Mozambique is ranked 138th out of 190 countries in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Survey for 2020. The country’s highest rankings are for dealing with construction permits (61st) and resolving insolvency (86th), while its lowest are for starting a business (176th) and enforcing contracts (168th).
Expats doing business in Mozambique will find themselves in a relatively traditional environment. Upper management is usually responsible for final decisions and plans. However, input from all employees is common too.
Mozambicans are typically hard-working and motivated. Expats will find that they are welcomed and respected in the workplace, and therefore should adjust easily.
Business hours are Monday to Friday, from 8am to 5pm. Workers tend to take a long lunch break in the middle of the day. Government offices normally open 7.30am and close at 3.30pm.
Many educated Mozambicans speak English. However, the language of business in Mozambique is Portuguese. It would therefore be good for expats to know basic Portuguese. For expats who don’t know the language, there are translators readily available in the capital city, Maputo.
Dressing well for meetings is a sign of respect in Mozambique. It is very important to wear clean clothes that have been ironed.
The dress code really depends on where one works. However, it is usually best to aim for dressing formally. For men, a lightweight suit and tie is appropriate for most workplaces. Women can wear suits too, though a blazer with a dress of an appropriate length is acceptable.
Men generally dominate the workplace in Mozambique. However this is slowly changing with the introduction of gender-equality measures. More women tend to work in urban areas, though many still stay at home and take care of the family. The further from the capital one goes, the more traditional the roles of women are.
Locals often expect foreign women to behave differently. So they may not be held to the same gender roles so strictly. Female expats should bear in mind that touching a member of the opposite sex during conversation is taboo.
Business culture in Mozambique
Business culture in Mozambique is characterised by a sense of respect for seniority. Mozambicans tend to avoid confrontation and conflict. People are usually wary of offending others. So, true feelings may not always be spoken. Mozambicans are very relationship oriented. If expats or businesspeople make a real effort to get to know their associates, it will end up helping them professionally.
The lax attitude to time that Mozambicans have can be frustrating for expats. Family commitments contribute significantly to lateness or even absenteeism. However, foreigners are still expected to be on time for everything.
Both men and women typically greet with a handshake. Men commonly use both hands when greeting someone, with the left hand placed on the other person’s upper arm. It’s important to address others by their professional title. If someone’s title isn’t known, address men as O Senhor (Mr) and women as A Senhora (Mrs/Ms). It is frowned upon to address someone by their first name, unless they have indicated that it is preferred.
Mozambicans tend to communicate more indirectly. They would rather agree with someone than argue a point. It is more polite to accept an invitation and not show up than to decline. Generally speaking, an arm’s length of personal space is appropriate during conversations. Women should note that touching the opposite sex should be avoided. Men often take touching as a sign of interest.
Mozambicans take their time to make decisions. It is normal to wait a while for a decision to be made. Expats should also be ready for back-and-forth negotiations. It is best to not show eagerness over a deal in order to negotiate a better one.
When having a meeting in Mozambique, one should never rush into discussing business. Small talk always precedes any formal conversations. It is appropriate to inquire about a colleague’s health, family and other social matters before dealing with business. The person who initiated the meeting should be the first one to start actual business conversation, while the most senior person typically ends the discussion.
Attitude to foreigners
Mozambique is a large and diverse country. In addition to the many indigenous groups, Mozambique has received waves of colonialists, immigrants and migrant workers over the years. The nation consists of people from many different cultural, religious, economic and geographical backgrounds. This means that expats won’t stand out too much.
Generally speaking, Mozambicans are respectful of foreigners. They usually perceive foreigners as experienced and educated.
Dos and don'ts of business in Mozambique
Don't expect Mozambican colleagues to be on time.
Do be aware that January is the main holiday month, so business trips shouldn't be scheduled then.
Do give and receive business cards with one's right hand.
Don't be afraid of building relationships with colleagues.