|The story of a company’s
commitment to a country
|Present in Angola since 1984, Odebrecht has transferred
technology and groomed over 10,000 Angolan professionals
while taking part in the construction of decisive ventures
for the development of this young African nation
|written by ◦ Simone Goldberg
photos by ◦ Holanda Cavalcanti and Emanuel Requião
Evaristo Fernando Manuel is a young Angolan who wasn’t even a toddler in 1984, the year Odebrecht signed its first contract in Angola, for the Capanda hydroelectric plant construction project. Now, twenty-one years later, after growing up hearing about Odebrecht as a partner in his country’s effort to rebuild its infrastructure, Evaristo is a trainee with the company. Since the middle of last year, when he finished a secondary-school course in engineering design, Evaristo has been working on the Luanda Sul urban renewal project. “This is my first job and it’s a great experience, because I can learn in practice what I saw in the classroom,” says the young Angolan. He will soon study civil engineering and dreams of a promising career. “After everything Angola’s been through because of the civil war, we have to rebuild this country. That’s why I want to be an engineer.”
Evaristo has started out in the right place for achieving his career goals: a company that has been taking part in Angola’s development for two decades by building infrastructure projects. These works are not only improving the quality of life of millions of people but preparing the country to fulfill its growth potential. Angola has enjoyed a foreign investment boom during the post-war period, particularly in oil and diamonds, the nation’s main sources of wealth. However, Angola has other kinds of potential – such as agriculture – and all kinds of demand for its products. Now it has to develop its potential and meet the demand. Odebrecht, which was born in Bahia, the Brazilian state with the strongest Angolan influence, shares that dream with Angolans like Evaristo.
Odebrecht is carrying out several other projects besides Capanda, including Saneamento de Luanda (sanitation), Águas de Luanda (water treatment), Luanda Sul (urban renewal), Águas de Benguela (water treatment), the Matala Channel irrigation project and investments in other projects such as the Atlântico Sul condominium and partnerships to produce diamonds (such as Sociedade Mineira de Catoca and Sociedade de Desenvolvimento Mineiro de Angola), as well as oil.
Odebrecht has consistently applied its entrepreneurial philosophy throughout its 21-year presence in Angola. Working on the basis of two tenets of the Odebrecht Entrepreneurial Technology (TEO) – education through and for work – the company has educated and groomed nearly 10,000 Angolan professionals. It has transferred technology and gradually replaced its expatriate workforce with Angolan teams. Odebrecht has also carried out social programs, including an internationally recognized effort to combat HIV/AIDS, as well as restoring and building schools. A recent example is the Dom Bosco School in Luanda, carried out in partnership with the Salesian Congregation, which now has 5,580 students. The company also sponsors cultural projects like the 24-volume Library of Angolan Literature.
Active in several provinces throughout Angola, Odebrecht has also stimulated the nation’s economy and encouraged decentralization by hiring an increasing number of local sub-contractors, workers and service providers.
"The Capanda hydroelectric plant is one of the biggest milestones in this partnership between Angola and Odebrecht. But much remains to be done before its full impact is felt in terms of energy distribution,” says Odebrecht’s Managing Director for Angola, Luiz Antônio Mameri. “Odebrecht has helped produce a qualified workforce in this country, and several thriving businesses have sprung up as a result of our projects. At least a hundred Angolan companies, particularly service providers, have grown along with us,” says the executive.
The birth of this partnership between the company and the African country was made possible by a line of credit that the Brazilian government established for Angola in 1984. “This is one of the greatest instruments driving bilateral relations between Brazil and Angola. Over 20 years ago, not one Brazilian company was active in that country. Our pioneering move has given us outstanding knowledge of local logistics, geography and customs, which has energized our integration with the country,” says Mameri.
