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.**