Mota- Engil Africa- Hand in hand with Africa in a shared future

Last year Mota-Engil celebrated 70 years of existence as a recognised top 100 construction company worldwide. They have a presence in three continents spanning 22 countries with an employee headcount of over 25,000 employees.

BE Africa sat down with Manuel Mota to discuss their projects and expansion into several new markets in Africa. Mota-Engil Africa appointed Manuel Mota as their CEO in 2016. Mr Mota graduated with a Masters in Civil Engineering from the University College London and has a long history with the company. He told BE Africa that their competitive edge lies in the fact that the company has a hands-on approach and can move skilled people and equipment across borders to meet the needs and demands of their clients. They are always respectful of the local context where they carry on business. The Group has been present in Africa since its foundation, and has identified the growth potential of Africa for many years now.

The African subsidiary has recently expanded its presence into 14 African countries, after having successfully entered into 4 new markets in 2017 . They currently operate in Angola, Malawi, Mozambique, Cape Verde, Rwanda, Uganda, São Tomé and Príncipe, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Tanzania, Cameroon, Ivory Coast and Guinea-Conakry.

Mota- Engil Africa has diversified into many sectors and they operate several services in 14 African countries with over 12,000 employees. They have a triangular culture which incorporates service and commitment to its customers; the personal and professional development of its employees; and a strong appreciation, acknowledgement and creation of value for their shareholders.


Mota- Engil: A giant with humble beginnings in Angola

The company was founded in 1946 by Manuel António da Mota who set up Mota & Companhia which started timber operations in Angola and two years later moved into construction and public works. They became a public company in 1987 and listed on the Lisbon Stock Exchange. In the early 2000’s after the successful merger with Engil, the Group become known as Mota-Engil.


Mota-Engil was able to build up its presence in Africa, despite some turbulent years across the continent. “We passed through several phases in Angola after its independence in the 1970s. We always worked closely with local players, and weren’t afraid to take risks. The reality is that we are, we were, and we will be an African company and you don’t turn your back on your home in difficult times,” emphasizes Mr. Mota.


The long-term commitment to a country is undoubtedly something others on the continent could learn from. In Africa, too often large companies exploit the assets to their own ends, leaving nothing in return. It hasn’t gone unnoticed with Mr. Mota, either: “Our strategy is always to act as a local company in global markets - not as an opportunistic global company working in a local market.”


The process of entering a new market begins with the aim of capitalizing on their focus areas of expertise: Public and private construction projects with focus in large insfrastructure projects. Whereas as mining, waste management and waste treatment are its main growth areas. Once it has a range of contracts, it can begin to expand its offering. Mr. Mota says: “We work in large scale infrastructure projects, energy projects and mining. We tend to work across a range of sectors and countries, leveraging on the know-how acquired globally by the Group. By acting locally, but with global view we are agile enough to work in different projects within a country that can go from a million dollar project to a billion dollar project.”


And although the firm is now truly international, it clearly sees its base as Africa, as reflected by the scale of the resources that it has dedicated there. Mr. Mota says: “We work primarily with local resources in Africa. At the end of 2016, we employed 124,000 people across Africa, almost all of them Africans with only a 7% incorporation of expats.” These numbers are also likely to swell as the company continues to establish itself across the new markets entered, giving it a pan-continental presence.


Mota-Engil Africa stands as an autonomous business unit, fully integrated in the Mota-Engil Group, a key player on the African continent. Mota-Engil was awarded at the Africa CEO Forum Awards with The International Corporation of The Year Award, in a ceremony held in Geneva and attended by Manuel Mota, in recognition of the role the Group was playing in development in Africa.



Mota-Engil is Angola’s largest construction and public works company

Mota-Engil Angola is a subsidiary of Mota-Engil Africa and a 49% share is owned by a consortium of Angolan major entities such as Sonangol and Grupo Atlântico. The subsidiary is one of the largest construction and public works companies under Angolan law operating in the sector and with stakes in industry areas.

The landmark construction of the Luanda International Airport which was completed in 1952, was the first major public work executed by Mota-Engil Africa in Angola. In 2003 the company completed the construction, rehabilitation and extension of the Cabinda Air Terminal. This was followed the construction of the Atlântico Towers Building with three distinct blocks in Luanda comprising office, residential and leisure facilities in 2004.

They were awarded the contract to rehabilitate and extend the 230-kilometre road from Saurimo to Muconda; the 124 km Dundo-Lucapa road; and construction of the 483 metre 4th of April Bridge in Catumbela.

The rehabilitation of Luanda Bay was a massive urban infrastructure project completed in 2015, which provides the coastline of the city of Luanda with modern road infrastructures, green spaces and shopping areas.

Another notable project completed was the reconstruction of the hydro-electric Calueque Dam on the Cunene River Basin in southern Angola in 2015. The project includes the rehabilitation and completion of the Calueque Dam with the addition of a hydroelectric plant and the installation of pumps and water pipes for irrigation water in Angola and Namibia.