Capanda, in Malanje Province, was the first challenge. The project involved building a hydroelectric plant on the Kwanza River and dated back to colonial times. The facility is one of the largest structures Odebrecht has built in that country and one of the biggest in Africa. When the Angolan government contracted the project out, it became the responsibility of a Russian-Brazilian consortium. The Russians took charge of the project’s design, procurement and installation of equipment. Odebrecht, the Brazilian partner, is responsible for civil engineering works. The hydroelectric plant already produces 260 MW of power for Luanda and Malanje, now that its first two turbines are on line. Two more will begin operating in 2007, doubling the facility’s present capacity. “Capanda will supply energy to the entire country, but that is not enough to keep up with the nation’s growth prospects,” says Contract Director Carlos Mathias.
The biggest challenge, he says, was building the project 450 km from Luanda, in a highly vulnerable area due to the war. “The logistics of bringing in people, equipment and supplies were extremely complicated.” Another challenge Mathias remembers was the small supply of skilled workers, which meant that the company had to train them. “Odebrecht was a pioneer in the training of the local workforce. During our first year at Capanda, there were 1,000 Brazilians and 300 Angolans working there. By 1992, when the work reached its peak and the workforce was at its largest, just 530 of the 4,200 workers were Brazilian.”
One of the Angolan workers who have moved up the ranks in the company is Pedro Manual Garcia, 60. He started out as a driver when the Capanda project was getting started in 1985, and is the company’s oldest Angolan member. Equipped with a high-school diploma and a special gift for math, Garcia underwent refresher training several times, learned the project’s financial dynamics and is now a finance technician. He gathers data for the payroll, and handles transfers of funds and tax payments. “Odebrecht has brought a lot to Angola, mainly in terms of job skills. For example, one of my sons learned to be an energy technician at the company when working at Capanda. He had no trouble finding another job after that,” he says. “Job skills make all the difference.”
Just as Capanda is already generating energy for Angola, so other projects are improving the quality of life for Luanda residents. The city’s population has swollen because of the war, which drove millions from the provinces. The Angolan capital has enough infrastructure facilities for about 450,000 people, and a population of over 4 million. The city has grown chaotically, which makes it hard for people to get basic services such as water, sewers, paved roads, and trash collection. However, that situation is slowly improving.
The Águas de Luanda project is one example. The aim is to bolster the city’s water supply and distribution by obtaining it from the Kwanza River. Two stages have already been completed, including construction of the Southeast Luanda water treatment plant, installing 66 km of pipelines, renovating and building distribution centers, as well as installing about 50 km of household distribution systems, 4,800 household connections, and standpipes in densely populated areas where it is difficult to install a canalized water supply system.
Águas de Luanda is already benefiting 1.6 million people. When it is finished – including the expansion of the treatment plant, the installation of a new pipeline, another 230 km of household systems and 25,000 new household connections – its benefits will be extended to over 2 million people. “Life is much better now there’s water in the faucet. In over twenty years without piped-in water, buying water from trucks, I spent enough money to buy a house,” says Maria Adelaide Leitão Ribeiro, 66, who lives in the Bairro Popular district and has 13 children and 8 grandchildren.
Wasted money was not the only problem that Maria Adelaide had to face. “Many times, the truck didn’t show up and I had to walk for hours to fetch water. It was not always good enough to bathe the kids and cook with.” Piped-in water began pouring from Maria Adelaide’s faucets in 2002. Since then she has opened an informal day-care center where she takes care of dozens of local children while their parents are at work.
“Águas de Luanda is the most important social project undertaken in Angola since Independence. Treated water that meets the standards of the World Health Organization (WHO) has an immediate impact on the population’s quality of life, in addition to reducing public health costs,” says Contract Director Fábio Januário. “The need is very great in Luanda. We have to keep investing in the supply of clean water.” Today, the project is responsible for 54% of the city’s water supply capacity. When the third stage has been completed, that figure will rise to 65%, and the system will be treating 2,500 liters of water per second.
