Just a lick of paint? Multinationals mar Maputo

When in Maputo, you can’t help but notice that nearly every single house lining the busy road between the city centre and airport, has received a very generous lick of paint…

And with each paint job comes the big, fat, greedy stamp of some giant global brand.

According to a Maputo resident I spoke to, these money-darting multinationals send scouts to scour the streets, actively approaching the owners of humble road-side homes to offer them a glossy new-look wall. And of course, poor old Mr Motsweka can’t afford to paint his own house so he welcomes the offer with open arms. But unknown to him this is a far from selfless act, Coca Cola just cashed in on a prime-time advertising spot, and they didn’t pay a cent for it (aside from the few Meticaix it cost for some watered down Dulux). Now we’re talking thousands for a billboard advert, this is after all, quite possibly the busiest highway in Mozambique – serious marketing real-estate! And did they paint the swathes of township homes you can’t see from the road? Don’t be silly…..

It’s a real shame that any visitor to Mozambique, arriving at Maputo International Airport, gets greeted by this unrelenting barrage of brands, splashed-out across Avenida Acordos de Lusaka. Not only is it a testament to their shameful advantage-taking, buck-dodging behaviour (in a country that is in desperate need of sincere investment and uplifting community initiatives) but it is a marred first impression.

Don’t be fooled…Maputo is not all neo-colonialism and vulnerable townships – it’s a city that affords one of the most architecturally diverse and intriguing urban landscapes I have ever come across. This is by no means just another shabby African metropolis –  scratch the surface and you’ll find a city of wide, palm-fringed avenidas, sultry late-night jazz café’s, brown-sugar beaches and art deco high-rises.

**Find out more about Maputo and it’s fascinating landscape in my current feature ‘Moreish Maputo’, available to read in Africa Geographic print magazine – on the shelves of Woolworths, Exclusive Books and CNA from next weekend. Or available to buy online via Mysubs.**
**If you’re interested in Maputo’s vibrant culinary scene, check out my current article in Safari – ‘Meals in Maputo’ – and find seafood so fresh it virtually jumps out the ocean and onto your plate.**

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I’m Holly - born and raised in the rural British Counties, my mother began life on a sugar farm in Zululand. After reading Anthropology at university in London, working for a political activist filmmaker in India, and doing a short stint under the bright lights of Bollywood – I decided it was time to return to the motherland. To earn a crust in the name of wanderlust, I finished up a post grad in media and hotfooted around South Africa as a freelance travel journalist.

  • Jade Bush

    Interesting article. Absolutely shocking – the brands should be paying for those advertisements.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Simon.Espley1 Simon Espley

    Great post. I can understand how a spaza shop may benefit from a fresh coat of Coke, um paint, but a private residence? It does look a bit like abuse by these massive corporates. I wonder what spin they have for this practice? I bet they will roll out some explanation that makes them look shiny.

  • Shelley Prince

    It’s really sad how gigantic brands like Coke, Vodacom and Colgate can take such huge advantage and get away with it. They should be paying and assisting in uplifting the community. It’s just awful!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Christian-Boix-Hinzen/633656341 Christian Boix Hinzen

    I doubt there was anything signed or regulation on the space in front of the wall with the advert in this cases. One could start a new domestic endeavour that blocked it, like selling organically grown sugar cane in flower pots, or papyrus….something lush and blocking and then let the big boys come back to claim back their money or negotiate more space, this time for the expansion of the neighbourhoods organic garden ????

  • http://www.facebook.com/richpearce7 Rich Pearce

    Wow, I’m shocked. For some reason I’ve always had a feel-good reaction to these brands presence in third-world Africa, up until now. How could I have been so blind as not to notice that their uplifting advertising campaigns and marketing methods were selfishly beneficial and not really uplifting at all! Sad state of the world.

  • http://www.facebook.com/roger.landman Roger Landman

    It’s a shame the building owners do not get advertising revenue, but as a tourist through similar regions like Maputo, I actually enjoyed the colourful buildings. In Kenya many buildings where bright green with their cell phone service providers and I even saw South African brands advertised in the same way. Obviously I’d enjoy actual art-murals over adverts, but it still gave me insight into the locals lives – that they would accept a bright-red coat of paint over the brick-and-mortar look. At the very least it makes for very colourful photographs and great conversation topics! Some thing that benefits both the locals and the advertisers…

  • Norabo Saldserna

    I can’t say I share the same level of outrage about this. Have any of these brands ever said that this advertising was altruistic in nature and do they have an inherent duty to do so? Now if Coke, or one of the other brands, are bullying or extorting these home owners against their will into displaying their advertising that would be another matter, but this certainly doesn’t seem to be the case. If the fictional, frail Mr Mokeona gets a nicely painted wall that keeps his house protected from the elements then good for him, that seems like a symbiotic relationship rather than commercial exploitation. And rather than all being “poor and and old” could some of these residents perhaps be young entrepreneurs who’ve seen an opportunity to use the inherent commercial advantage of their street- facing properties for some small financial gain? Until I see evidence to the contrary I’ll take a different view and condone this practice as an opportunity to engage the community on a grass roots level, and in a way that adds an element of charm and beauty. Better this than the cold steel reality of commercial grade signage that will have no benefit whatsoever to the likes of Mr. Mokoena, let alone the salesmen, paint stockists, sign painters and others involved in creating these murals, who I would hope are all locally sourced (Coca Cola?).

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