By Isaac Iglesias, KF10, Mozambique
Is football, shall I say soccer, still not big in America? In the countries where I was born or spent most of my adulthood it certainly is. And so it is in Mozambique, where I am based for my Kiva Fellowship at the moment. Mozambique is the country where Kiva operates that is closest to South Africa. Four weeks from today -by the way: today I am seeing my 28th spring feliz cumpleaños to me -, the Football World Cup will start in South Africa and many friends and lenders have asked me whether this will make any difference to entrepreneurs in Mozambique. The answer is clearly YES.
Mozambique’s proximity means that it has always had historical ties with South Africa. Remarkably, during the Apartheid, Mozambique aligned with the UK and UN in terms of foreign policy towards South Africa thus opposing the national party helping democracy to come back in the 90’s. This meant that a year after South Africa was readmitted to the Commonwealth in 1994, Mozambique was also made a member despite not having any relation to the former British Empire.
Geographically the countries are also close. The Maputo area, where Kiva operates is adjacent to South Africa. Maputo is less than 400 miles away from Joburg, the main location of the championship and even much closer to Nelspruit, one of the venues. The proximity is such that from the branches in Namaacha or Ponta D’Ouro, where many clients are based, is possible to simply walk to South Africa. To make trade and business opportunities possible, Mozambicans can go to the neighbouring country visa-free and stay up to a month.
The possibilities of profiting from World Cup tourism are two-fold. Many of our entrepreneurs expect tourists to visit Mozambique in the weeks preceding and following the competition. Our beaches are world famous, the prices are cheaper, and the weather nicer. Unlike South Africa where it will be cold my friends, in the middle of the austral autumn we still enjoy 30 degrees Celsius of blue skies here on the coast. Entrepreneurs on the retail business know the odd tourist reaching Mozambique can spend loads of money for the local economic standards and are hope to cash on it.
On the other hand, many of our borrowers will simply enjoy their 30-day visa free permit to sell goods in tourist areas. Then stock up South African merchandise to quickly sell in Mozambique. Then back to South Africa again. This type of business has always been extremely popular in the area, and this coming month has been increasing greatly.
Expectations are therefore high, but uncertainty levels are even higher. Remember this will be a strange World Cup. The first one in Africa. The one in an unusual wintry weather. One where security is becoming an obsession. It is difficult to predict how tourism will affect South Africa, let alone neighbouring Mozambique. To increase uncertainty for our entrepreneurs, the word on the street is that South African customs are tightening in up more and more every day.
Very sadly, during those summer weeks when all the attention will be focused here in Southern Africa, I will be done with my fellowship. I will be gone. However, I will make sure the loan officers that will remain here keep you updated with journals and posted of how things are going.
In the meantime all of you football fans please support one of the many Mozambican entrepreneurs we are uploading this week, we had not had so many in a long time!!