Meanwhile, as treated water reaches a growing number of people, projects like Saneamento (Sanitation), in the Samba area of the city, are focusing on urban renewal. The sanitation works under Odebrecht’s charge include a number of full-fledged solutions. The initial scope of the project basically included macro-drainage – channeling rainwater into the sea – in order to prevent floods. However, the project now includes other measures: five drainage ditches totaling 4.5 km, the widening of a 2.5-km stretch of Samba Avenue, construction of 3.4 km of new roadways and installation of 29 km of “technical systems” (water, power, telephone lines, and a sewer system that will eventually include household connections), as well as 4 km of public lighting. Odebrecht’s teams are also building five pedestrian bridges. Two more drainage ditches are planned for the next stage of the project, as well as widening another 2.5-km section of the avenue and installing more technical systems. The Saneamento project is also creating 1,500 work opportunities in the local community.
“Construction of roadways will benefit at least 500,000 people who travel in this region. And the basic sanitation works will benefit another 200,000 people in the Samba area,” says Contract Director André Vital. Before the company began working in that part of Angola, rainwater overflowed the existing drainage ditches, which were too small to do their job. In addition to the problems caused by floodwater filled with garbage, the community faced a serious risk of water-borne diseases. Now, the problem in the critical part of Samba has been solved. “People can get to their homes more easily, and trash collection and public transportation will be within easy reach,” says Vital.
Despite its disorganized growth, there are parts of Luanda where planned urban settlements are possible. This is precisely the objective of the Luanda Sul project, which Odebrecht is carrying out in partnership with Empresa de Desenvolvimento Urbano de Luanda (Edurb), an urban development company created through the transfer of Odebrecht’s technological know-how and partly owned by the state, as a result of an association between the city government and the Prado Valladares Group. The project involves developing a 1,600-hectare area (nearly 4,000 acres), installing lighting, water and sewer systems, and building paved roads so that the area can be used for residential purposes as well as by retailers and service providers. The joint-venture partners have already installed 155 km of water supply systems, 225 km of electrical systems, 78 km of public lighting, 64 km of roadways, 62 km of storm drains and 71 km of sewer systems. At least 100,000 people are already enjoying the benefits of this new infrastructure, and several condominiums are under construction in the area.
“With Luanda Sul we are showing what can be done in terms of planned urban development with the involvement of the private sector, as well as driving the real-estate business, which has grown significantly in recent years,” says Contract Director Wolney Longhini, Odebrecht’s representative at Edurb.
Odebrecht is also building up a permanent legacy of knowledge for Angola. When Edurb got its start in 1995, most of its employees were Brazilian. Today, just two members of its 33-person staff are from Brazil. Several Angolans, such as engineer Rodrigo de Sousa Alves dos Santos, have reached outstanding positions in the company. A former college professor who joined Edurb as a surveyor, he became a director in 1998 and is now one of nation’s top experts in urban planning.
A few months ago, Rodrigo was chosen to work with the Angolan Government’s Emergency Housing Program. He says that he owes a good part of his professional rise to Odebrecht, which gave him the opportunity to take several training courses and engage in an enriching exchange of experiences. “I’m a living outcome of the transfer of technology that Odebrecht has brought to Angola. I have gained know-how from Odebrecht: having a different attitude towards work, appreciating what is done well and ensuring the client’s satisfaction,” says the Angolan executive.
Luanda residents are not the only people who will enjoy the benefits of improved infrastructure facilities and basic services. The Águas de Benguela project will supply clean water to 1.7 million people in the towns of Benguela, Lobito, Catumbela and Baía Farta by 2006. Odebrecht is building an integrated water treatment system whose sole source of supply is the Catumbela River. It will distribute water to all four areas, which are poorly supplied. The first communities to benefit will be Benguela and Lobito. The project is rehabilitating rundown water impounding, transportation and storage systems, and building a treatment plant, an impounding facility and a raw-water pumping plant, 70 km of pipelines and 290 km of distribution systems, as well as two distribution centers capable of storing up to 15,000 cubic meters of water. The project also includes the renovation of a dam on the Catumbela River, and the rehabilitation of a raw water canal leading from the river, where the water is impounded.
