City Brief: Belo Horizonte

By Arnout Nuijt

Belo Horizonte, in short “Belô”, “Beagá”, or “BH” is the capital and main urban center of Brazil’s Minas Gerais State. The city has a population of around 2,5 million inhabitants, but there are approximately 5,5 million people in the Metropolitan Region. That makes BH the third most populous urban region of Brazil after São Paulo and Rio. Yet Minas Gerais State and its capital Belo Horizonte are often overlooked by foreign visitors and business missions – unless they are in the mining sectors. In fact the city and state have a lot to offer and presently the city feels like bursting out of its seems.

Minas Gerais State churns out almost half of Brazil’s mineral production, especially iron ore but also gold and diamonds. From the air or along the highways, huge open air mining operations can be seen around the city. Both city and state are widely regarded as Brazil’s third most important in economic and business terms. Politically speaking the mineiros, as the locals are called, have always been a force to be reckoned with, often providing presidents of the republic or acting as political powerbrokers. It is high time for Belo Horizonte to enter the world stage! Continue reading “City Brief: Belo Horizonte”

City Brief: Brasilia

By Arnout Nuijt

Brasilia is a unique city in Brazil and the world. It is the biggest of a long line of planned capital cities in the country, among which Belo Horizonte, Palmas, Boa Vista and Goiânia. Internationally the city is often compared to Canberra, Australia’s federal capital, but Brasilia is much larger and more utopian in concept. And where Canberra may have been conveniently located between Australia’s main two urban centers Sydney and Melbourne, Brasilia on the other hand is situated right in the middle of Brazil, or, to many, right in the middle of nowhere.

Brasilia in 2012 has a population of about 2,6 million (3,7 million in its metropolitan area), making it the fourth largest city in Brazil. Founded only 52 years ago, Brasilia has the honor of being the largest city in the world that did not exist at the beginning of the 20th century.

Juscelino Kubitschek, aka as JK (pronounce zyota ka), President of Brazil from 1956 to 1961, ordered the construction of Continue reading “City Brief: Brasilia”

City Brief: Rio de Janeiro

By Arnout Nuijt

Rio de Janeiro may be on paper Brazil’s second urban and economic center after Sao Paulo, to many – and not just its inhabitants – the city is number one. With its 6,3 million cariocas (and no less than 12,6 million people in the metropolitan area), Rio is the capital of the State of Rio de Janeiro, home to around 16 million people. Set in a gorgeous scenery, Rio is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. The Marvelous City or Cidade Maravilhosa as the locals call their home, was Brazil’s colonial and later national capital from 1763 until 1960, the year when Brasília became the new federal government center. What followed was pure downturn for Rio, a process that was only revised by the recent oil and gas boom.

Some government agencies and state-owned enterprises however remained in the city. Among them were CVRD (now Vale, the world’s second biggest mining company), Petrobras, Eletrobras, federal investment bank BNDES and several military facilities (most notably the navy and air force HQs). The city has bounced back from decades of decay and is now a booming global business city again. On top of that Rio was picked as the host city for the 2016 Olympic Games, the first city in South America to do so.

Rio is now the continent’s center for oil and gas exploration, pharmaceuticals, media, creative industries, cultural events Continue reading “City Brief: Rio de Janeiro”

What should we do with the Benelux?

By Arnout Nuijt

logo_Benelux_topOn the last day of the previous year an interesting bit of news floated around in the Low Countries, but it may have been lost in the loud bangs of the New Year’s Eve celebrations. According to Luc Willems, deputy secretary-general of the Benelux Union, the Benelux would like to see a single market for mobile telephony in the three countries. The Benelux in 2013 will study the possibilities for creating such a single market, without roaming fees. That is of course good news for consumers as well as businesses, and it could also serve as a test for a similar move to a single EU market.

Yes, it has been a nuisance for years when, traveling between Belgium and The Netherlands (or between any two given EU nations), you loose your mobile connection the very moment you are crossing the border. While you wait for the text message coming in from the local provider saying that you are now on their network, you may wonder what it actually means to live in a EU single market. Once you have crossed the border – which is an increasingly diminishing concept within the EU, especially in the case of the one between Holland and Belgium -, the cost of your phone calls will rise significantly, because telecom companies say you are “roaming”.

Wow, after decades of deepening European economic integration and years of an EU single market, the ups and downs of the Euro Zone and a plethora of other treaties, telecom providers are still free to charge their customers more once they cross a border? Yes, somehow they can and they are getting away with it all the time… But where the EU has apparently not been capable of bringing change and helping its citizens and businesses to bring down cost, the Benelux has now taken an initiative. The Benelux, the Benelux, you are saying, yeah, I have heard about it, but do they still exist? Yes, they do, and they may be making a comeback of sorts. Continue reading “What should we do with the Benelux?”