Construction of the Financial City, located in Talatona, Luanda comprises an area of 25,060m² consisting of four buildings of seven floors each providing mixed office, residential and leisure facilities, was awarded to Mota-Engil Africa. In 2015, they completed the refurbishment of a 100-kilometre-long road between Xaua and Catata. It includes the construction of five concrete bridges and all ancillary work comprising, inter alia, drainage and road markings.

Earlier this year, the company was awarded a contract to develop a section Golfe-Camama with a value of 178 million euros and the work will be executed within 10 months. The project has an extension of 10.5 km and includes the rehabilitation of the expressway Fidel Castro Ruz/Camama – Pedro de Castro Van-Dúnem “Loy” Avenue and of the Camama/Via Expressa road junction, and micro and macro drainage networks, as well as the construction of the flyover in the road junction of Camama’s old roundabout.


Estradas do Zambeze Concession, Mozambique

The company has a permanent contract to maintain a 200 km stretch of road across the Tete Bridge in Mozambique. In 2012, the company completed construction of the Olympic Village and Olympic Pool in Maputo comprising 27 buildings and 848 apartments as well as road access, public areas and infrastructure, parking lots and Olympic Swimming pools.


The Nacala Corridor Railway Project, Malawi

The Nacala Corridor railway project links the Moatize coal mine in Tete Province, Mozambique, via Malawi, to Nacala Port, Mozambique over a total distance of 906 km. Mota-Engil Africa was awarded both sections of the project in Malawi, comprising 245 km (Sections 3 and 5). 
One section of the project entailed the construction and renovation of 100 km of existing railway and the other section entailed the construction of a new 145 km railway line from Kachaso on the Malawi-Mozambique border to Nkaya Junction in the district of Balaka, Malawi.

Tanzania’s $1 billion-dollar railway line

Mota-Engil was awarded a contract for $1 billion in Tanzania, in partnership with the Turkish group Yapi Merkezi. The project will consist of the construction of a section of the railway that will connect Dar es Salaam to the neighbouring countries of Rwanda and Burundi. This first 202-kilometre section will be built in a period of 30 months, corresponding to the execution of the Dar es Salaam – Morogoro section; the overall project will have 2,200 km of railway line connecting the tree countries.



“Subcontractors are a very small percentage of the total amount of our workforce,” says Mr. Mota, pointing to the more than 4,000 pieces of capital equipment the company employs in Africa. “We are a very hands-on company, For example, we try to mobilize our engineers, foremen and specialists across countries” he is keen to point out. Even taking that into account, the company has a number of key partners to maximize its project outcomes.


Often, we find that even with the best intentions, many companies operating in Africa in particular, are bound to a certain extent by the lack of human capital on the ground - turning to partners from outside the continent for assistance. This isn’t the case with Mota-Engil, looking into their list of partners, they are mostly African companies.


Sustainability: In each attitude, a shared future

Mr. Mota believes that sustainability represents first and foremost the commitment with Africa, its people and its development. This is Mota-Engil’s sustainability strategy from an economic, political and environmental perspective.

The company is aware and actively committed to the role it has to play to deliver an agenda for sustainability in Africa which is implemented on a daily basis in each one of the fourteen countries where it operates, and in which the social responsibility policy is a priority.


Mr. Mota told BE Africa: “We always tend to leave behind something for the locals to enjoy in the long-term. This means, they have water and energy and other infrastructure, which the locals can take advantage of in the future.”


Mota-Engil Africa has a social responsibility and sustainability policy which provides for effective contribution toward the integrated development of the communities where it operates, from a cultural, education, training and environmental perspective.


Mr. Mota said “We believe that a more prosperous and fair society can only be achieved where economic growth, social cohesion and environmental protection go hand in hand, ensuring the improvement of quality of life for the present and future generations.”


The Manuel António da Mota Foundation, a charitable foundation run by the company, sets a benchmark for other companies, not just in Africa but across the world. It has dedicated millions of euro to worthwhile causes across the countries in which it operates. It pays particular attention to supporting disability, infancy, youth and housing added Mr. Mota “We’re currently looking at projects in the countries we’re active in across Africa and we’re going to accelerate the number of programs that our foundation is active in.”



Despite making impressive progress in the past forty years, it’s quite clear that Mota Engil has no intentions of slowing down. The world’s water issues will call for its services even more frequently than before, and the firm is keen to step up to the challenge. Its Stepup 2020 strategic plan outlines a vision to grow in Europe, Latin America and Africa.


Indeed, Mr. Mota noted “We are currently looking into Kenya, Ghana and Senegal. We believe our current goal should be to strengthen in east Africa and to accelerate our operations in West Africa. For example, this year, we have been awarded our first contracts in Cameroon, the Ivory Coast and Guinea Conakry, all in completely different sectors of our activity.”


Infrastructure and capital projects are major drivers of social change in Africa, and an enabler of GDP growth. They have shown a long-term commitment to sustainable and inclusive growth in Africa. Hand in hand with Africa in a shared future.


Wisner Gomes

Head Of Research- Africa