The Benguela project’s integrated system will be capable of producing up to 131 million liters per day. Over 400 public fountains will supply treated water for the communities most in need in areas near Benguela and Lobito. “This project is Odebrecht’s first job in Benguela Province, and it is already massive. We are working at a rapid pace, on ten fronts at once, because we have a commitment to our client and the communities to finish the job on schedule. It’s a huge challenge,” says Contract Director José Carlos Prober. To meet that challenge, Odebrecht has invested in new equipment, and recruited and educated teams of local people.
One project that Odebrecht has already completed is the rehabilitation of 42.6 km of the Matala Channel in Huila Province to irrigate farmland in a region considered a breadbasket in Angola. Nine hundred hectares (about 2,200 acres) have been irrigated and are producing crops with the help of modern farming methods. Farmers have learned to make the best use of the soil and manage the necessary equipment. The aim of this project – enabling Angola to regain its agricultural footing – is already being achieved. Crops of maize, potatoes, onions, cabbage, tangerines, mangoes and bananas are seeing good harvests.
In terms of investments alone, Odebrecht is confirming its commitment to and confidence in Angola through a range of ventures. In addition to its well-known activities in the diamond and oil sectors, Odebrecht is also putting its chips on the real-estate sector. One example is the Atlântico Sul condominium. This 209,000 square-meter privately owned area has been fully developed and contains 105 lots for the construction of luxury homes and a spacious recreation area, including playing courts, a spacious room for parties and other social events, swimming pools and a bicycle path. All the homes have been sold. Atlântico Sul is nearing completion, and was born at the same time as the Luanda Sul project.
“This is a way for the company to show its confidence in Luanda Sul and open up new prospects for the concept of urban housing in Luanda,” says Contract Director Carlos Nostre. In his view, the most important thing is that Atlântico Sul has enabled dozens of young Angolans to get professional training. When the project began, nearly all the supervisors and skilled construction workers were from Brazil: 120 Brazilians held the more specialized jobs and leadership positions. Today, there are just 20, all working as supervisors. “We have educated and trained the local workforce, and now I can build a luxury home with a 100% Angolan crew,” says Nostre.
One of the young people who seized this learning opportunity was Gabriel Manuel Tchipeku, 24, the first Angolan supervisor working on the Atlântico Sul project. Tchipeku showed tremendous leadership potential and was recommended for a middle management course that trains construction supervisors. “That course helped me understand the theory behind things I had already seen in practice. It made it easier for me to read plans and blueprints, and taught me about productivity, cost rationalization and workplace safety. Now I’m passing on those lessons to my team members,” he says.
When Tchipeku joined Odebrecht eight years ago as a construction assistant, he had no formal education. Over the years, he has built up enough experience and responsibility to supervise construction of three homes from start to finish. To do so, he leads a group of sixty workers. The young man intends to study more and grow in the company. His dream is starting his own construction firm one day. He says his leadership skills come naturally. “My father was an Odebrecht supervisor at Capanda. I must have inherited that gift.”
The course for supervisors or middle mangers is one of the programs directed by Justino Amaro, the officer responsible for People at Odebrecht Angola. The first class was formed in June 2004, including 67 students – 55 Angolans and 12 Brazilians – from the Luanda Sul, Saneamento and Atlântico Sul projects. The course lasted five months. “This was a pilot experience within the company, which decided to implement it in Angola. The aim is to teach Angolans the skills they need, not only so they can replace expatriate workers but to encourage them to make their careers with Odebrecht,” says Amaro, who is Angolan. As a result, the company is making another contribution to the formation of a skilled workforce, which is one of the nation’s greatest needs.
In the field of diamond production, Odebrecht is a partner in two projects: Sociedade de Desenvolvimento Mineiro de Angola (SDM), in partnership with Endiama (the state owned Angolan diamond company) and Sociedade Mineira de Catoca (SMC), together with Endiama and two other partners, Alrosa S.A. and Daumonty Finance. SDM, which is prospecting for diamonds in a 3,000-sq.m area of the Cuango River Basin, in the Luzamaba mining region (North Lunda Province), is a short-term project. In 2003, it produced 620,000 carats, equivalent to USD 120 million. The following year, production reached 610,000 carats, worth USD 118 million. This year, the project is expected to produce 400,000 carats.
