Bitxe Rotxa Porto Inglês, Maio

In two previous posts (1 October 2020 & 7 January 2021) we reported on a proposed development for the island of Maio. This is probably the largest ever development in Cape Verde at €500m. It appears that this large scale project has moved a stage nearer to reality with the signing of papers for the establishment of ‘Little Africa Maio’. The signing by the Deputy Prime Minister, the Minister of Finance and Spanish businessman, Enrique Bañuelos de Castro took place in Praia. It has been reported that Little Africa Maio and The Sociedade de Desenvolvimento Turístico de Ilhas da Boa Vista e Maio (SDTIBM) will form a company called Little Africa Services. This company will be responsible for the infrastructure and management of future services including energy, water, cleaning, refuse and security.

The proposals are for a development that will include museums, exhibition halls, theatres, casino, shops, congress centre, international business centre, private hospital, international college and a tourist resort. The total cost is estimated to be around €500m and would create approximately 2000 jobs during the construction and 8000 once fully completed and operational. The whole development is aimed at the top end of the tourist market. It is not intended for the one or two week package holiday tourists.

In addition to this, there are plans to build an international airport on Maio. The current airport can only handle small domestic flights. The provision of an international airport is considered an essential requirement for the Little Africa Maio project to be viable. In addition to the airport a sea port is also proposed. It would appear that this will be a new deep-sea port, with facilities for containers and fishing boats. It is not clear whether this will also be designed for cruise ships. This it seems, is additional to the new roll-on-roll-off port facilities currently under construction. It is now reported that the airport and deep sea port will be financed in full by Little Africa, but would then be managed by Aeroportos e Segurança Aérea (ASA) and Enapor respectively.

So far no drawings appear to have been published. It has been stated that the development will be on the south of the island. According to Turi Magazine, the location identified for the project is to the east of Vila do Maio (Porto Inglês).

The Prime Minister Ulisses Correia e Silva stated that ‘The island of Maio has been recognised for a long time with enormous potentials, but we are going further than recognition, to make the best use of these potentials, with a return for dynamizing the economy, creating jobs and improving and improving quality [of] life of the island’s people’.

It is reported that this scheme has the support of two United Nations organisation – the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) and also of the HABITAT organisation. There was recently a feature on this project on TCV (Televisão de Cabo Verde) ‘Maio: Projecto Little África Maio deve ficar concluído em 36 meses’ (Maio: Little Africa Maio project should be completed in 36 months). It is stated that works will start in July 2021, and open in July 2024, which seems extremely ambitious for a project of this size.

Maio has long been popular with visitors because of its relative simplicity and low-scale tourist offer. Some people are concerned that these proposals will spoil the island that they love so much. Of course providing employment and good quality of life for the islanders is important, but the scale of this proposed development is of concern to some. It is aimed at the wealthy and it is questionable as to how much will filter down to the people of Maio. There may be jobs created, but how many would be available to local people? The development has been publicised as a sustainable project, specifically because of the Biosphere status. Maio, along with Fogo is designated as a UNESCO Biosphere (‘Biosphere reserves promote solutions reconciling the conservation of biodiversity with its sustainable use’). It is important that the natural environment of Maio is conserved and the unique character of the island is not destroyed.

[28 May 2021]