Hello Mr Lobo, thanks for talking to us. Could you please tell the readers of Atlantico Weekly who you are? Definitely. I am Manuel António de Sousa – aka Patone – Lobo. I was born on Sal Island, Cape Verde, 61 years ago. After school, the Liceu, I served for six years as a specialist with the Portuguese Airforce. Later, from 1975, I was the manager of the Hotel Morabeza in Santa Maria, until the year 2000. From that year on I dedicated myself to my own projects: the Hotel Odjo d’Agua and Restaurante Piscador in Santa Maria and Restaurante Cometa on Santiago. At this moment I am also involved in two projects that I carry out with partners. One is a real estate project on Sal and the other is a new hotel, the Hotel Ribamar, to be built in the capital of Cape Verde, Praia on Santiago. Besides being the CEO of Hotel Odjo d’Agua I am also Vice-President of the Chamber of Tourism. Furthermore, I am the chairman of the movement that strives to turn Santa Maria into a municipality (the ACMSM – Associação para criação e Afirmação do Município de Santa Maria – AW), as well as the president of the Sal Karate Association (or AKIS, Associação de Karate da Ilha do Sal- AW).
Most visitors to Sal may know your Hotel Odjo d’Agua. Nevertheless, how would you describe it? After working for 25 years at the Morabeza hotel, I made my dream come true by creating a hotel on the best possible location in Santa Maria, a hotel that was very different from all of the others. This way the Odjo d`Agua was conceived, as a true hotel de charme. It is built overhanging the sea on a small promontory near the Vera Cruz lighthouse, the lighthouse of Santa Maria Bay. The hotel has 50 rooms of which eight are junior suites and two are full suites. All are equipped with a balcony, telephone, frigobar, LCD television, safe deposit box, air conditioning, hammocks on the balcony, bathroom with hairdryer and bath tub, WIFI access, etc. The Odjo d’Agua also has two restaurants, a beach bar with chairs and parasols, a pub, solarium, swimming pool, gym, spa with massage, jacuzzi and sauna as well as a medical facility. It is a family hotel, breathing a typical Capeverdean or “Krioulo” atmosphere. At Hotel Odjo d’Agua we work with a large number of international operators, such as TUI (active in Portugal, the UK, Scandinavia, Holland and Belgium), Luxair, Neckerman, Soltrópico, Solferias, Abreu, Dertour, Vista Verde, Crossroads, Cabo Verde Experience, Neves Travel and others…
What made you become a Capeverdean entrepreneur? After Cape Verde’s independence in 1975 I became aware that a big and heavy task was in store for our people. It was obviously important that I would have to contribute to the development of my country.
Is it easy to start a business in Cape Verde? Right now there are plenty of facilities. The authorities are fully geared towards promoting business. You can set up a business in 24 hours now. There are many fiscal incentives, like custom duty exemption for importing equipment and tax exemption for your first 10 years. However, because of the global crisis, you may encounter a certain difficulty when obtaining project financing. We also have to improve our marketing capacities in Cape Verde and we need to discover and develop new world markets.
Concerning the need to develop new markets, are you thinking about specific countries? When I speak of new markets I mean the Russian, Chinese, American and African markets.
How would you describe the business and tourism outlook for Sal? I think Cape Verde and specially Sal do possess great potential for tourism. With our geographic location, our climate and our social stability we have the right conditions to be successful in this field. On the other side I have my doubts about the “All Inclusive” tourism concept of some operators, which in my opinion we need to reconsider. We also need to improve substantially – both in quality and in quantity – of what Cape Verde offers the international tourism market. I think we should bet on better quality facilities and we should fight to include in our package things like golf courses, casinos and aqua-parques. The development of our infrastructure and the improvement of our resort towns should be one of Cape Verde’s priorities. This can only happen if we are able to increase local energy production and access to water, whilst not forgetting to invest in training and education. Furthermore, I think we should do everything that is in our power to attract low cost airlines to Sal – if we really want to see our great potential for tourism real estate flourish. Besides the constrains that may exist, I am convinced our tourism sector is in good shape and it is highly recommended!
Could you describe one of your highlights or successes?
My highlights were hard work and perseverance…
What was the biggest problem you encountered as an entrepreneur in Cape Verde? The biggest problem for an entrepreneur in Cape Verde is to find all necessary information to carry out your project. You need to work with Cabo Verde Investimentos (the CV Investment Agency – AW) for this. Financing a project is also still difficult.
What do you recommend other entrepreneurs when setting up a business in Cape Verde? I would recommend all entrepreneurs in Cape Verde to develop good relations with the local community as well as with the authorities. I also advise them to make sure their activities are in line with standards of integrity and honesty.
Thank you, Mr Lobo, for your time and insight. It was my pleasure.
November 27th 2011. All rights reserved by Atlantico Weekly.