Meet the Boss is a How we made it in Africa interview series in which we pose the same 10 questions to business leaders across the continent.
1. What was your first job?
Many years ago I was a consultant at Price Waterhouse (now PwC) in 1989.
2. Who has had the biggest impact on your career and why?
Professionally, probably one of the partners of Price Waterhouse because they showed me no matter what, you should always stick to your principles.
3. What parts of your job keep you awake at night?
Not much really. I sleep a lot.
4. What are the top reasons why you have been successful in business?
I think because people can trust me.
5. What are the best things about Mozambique?
It’s the people, more than any other thing, but also the web of opportunities that exist there if you go and try to find them.
This is my second term [of living in Mozambique]. I was in Mozambique from 1997-2001 and then I [moved here] again in 2007… The first [time I moved to Mozambique] was because of a challenge that was posed to me to open Price Waterhouse in Mozambique and I liked to travel so I came. The second [decision to move to Mozambique] was simply because I fell in love with the country.
It is a fantastic place for you to live. There is one thing that sometimes we all tend to forget. If you go there and you spend one hour in Maputo… you can find one million things that you don’t like. You can find poverty in the streets, you can find the guy who steals your [bag] from the car, you can find buildings that are not [complete], we can be speaking here for two days about the bad things. But if you look beyond that you will see fantastic things that you don’t see in other places and the tendency for us, when we arrive in these places, is to start seeing what is bad. Lots of things are bad, but there are [bad things] in Johannesburg, there are in Portugal, there are in France, there are in the UK, there are in the US. You have to look beyond that. If you aren’t able to look beyond that, you will be the most unhappy person in Mozambique or, for that matter, anywhere in the world.
6. And the worst?
Probably us, the foreigners.
But let me just clarify one thing… It’s very common for you to hear people saying that there is lots of corruption… but most of the people forget that they are creating corruption. When you go to a public service and you deliver a requirement for whatever, and you ask the lady when it will be ready and she tells you in one week’s time, most foreigners – it doesn’t matter which nationality – the first thing they do is they take a bill out of the pocket and ask can she do it quickly. From that point it is the Wild West; they will ask you for money for everything… in two days they will give you [the requirement] signed by the director and it is refused, and now you have to pay the director for it to be accepted.
I’m not saying that it’s a perfect country but we, the foreigners who live there, are the ones who make it what it is now… they actually make [corruption] happen because sometimes [the public service departments] don’t even ask them for money. Sometimes it is what it is and it’s one week [for the requirement to be processed]… let’s wait one week.
7. Your future career plans?
I think I’m okay on this path that I am on now.
8. How do you relax?
Reading mainly, and travelling.
9. What is your message to Africa’s young aspiring businesspeople and entrepreneurs?
Never give up.
10. How can Africa realise its full potential?
I won’t provide [an answer to] that for you but I will give you a piece of advice. Contact the World Economic Forum and ask them for a video that was made 14/15 years ago called United States of Africa. It was a vision and it was an ambition. It is probably one of the most beautiful visions I have seen about Africa. A vision that has the backbone of it [looking] at what is African and what Africans can do for Africa. Of course, it’s fiction… But they show you what needs to be done and it’s one of the most interesting visions I’ve seen on Africa.
José Carlos Pinheiro is the CEO of the Mozambican operations of international real estate development firm Pylos, with offices in Maputo. Prior to this he was the CEO of CR Holdings in Mozambique, and a partner at Advanced Business Solutions Mozambique where he advised the Mozambican government on tax matters. Pinheiro holds a degree in Business Management from a business management university in Portugal.