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  Portuguese founder of MANTECH in Johannesburg is present in several international markets (2019-04-17)  

Michael Gillbee - Give us some of your record. Where were you born, what school did you attend?
Manuel Moutinho - I was born in Porto, in a satellite city of Porto called Ermesinde, where I lived the first phase of my life and where I did elementary school. My father, as was very common at that time, emigrated to Mozambique and the goal, that is, the final destination was South Africa. But there were a series of events that did not allow us to come to South Africa at that time. We are talking about the 60s. Because it was also at this time that the prime minister of South Africa, the Verwoord, was assassinated, that made the residences and visas very complicated and we ended up staying in Mozambique. There I did the industrial school with the electricity course and then in 74, during the civil war, we came here almost in a situation of refugees where I had to look for a job as soon as I arrived. I had never worked, did not speak English, and started working as an apprentice electrician.

MG - Did you come with your parents to Mozambique and then?
MM - I came with my parents to Mozambique, from Mozambique to South Africa I came with my parents too. But my parents, very quickly after that, a year and a half sensibly, decided to return to Portugal. And then, I was 19 years old, obviously it was very difficult to decide whether to go or stay. For many and varied reasons, obviously the family wanted me to go with them because I was very young. At the same time I saw a very positive future for me in South Africa and wanted to realize some of my dreams that I already had here. We ended up opting for my stay and my parents and sisters went and I was alone. And as I said, I continued to work, but quickly realized that in addition to the challenges I had in terms of language, I also had professional challenges because I had only the almost complete course of electrician at the industrial school in Lourenço Marques, but that was not enough for me. fulfill my aspirations. So I started to study at night too.

MG - Where did you study?
MM - At Technicon which is now called the University of Johannesburg. I took an education in electronics, also took a management training and continued to work during the day and study at night.

MG - And where did you start working? What was your first job?
MM - My first job was in an electricity company in Pretoria, as an apprentice, there was the double challenge of the language: Afrikaans and English was very little. I even remember an event in which I was expelled from the work because I did not speak Afrikaans and wanted someone there who could express himself in the language. Therefore, striking but interesting events at the same time.

MG - Lost everything you had in Mozambique?
MM - Essentially we lost, we just got the car and the holiday clothes we had.

MG - How do you react to the way the Portuguese state handled it?
MM - I was very young, to be frank I did not feel an opinion before the Portuguese Government. We were so indoctrinated, so apathetic to politics that my concern was in reality just to learn the language and fully integrate myself, to have professional success and to leave everything behind and to completely shut myself off. I think I later came to realize, by maturity and teaching, that Portugal could have done things in many other ways and Mozambique might have had a history and a future very different from the one it has had. But that…

MG - Did you feel any abandonment or neglect on the part of Portugal?
MM: I do not. My parents maybe! Because when I got here, I really focused on personal and professional integration and growth, and when I said that I left everything behind, it was nevertheless the case. I completely forgot my youth, the Past, Portugal and Mozambique.

MG - You have the electricity course and what else?
MM - I have the course of electricity, electronics, management course and I continued to work. Then I went to work for General Electric here in South Africa and I also worked for Schneider. And it was after that that I started this company. I always felt, because of a family issue, I felt like a "bug" in the business world and always dreamed one day of having my own activity. When I felt mature to begin with, I founded MANTECH in the distribution of electronic components.

MG - In 1987?

MM - Yes.

MG - And the name?
MM - It's "Man" and "Technology" but it's a happy coincidence.

MG: And what does MANTECH do?

MM: Before I go through the components, I'm going back a little bit. I started MANTECH, it was growing, it was spreading and then we opened a branch in Durban, then one in Cape Town, then for needs to improve efficiency and efficiency in imports from Asia, we opened an office in Hong Kong. And so we had these four offices.

MG: In what year did you open in Hong Kong?

MM - It was close to the year 1995. And after five or six years, we had an approach to an electronics group that is listed on the Hong Kong stock exchange if we were interested in joining them. To start the process of internationalization of their group. So, after some negotiations I sold them a part of the company and therefore in 2001, MANTECH ceased to be mine and became a subsidiary of an Asian public company, Mobicon. I continue with a significant amount of shares. And today, looking back, I am very proud and happy to have made that decision and to have joined them, because in addition to facilitating a growth of the company out of series, I also created a group of friends that I consider almost like family.

MG - What MANTECH does ...

MM - Specifically what we do. We are importers and distributors of electronic components. This covers hundreds of thousands of products, essentially what we sell is all in terms of components, parts, accessories, instruments and tools for the electronics industry. And specifically will be wire, LED, relay, transistors, capacitors, resistors, but as I just said, there are hundreds of thousands of products. Which is interesting and complicated, but a constant challenge.