More Growth for Rotterdam-The Hague Airport

Last year was a good year for Rotterdam-The Hague Airport. The regional airport on the northern edge of Rotterdam is steadily growing, adding more and more European cities to its destinations. Besides the fact that Rotterdam-The Hague Airport has become one of low-cost carrier Transavia’s hubs for holiday and regular flights throughout the year, it has also been adding a couple of routes from two of Europe’s main carriers: British Airways and Lufthansa. And more is still to come… Continue reading “More Growth for Rotterdam-The Hague Airport”

Can Brazil Conquer Africa’s Booming Markets?

By Arnout Nuijt

A recent article in The Economist gives an optimistic picture of Brazilian companies heading en masse for Africa’s booming economies, “laden with expertise and capital”, thus creating a new “Atlantic alliance” between Brazil and Africa. We hate to be critical, but is this really happening or is it wishful thinking?

Yes, Africa is booming and Brazil is so close and so well adapted to tropical circumstances, that a huge opportunity for doing business with African nations has arrived. Brazilian companies indeed should take advantage of Africa’s new wealthy middle classes, its plethora of mining opportunities and its own supply of innovative products fit for tropical circumstances, such as vehicles and household appliances. But let’s get back to the facts. Total Brazil trade with the world was 383 billion in 2010, of which Sub-Sahara Africa took a modest 3,18 %. Continue reading “Can Brazil Conquer Africa’s Booming Markets?”

Royal Dutch Business

By Arnout Nuijt

pvofiespThe biggest Dutch business mission ever organised descended on Brazil last week. Over 150 companies, fielding around 250 representatives, visited the country’s cities most relevant to Dutch business. The mission was led by the heir to the Dutch throne, His Royal Highness the Prince of Orange, and included several other officials. Among these were a brandnew Minister of Trade & Development and Secretary for Education, as well as the Prime-Minister of Aruba, one of the countries inside the Kingdom of The Netherlands.

The delegation consisted of representatives from several sectors of the Dutch economy, like higher eduaction and science, aviation technology, agribusiness, design and architecture, metallurgical industries and others and presented a clear break from the traditional message that the Dutch are good at ports and water management. This mission portrayed Holland correctly as having a knowledge based economy. Another novelty was the absence of a traditional line-up of CEO’s of the country’s biggest companies. Instead the delegation was dominated by SME’s, small and medium sized companies. Of course reps of some of the larger entreprises were present, but most of these are already well established in Brazil for decades.  Continue reading “Royal Dutch Business”

Brazil’s New Jet Fighter Saga

By Arnout Nuijt

Last week Reuters reported that President Dilma Rousseff had decided to wait until mid-2013 to make a decision on Brazil’s multibillion-dollar Air Force jets contract. What, again? Yes, again… So how should we interpret this delay? Most observers seem to agree that this development increases Boeing’s Super Hornet chances of winning the deal, instead of the earlier favorite, the French Dassault Rafale. So is this delay upon delay a tactical and polite way of saying no to the French? Possibly, but there is more at stake in this deal than meets the eye. It’s not just about buying 36 new planes. It’s all about the future of Brazil’s aviation and technology sectors and Brazil must make the best possible deal if it wants to achieve its ambitions… Continue reading “Brazil’s New Jet Fighter Saga”

Cape Verde’s Unique Aviation Opportunity

By Arnout Nuijt

While the Cape Verde government recently announced the creation of a (government staffed) working group that has to find ways to attract more and cheaper flights to the country, two other aviation related news items – involving national carrier TACV – are worth mentioning. Firstly the Cape Verde press reported that TACV needs 50 million Euros to pay off its debt and secondly it appears that the two newly acquired TACV Boeing 737’s (bought to replace its ageing Boeing 757’s) do not have the sufficient range to fly fully loaded to and from its core destinations, such as Boston, Paris, Amsterdam or even Lisbon. The company is therefore planning to lease a Boeing 767 for its longer haul flights.

The latter is strange news. The most recent types of 737’s should have the right range for serving those destinations. In fact, the Dutch company Arkefly (part of the Tui group) operates 737’s on its Amsterdam – Boa Vista route, a flight that takes 6,5 hours, much more than the Praia-Lisbon route, and the planes are full. Arkefly also uses the 737 on its Amsterdam-Fortaleza route, though with a refueling stop on Sal Island. So, what’s wrong with the TACV planes? Is TACV trying to carry extra cargo on top of the passenger’s luggage? That might just not be possible. TACV is often painted in the Cape Verde press as inefficient and prone to mismanagement. Is this recent acquisition just another example and another missed opportunity for TACV? Let’s take a good look at the challenges that face TACV as well as the opportunities for the aviation industry in Cape Verde.  Continue reading “Cape Verde’s Unique Aviation Opportunity”