Nogtec Interview with Mozambique Minister of Mineral Resources

January 21, 2014 | Interview with Regional Executives

Esperança Bias is an Economist and currently the Minister of Mineral Resources in Mozambique since February 2005. She completed her college education in 1979 and graduated with a degree in Economics from the University Eduardo Mondlane and began her career in 1983 as chief administrator of the Mozambique National Mining Company. From 1984 to 1987, she was nominated as head of Department in the Gems and Stones Cut company and as Executive Director of the Lapidação Industry from 1987 to 1990.

In 1991 she was appointed as Director General of the GPL and started to guide activities in MIREME where she was successively appointed as Deputy Director of Coal until 1994. In 1998, she was Director of Economics until her appointment as Deputy Minister of Mineral Resources in 1999.

Ms Bias’ mother tongue is Portuguese, but she is able to speak fluent English.

Ms Esperanca Bias, thank you for this opportunity.

Esperanca Bias: You’re welcome, its my pleasure.

Your country – Mozambique is considered a new leading country on the East African oil region. Its reserves of natural gas are among the richest both in sub-Saharan Africa and in the world. What does it mean for you to be at the centre of the international energy market and diplomacy? 

Esperanca Bias: It means that we have greater responsibility. Our main aim today is to make sure that all those resources, and the greater economic opportunities they engender, will benefit not only the Mozambican people but also the region. It means that in our development plan, we need to think about how to use the resources that we are discovering, domestically and in terms of filling the gaps of our neighbour countries and even the world itself.

Since the initial discovery of one of the largest gas fields in the world less than two years ago, Mozambique has continued to announce new discoveries, month after month. How are you managing this process? How are other countries reacting to this new wealth, in terms of participation and investments in exploration blocks and infrastructure?

Esperanca Bias: It is a huge challenge. The recent discoveries have brought new and stimulating challenges for our country, in terms of a future of progress and greater economic stability. We lack infrastructure right now, but I believe that when we monetize all the resources that we are discovering we will be able to fund a development program for new infrastructures, such as roads, telecommunications, schools and health facilities. So there is good reason to say that these resources are coming at the right time, because now more than ever we are capable of putting them all together to help develop Mozambique.

The natural gas in your country has also aroused interest from China, India, South Korea and others. Are we looking at new link and relationship between Africa and Asia in future?

Esperanca Bias: Mozambique is a friend of all countries in Asia, Europe and America. For the purposes of this sector, Asia is definitely an interesting market and we have every intention of continuing to work together. Asia is a continent that offers good prices and it is our nearest market, so why not make the most of the opportunity? But if other countries or continents express an interest in Mozambican gas, the door is always open.

As well as gas, Mozambique can also offer another important resource – coal. What are 
your future plans for the sector?

Esperanca Bias: We are drawing up the coal master plan alongside the gas master plan. These instruments will give us a clear vision of how to proceed with exploration and how we can use the resources we have available.
The current paradox in Mozambique is that we are energy producers, but less than 10 percent of the population has electricity. We need to expand our capacity to supply electricity, not only for Mozambican people, but for the entire region. With all these resources, we have the opportunity to start a process of industrialization in our country: we have coal, we have iron ore and we have natural gas. At the same time, we can improve other sectors such as agriculture through fertilizer plants. And we also have iron ore processing plants. If we combine all these elements, plus the abundant supply of water, we can say that Mozambique has the potential to become an industrialized country in the near future.

Not just Mozambique, but all of Africa, is seeing steady growth. According to International Monetary Fund (IMF) forecasts, over the next five years, ten out of the 20 fastest growing economies will be in sub-Saharan Africa. What does the future hold for these countries? 

Esperanca Bias: Africa as a continent has a lot of opportunities in different areas, from agriculture and livestock to mining. I do believe that if we use this opportunity, all together, to open doors for investment – and if we have good legislation – we will succeed and we will continue to grow in a sustainable way.

There are still very few women in the energy sector. With a view to future growth, in Africa and for Africa, do you think women can play a greater role?

Esperanca Bias: I really hope that happens, including in other areas of the economy and society, in this country and across Africa. But we have to continue to struggle, not only to be in positions of power but simply because we are women. We need to demonstrate that we have the capacity to occupy the roles we now have. I also think that with good education the next generations of women can do better than today. I see no difference between male and female visions of power, particularly in Mozambique. We are all working together for a national vision – not a male or female one. There is only one vision: a future of progress and well-being for our entire country.

What is your vision for Africa?

Esperanca Bias: As I said before, Africa as a continent is blessed with so much human and natural resources with lots of opportunities but lack of proper planning and management has been the problem. Africa as a whole is destined for a prosperous future, especially if revenues from mining activities are put towards improving the living standards of all citizens.

How do you want to be remembered after your tenure of office as Mozambique’s Minister of Mineral Resources?

Esperanca Bias: I have been part of the government’s desire to use the economic profits from its natural gas and coal reserves to improve the living standards of the population. My stewardship hope to leave a strong leadership in Mozambique on minerals policy, particularly through  establishing a national policy to regulate the social investments of mining companies,  develop a strategy and policy of mineral resources, and secure the social responsibility of mining companies. So we are able to maximize community benefits of mining, mandate investment in schools and other infrastructure, and resolve concerns around resettlement.