“By 2006, we will probably have exhausted the diamond reserves here,” says SDM’s General Director, Marcelo Gomes. In 2004, SDM was assigned a new concession area to prospect for alluvial diamonds: Muanga, 180 km south of the project’s present location. “It’s still too early to make projections, because the prospecting phase will go on until 2007,” says Gomes. SMC is active in South Lunda Province. Based on studies that estimate the mine’s potential at 165 million carats, the company is investing about USD 90 million to produce 7 million tonnes (metric tons) per year in 2005.
Odebrecht is present in the oil industry through a consortium whose partners include Sonangol, a state-owned Angolan company, CNR/Ranger, from Canada, and Devon, from the USA. The consortium partners signed a shared production agreement in August 2002 and are now prospecting for oil in an area called Block 16, which will require a total investment of USD 100 million. The four-year agreement can be extended for another three depending on the results obtained.
Being active in a wide range of geographic areas and business sectors does not prevent Odebrecht from investing in contributions to the community. The company renovates schools near its jobsites and provides logistical support for vaccination campaigns. Because its diamond mining operations are temporary, SDM is carrying out a number of community service projects aimed at making local people self-sufficient. Its activities include renovating and building schools, providing health care at the jobsite’s infirmary, offering adult literacy courses, and organizing a subsistence farming program and a nutritional program that distributes soy byproducts to nearly 4,000 children. The project also runs a Professional Education Center that has already taught job skills to nearly 250 Angolans.
Going back home
At Catoca, SMC is carrying out several social programs to aid the local community, including building a school, supplying teaching materials, furniture and food for students, distributing soy and cow milk to 1,500 children on a daily basis, building a canalized water supply system for districts near the project, and supporting the provincial hospital. The company’s HIV/AIDS program has been strongly present at SDM, Catoca and all other Odebrecht projects in Angola, distributing information about prevention and grooming educator agents to act as multipliers.
Other social programs carried out in Angola
The HIV/AIDS prevention program, whose motto is “Prevention through Education,” got started in August 2002 as a result of a USD 1-million investment. The money ran out late last year, but the program will still be carried out within the company as an in-house campaign. It has trained 900 educator-agents, including Odebrecht Angola members and people from several Angolan communities. “We have also trained 26 instructors who will teach new educator-agents, and 33 counselors, people who provide counseling before and after people take an HIV test,” says Jorge Preto, a member of the program’s team. About 1.2 million condoms have been distributed so far, and by multiplying information, the program has raised the AIDS awareness of as many people or more.
One of the main pillars of the HIV/AIDS prevention campaign is the Women’s Health Program, which provides counseling on sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and does its best to prevent the vertical transmission of HIV from mothers to their children by conducting pre-natal tests and treating opportunistic diseases. “We did a survey and found that most of the women have never even had a Pap test. Awareness is the most important part of prevention,” says gynecologist Rahel Hailemichael Woldemariam, an Odebrecht consultant who is responsible for the program. Getting local youths involved has been key to the program’s success. Manoel Chaves, better known as “Delano,” is 26 years old and a member of a theater group. Last year, he took a course as an educator-agent. He got so interested that he decided to take the instructor course. Since then, he has included the subject of AIDS in his group’s performances.
Partnering with Odebrecht enables companies to grow
“Through theater, we can pass on the message of prevention in an interesting and understandable way. It provides indelible images that make people understand,” says Chaves. After each performance, he and his group distribute informative leaflets and condoms to the audience. Another educator-agent, Manuel Raimundo da Costa, 43, has been with Odebrecht Angola for 15 years. An IT technician, he says several of his friends had been infected with HIV and later died. “I realized that I could help my community by providing information and decided to get involved in Odebrecht’s campaign.” Raimundo was one of the first educator-agents the program produced, and the first to share the message of HIV/AIDS prevention with his community, Cacuaco, population 7,000. Today he, too, is an instructor and has helped train 200 educator-agents. “Lack of information is a very serious problem, which leaves a lot of room for prejudice. We have to make every effort and do everything in our power to win this war.”