Interviews .

Nha Terra Nha Cretcheu .

By Isabel dos Santos .

Cape Verde has potential to grow

Giordano Custódio: Today I have with me the Angolan businesswoman who is visiting Cape Verde, Eng. Isabel dos Santos. How have been those almost 48 hours of your schedule?

Isabel dos Santos: Thank you so much for the invitation. It’s a pleasure to be here with you today. Those 48 hours have been super dynamic. It has really been a marathon because we had so many activities, so many people to see, so many things to visit … But I’m pleased. I’m very happy with the day, the two days I’ve been here.

Giordano Custódio: What is your perception about the potential of Cape Verde today?

Isabel dos Santos: Look, the first impression I had was very positive because when I arrived I noticed that there are good changes. The airport has been renovated, the roads are clean, I begin to see that there is a focus on public spaces. The pedestrian road at the Plateau is very pleasant to go for a coffee and a stroll at night. I see there are new things, there are new restaurants, new hotels. I feel a dynamism and I’m surprised, but on the upside. A good surprise!

Giordano Custódio: Usually, when we ask a female entrepreneur such questions, we start thinking about business.

Isabel dos Santos: That’s exactly what I saw here. What I noticed is that business is booming. And that’s a very important indicator, isn’t it? When we are walking the streets, especially we entrepreneurs, we are always looking, we are always watching. What is there? What is happening there? And what I noticed was really this change, these signs of a booming, these things evolving.

Giordano Custódio: When you speak, I realize that you are making a comparison with some space. I don’t know if I understood well.

Isabel dos Santos: No, I don’t make comparisons. What I think is that it is important to recognize the positive signs in economies. Economies are cyclical and, indeed, they often are a little slow. Because we people have needs every day. We want to wake up and we want to see that our problems are all solved.

Giordano Custódio: We are in a hurry.

Isabel dos Santos: We are in a great hurry. And for those who live here, maybe it’s a little hard to recognize these signs. As I haven’t been here for a while, I can really see this recovery of the business and, especially, the small and medium enterprises because that’s where the difference is. It is in this small initiative, in people who are beginning to recognize that they have an opportunity, for example to take up a space that was once abandoned and that today is transformed into a music bar, or turned into an optician. I saw a lot of optician shops, I saw people who turned spaces into hotels, boarding houses … So there’s this entrepreneurship and this is very important.

Giordano Custódio: Let’s talk now about the ties between Cape Verde and Angola. At the moment, for example, it seems that this relationship is fading a little. It’s the feeling that remains. What is your perception?

Isabel dos Santos: I think we should be closer. We’ve been closer before and we will certainly be even more. Now I know there will be a flight that will make this connection. Also, in the past, there was the issue of visas, wasn’t there? There was a lot of discussion around visa suppression. This is very important because Cape Verde can be a destination for Angolans, a tourist destination, a business destination. Also, why not having Angolan students studying at Cape Verdean universities and the opposite, Cape Verdean students studying at universities in Angola? Or, for example, even doing professional internships, because in Angola we have several multinational companies, we also have big companies, big brands … So it can be a good place for a young, newly graduated Cape Verdean to go and have his first professional internship. And I think these relationships can get closer and closer.

Giordano Custódio: What about the CPLP (Community of Portuguese Language Countries) space? I see that you already sense some dynamics in the CPLP as a whole.

Isabel dos Santos: I think there is a great will. From time to time it’s a little frustrating because we wish everything was so much faster. The CPLP is a big market we all speak Portuguese … So how do we achieve this? I think there has to be a lot of work going on in this regard. The bet has to be serious, there has to be serious dynamism. And there has to be a lot of motivation from companies too. The economic bond will bring a big change. Today there are many agreements that are more political; there are many agreements of goodwill. And the trick, let’s say, the magic here is to get people to realize that they can trade with each other. They can do business with each other and see advantages in their country and in other countries.

Giordano Custódio: And it is a great ambition, an old ambition that, now that Cape Verde is presiding over the CPLP, the free movement of persons will be on the table again.