this job….  But the young people are great and smart and want to go places and make it work.

Colleagues in youth programme from various NGOs

Planning session

As everywhere, governments and large organisations move in mysterious ways, and I think over the years I have learnt something about ambiguity.  There are many agendas (official/public, national, provincial, unofficial, personal, political, ‘tribal’ and so on) and all these weave into the complex fabric of WORK, where the outsider has to try to pick a trail and contribute to something useful.  

As in all the African countries I know first hand, hierarchy is all, and unquestioning obedience and deference are paid to high/er position, irrespective of how the incumbent came to that senior post or her/his in/competence in it.  The size of the car, and even the belly in ‘thin’ countries, are also indicators of rank and provoke a similar response .  

Taking initiative is a dangerous practice that might upset the balance and even lose you your job.  This explains the many employees to be seen at their desks reading and rereading the newspaper all day long, while in the (pretty free) press here, letters to the editor complain about paying salaries to oversized bureaucracies (reminds me of Humphrey’s defence of the payroll in Yes Minister!).

I’m having a fun social life – it’s like being a graduate again! Sharing a flat with two other women, also VSO vols. One will move out soon to escape the all night karaoke bar opposite. There’s not a massive amount of traffic on our main road, but the sound seems to reverberate and amplify around the concrete.

A group of vols (Brits, Dutch, American) and our Mozambican managers

There’s a vibrant cultural life in Maputo – live music, theatre, films, theatre, dance etc. The French cultural centre runs all kinds of things (recently a film festival, art and photo exhibitions, music and dance performances).   The Portuguese and Brazilian cultural centres also organise events, but not the Brits, who seem confined to trade and diplomacy.

Arms to art piece in the garden of the French cultural centre

A rare all women band playing on Mozambican Women's Day

There are are a lot of affordable (and unaffordable) restaurants and street side cafes to eat, drink beer and chill out.  Some favourite bars are ‘barracas’ (revamped shipping containers) that specialise in chilled draught beer and simple food.  

Unfortunately clean and swimmable beaches are quite far away, public transport is overcrowded and the roads bad… so there has not been much chance to travel  yet (domestic flights are absurdly expensive)… except locally around the province of Maputo that stretches around the city.

Paintings for sale in the park

Some beach front places right near the city are security risk areas – you have to be in a car to go down there.  I long to stroll along the palm fringed shore – but that would be tantamount to inviting a mugging or worse. A few of us have already had phones and wallets grabbed (not me).  So the thing is not to carry a handbag, especially after dark, but stuff all essentials (cash, mobile, keys, ID) down the bra. So we girls on foot (including local ladies) sometimes look a bit lumpy front view!

Now I’ve got used to not always having internet…. I don’t have an office base or proper workstation with internet provision (others do), only a dongle I bought that eats up the pre-paid credit quite fast.  The connection is also quite unstable, so I prepare emails in Word off line then paste them in fast when I get on line.

The weather here is now like a good English summer – mostly clear blue skies, bright warm sun and chilly after sunset (need a sweater and even socks in bed at night). Of course the local people say they’re frozen in this ‘winter weather’ and some wear balaclavas, woolly scarves and bulky jackets. Most have never felt the real cold of the northern hemisphere.

Fish restaurant menu: prawns, squid, crab....


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11 Responses to Life and work in Maputo two months on

  1. I like to work for ngo in your country. From South Africa. English and tsonga language

  2. sagarNaik says:

    I am an Indian from Mumbai. I wish to work for a NGo in Maputo . Plz contact me

    • prumoz says:

      Hi there sagarNaik
      There are many NGOs in Maputo and in Mozambique. You need to offer specific technical skills you would like to share or pass on to Mozambicans. Try identifying a few on internet, and contact them directly.
      Good luck. Pru

  3. Archana says:

    Hi Pru!

    My husband has gone to Maputo as he has been hired by one of the hospitals. I am highly concerned about his security. I have heard that there have been burglaries over there. Can you give some guidelines on how to safeguard one self while in Maputo.