MG - Do you sell the products that come from Asia?
MM - The highest percentage comes from Asia because almost everything is done there. From the smallest things to the big ones, they are made in Asia. But we import from Europe, America, Korea, Japan, but essentially from Asia, yes.

MG - And you have some products made in South Africa?
MM - We sell like wires and cables. But otherwise everything is imported, South Africa produces very little in terms of electronic components. It makes some finished products, but in terms of components almost everything is imported.

MG - It has offices in Singapore, Hong Kong.
MM - The headquarters of the group is in Hong Kong, the African headquarters is here in Johannesburg and we also just bought a company in Portugal, also in the distribution of electronic components. A company based in Braga, with a branch in Guimarães and another Lisbon, a very similar company to ours. The company in Portugal is called Alfa Elektor.

MG - How many employees do you have?
MM - In South Africa we have 150, in Asia around 300 and in Portugal around 20. In South Africa we have an office with 100 people in Johannesburg, Durban where there are 25 people and in Cape Town also 25 people. We recently opened new facilities on the Cape.

MG - And you have been in the facilities since 1987?

MM - No. In 87 we were in a facility near here, but for growth reasons it was not enough, so we bought these two buildings where we are now, since 1993.

MG - And you have plans to change?

MM - Yes, once again we do not fit in and we are already looking for new facilities, be it to build or buy or rent.

MG - And in your company, how many Portuguese do you employ?
MM - Some. Besides me, in accounting I have two employees, we have a director of human resources. It is a mixture of the "Rainbow Nation".

MG - Do you have to travel a lot?

MM - Yes. I've traveled a lot more but for health reasons I had to reduce my flights. But I still do about 10 flights a year. Between Asia, Portugal and Africa because I have an administrative responsibility towards Portugal obviously Africa. In Asia I have been the director of the stock market, but for health reasons I can not travel so much, I abandoned that position.

MG - Regarding the Chamber of Commerce, of which he is one of the founders and directors, what has led him to want to create a Luso-South African Chamber of Commerce?
MM - As Michael knows, we Portuguese in South Africa, we are many. In addition to being many, many of us are entrepreneurs and outside these we have a high number of professionals. But what is interesting and very poorly known, is the success and quality of entrepreneurs and professionals that we have. We also have a very positive and very high contribution to the creation of jobs. But unfortunately we have never been very well organized in terms of transmitting this image to the world in terms of knowing ourselves, what is our contribution to GDP. What is the contribution of created jobs. And so, six years ago we decided to create the Chamber of Commerce in order to get organized and get to the point of being identified and recognized for the contribution that we actually have. And therefore, fundamentally that was the reason. It's a very complicated fight, well deserved because the numbers each time warn us more about what is positive. Only it is difficult to collect all the information and to count to say that we have a contribution of x in the GDP and we employ y number of people. But we'll get there. It is a constant work and for which I personally fight a lot.

MG - How do you see the Portuguese community in South Africa?
MM - Our Community like any other, with so many years of presence in this country, is very complex. In addition, we have a set of generations very different and by itself also complicated. As you know, many illiterate immigrants arrived many years ago. Agricultural professionals, bricklayers, carpenters, electricians and etc, many of them still alive. Many highly successful, their children have had other opportunities in terms of education, training. And your grandchildren still more and that is why we see today such a complicated society that our Community is. From very simple people, a lot of honor, a lot of work and a lot of success, very sophisticated people, very professional level. It is not different from the others, but our Community is hundreds of years old, has very different characteristics. One of them is our integration. As difficult as it may seem, our Community is very well integrated into South African society. We never bothered too much about clubing, with association, grouping to show strength or weight. But, on the contrary, we were concerned with integration, and we spread ourselves across the country. Integrate at all levels, academic, professional, business and what we have done with great success. Today we go to any corner of South Africa and find Portuguese very successful.

MG - Since the formation of the SAPCC six years ago, what is your perception of the South African Government of the Portuguese Community?
MM - I think there's a common thread here between the pre-1994 and post-1994 era. And the common thread is that I think the South African authorities have always had an idea and a perception of the numbers, capacity and qualities of our Community. Once again I confirm, no one can tell us exactly how many Luso-South Africans, how many speak Portuguese, all that combination is that they exist. But that in the hundreds of thousands this in itself is a very vague number, I think there has always been a good perception. More focused on the impact of the Chamber, we have already begun to have approximations of South African institutions wanting more facts, more information and more connection and more collaboration with the Chamber, in order to connect to this potential that we have. We do not walk with the flag in hand, but our Chamber partly has a bit of it. We wanted to make things right, start slowly, walk before running, and for the past two years we have worked harder at marketing our ability. And we've seen that every time we talk about it, people automatically react in a positive way. And so let us hope that in the very brief future we will realize our dream, which is to quantify this contribution so that there is an alert for us, for the Portuguese State and South Africa.

MG - It's Portuguese. MANTECH is Portuguese. Do you have turnover with neighboring countries like Angola and Mozambique?
MM - We have some business, our market is a complex market and that usually only in countries of great technological evolution is that we have large turnover. Yes, we export to Angola and Mozambique but we also have many customers from those countries that come here personally to buy. In relative terms, it remains a low figure that we expect to increase in the near future.

MG - The importance of Portuguese makes your business easier.
MM - Yes. The fact of writing and speaking Portuguese greatly facilitates the exchange with people and companies in Angola, Mozambique and other countries because in reality the language is always an added value.

MG - Are you married? Have children?
MM: Yes. I was a widower of the first wife with whom I had two children. Today I am married to Anabela Diogo and I have a very good, almost perfect relationship. I am very happy. My two sons are here in South Africa, my son Dário is a graduate in business management, my daughter is also in Cape Town and my son is here in Johannesburg.

MG - Are they integrated in the company?
MM - No. My children never wanted to choose them.

MG - And your children speak Portuguese?

MM - They speak very badly because at home we have never pressed Portuguese very rigidly, which was a mistake on our part. I recognize! But they talk enough that if they needed to talk every day, in a few weeks, they would catch it all again.

MG - Do you have business with Brazil?
MM - No. We have no business with South America. As a South African company, in terms of the group in Hong Kong, we have clients on every continent.

MG - How do you see the relevance of the Johannesburg Century with both the Chamber of Commerce and within the Community in the importance of Portuguese?

MM - It is very obvious that the newspaper the Century of Johannesburg, which is a very dedicated newspaper and very much aimed at the Portuguese community, perhaps for the older generations. Because the youth, besides not speaking and not reading Portuguese, today prefer the forms of social communication through the Internet and phones and tablets. The newspaper does not have great reading with the youth, but it is a very important vehicle for other generations. It has done this in a very effective and efficient way. In terms of the House, it has an important role, because many entrepreneurs we want to cover, are of the generation who read the Century religiously every week. So it's still a newspaper with a lot of relevance.

MG - With what eyes do you see the future of South Africa?
MM - South Africa is a fundamentally different country from Angola and Mozambique. Not only politically, but also socially, economically and elsewhere. Therefore, I will try to avoid making comparisons because I think the context and situations are very different. But I think the comparison he made, is in the context of one day terms of potentially having to leave too, does not it? South Africa presents many scenarios for the future, I am not an expert on the subject but I have very personal experience and very close to reality due to my business activity. The risks are huge, I think that operating, residing, being professional in South Africa comes with many risks. And those risks are incalculable and I do not guess the future and I guess no one can guess. The scenarios that present themselves to the political and social probabilities of South Africa are not very good, I do not think any of the scenarios are fantastic, I think the best of them is that we can continue to live here, continue to work and grow, still with the risks because the elections will not eliminate the risks all that we have. At worst, which I think is not very likely, we will go in a very left direction, a lot for the nationalizations, a lot for the capture of the lands and this obviously is an extreme and the consequences will be very negative for us as a Community . And in that context, most of us will have to re-emigrate. Obviously the environment scenarios are perhaps the most pleasant in that there will be economic, political, social stability but we do not fail to have the numerous problems we have. That there are almost 20 million unemployed, 20 million in extreme poverty, all this will not be solved in months or years. It will take a long, long time to solve. Our future, with any of the scenarios presented, will bring many challenges.

MG - What advice do you give to those who start a company today or are they entering the job market?
MM - First of all, the first advice I've ever given my children either is to do or search for what you have a passion for. Be an activity, a technology branch, whatever it is. Because it is very important in our daily lives that we find and have motivation to get up and go to work. It's not easy! Consuming most of our lives in an office, in a factory, in a company is complicated and it is very important to feel a passion, something very strong for what we are doing to be able to face all the challenges that appear. The second advice I give is also that things should always be done in very good conditions, with a lot of professionalism, a lot of honesty and a lot of integrity, because the rest will almost automatically unfold. And fundamentally it is these advice that I give, simple and short.

Manuel Moutinho is a simple and easy-going man. Of tall and slender stature he has a calm tone of voice and a very pondered posture. It is characterized by the smile, the words and the gestures measured. A man accustomed to working hard has a clear vision of the future and the work at hand. MANTECH, in its group, creates numerous direct and indirect jobs and contributes positively to the richness of the country and the image of the Portuguese community in South Africa.

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