    Waiting for your response,

    • prumoz says:

      Hi Archana
      Of course there are burglaries everywhere where people are needy, including where I live in London. The important thing in Maputo is not to carry much money around (only what you need for the day/eve), keep valuables out of sight (including phones, which can be grabbed), don’t wear fancy watches/jewellery, and don’t let anyone you don’t know into your flat (there are plenty of con men masquerading as electricians or plumbers). It’s important to learn Portuguese so you can challenge anyone who doesn’t seem trustworthy. Most Mozambicans are delightful and charming, as well as being supportive colleagues. As things change all the time, it’s important to get local advice about security, especially where one should not walk at night, or even daytime. Overall Maputo is a great city to live in. There is much more violent crime in Europe and USA.
      I hope this helps a bit.

  4. vincent gahenda says:

    dr gahenda vincent please help me to join …………….interested..

  5. Roz Hudson says:

    Hi Pru
    A fascinating insight into life in Maputo and reminds me of my VSO experience in Jakarta in early 70s – frustrating. We attended the wedding of an Indonesian friend in Inverary a couple of weeks ago and spent h/term in the Cevennes. The Caribbean poetry course launched on Saturday very successfully and Morag is a professor!
    Let me know if you have plans for travel later in the year, Novermber?? I would definitely be interested in joining you.

    Roz xx

  6. prumoz says:

    Bonjour Agnes
    Oui, pas vraiment de probleme pour les fonds, sauf il y a des interets differents parfois. J’ai suivi l’affaire DSK sur RFI tous les jours, wow…. cela ferait un bon telenovela a la brasilienne! On vera si Christine LG prendra sa place (si les africains sont d’accord)… on verra comment une femme ferait ce travail.
    Je t’embrasse, a plus xxx

  7. Frida says:

    So nice to have a glimpse at your life there Peu, I worked with Mozambican young people when at save the children and they were the most gentle, smart, beautiful and fun kids ever. Enjoy and keep writing! It does cheer one up! lots love Frida

    • prumoz says:

      Hi Frida
      Great to hear from you. I hope life is good, and not too hectic with those toddlers (into all kinds of mischief I expect!) Also hope that AI is keeping your interest and commitment…. so many changes – plus the recent scandal – can be a bit discouraging. love to all at IMT xxx

  8. Agnès André-VdW says:

    Hello Prue,

    Great to be working.

    To secure grants and allowances you could go to Embassies searching for national foreign NGOs, companies engaged into sponsoring international development… and also the Mozambican diaspora : just ideas… Especially the Embassies like the Portuguese, Brazilian ones that have got special political and economical links with Mozambique…

    Also the EC local representation, UN and World Bank as they are engaged in all kinds of programs favouring youth, entrepreneurship and local initiative.

    When I was in Haiti I had to visit every other foreign NGOs to secure partenrship that could help eventually to get access to all kind of convenient resources wheither human resources, equipment or even money however this late is not always the most appropriate…

    They are also the foreign projects, volunteering associations…

    Well I guess you know better than I.

    Advertisements in the local papers also could do wonders and partnership with local or even foreign universities : in Haiti I had to set up a stage for Belgian students and I did interest also the Port-au-Prince University. At the end I sent the Belgian students in other areas of the country to assist Peace corps volunteers or colleagues of mine and I had the Haitian students doing the research work in Port-au-Prince.

    Otherwise I am happy to read you are feeling great down South where you are staying for the next year.

    As for me, here it is the draught… all over Europe, water is starting missing for farming in some areas. In France it is since 1900 that the weather has not been so warm in May and since 50 years it has not been so dry.

    I am still working for the damn stupid French-speaking socialist oriented patrons… I recentlt had to go searchjing for a lawyer assistance in order to let know to my direction that enough is enough in terms of harassment… I hope that by now they will stop for a while…

    I am expecting that in the aftermath of the DSK affair, now a lot of women will express themselves in Europe to communicate how in so many work place machists males are still in command… It is just starting : one French minister had just to resign because two previous colleagues of his are suing for sexual harassment on the job…

    I expect also the law court will have tremendous influence for all causes it will exemplify : black against white, poor against wealthy, female agains male, muslims against jews, Europe against the USA, French politicians against American puritanism, social European Christian Catholic hypocrisy against plain puritan protestant anglo saxon ethics, and so on and so on…

    Besides this current interest of mine for news of the world, I am leaving Brussels for five days ( a long week-end of 4 days+ one extra day off) and I go to the country side deep down the Erdennes in a gîte with Erwin and Taki. One way to be on family terms with my now departing son…

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