Manuel Gonçalves

«I have concerns about solidarity regarding children, culture and the arts»

\\ Text Maria Cruz \
\\ Photography Daniel Camacho

«Menino de rua, a rua é tua» [«Street child, the street is yours»]. The records already released and the compositions written populate his memory. And not only for their meaning, but also for the presence they denote in his society. He composes, sings and plays the violin. His passion for music has resided in his soul since his childhood. At a the age of nine he made his first appearance with Os Mini-Craques and right up to the present day Manuel Gonçalves, for most people, or Né, to his friends, has a place in the people's memory. The verses of his songs immortalise the history experienced by the country that witnessed his birth. If we listen: «Luanda, you make the sun's rays smile as they hit the sea / Luanda, you make us dream with your burning sun / ? Luanda moves and stirs in Semba, from the alleys of Cazenga to the waterfront». And it isn't just Semba that Manuel embraces. He heads one of Angola's most powerful groups ? ENSA Group; in the legal profession he enforces justice; he dedicates part of him time to teaching; and he takes refuge in music, while defining himself as ?loaned out? man and highly passionate. And his passion for Esperança [in English Hope, which also happens to be the name of his mother] burns bright: «My old dear has the pain of our time in her eyes / time weighs heavy and her body is unable to walk / from her eyes comes this inner strength / which is Hope and is transformed / into Love / and makes her children travel down / the winding road / in search of good times / and she teaches them to hold back their tears, smiling / ?old Hope / black mother / my Hope / our mother»    

How do you feel about your re-election to the post you hold within the ENSA Group, as Chairman of the Board of Directors, and what assessment do you make? 

More than a post, it's a dual responsibility, that of steering the paths of the companies within Grupo ENSA ? Investimentos e participações, EP, the holding that is intended to control the thirteen subsidiary and affiliated companies within the ENSA universe, and ENSA Seguros de Angola, SA. We have gained space in the market, intervening in several sectors, including banking finance in an institution with the major share of 40% and we continue to lead the insurance sector with a 36% share of a market shared between 19 players. We remain worthy of great credibility and recognition, which means that, in more difficult moments, such as now, we remain motivated to diversify our investments and protect the risks of companies operating in the country and of people, irrespective of their segmentation. A new, younger, dynamic and specialised Board of Directors is an important guarantee for facing future challenges with confidence.

 

What is the secret to successfully fronting a company?

Motivation is essential, primarily when you are aware that there is still a great deal of suffering in our society to overcome, and that employment is one of the pillars supporting the social building under construction; you need strategic vision that allows you to understand and intervene in the complexity of economic phenomena and of the microsociology of organisations; commitment has to be unwavering and nothing is done without a great deal of efficient work, in a harmonised team spirit that cannot be broken.

 

The insurance sector has evolved and contributed to the growth of the nation's economy. What is behind the success and growth of ENSA Seguros? Is a good Chairman of the Board of Directors behind this path or is there much more to it than that? 

The national insurance industry still has major growth opportunities to put it in line with other countries with identical maturity, including those that are close geographically. The increase in financial literacy and the creation and effective monitoring of more compulsory insurances are factors critical to success. ENSA is unique in what it deems its most valuable asset: its people. The Chairman of the Board of Directors is just the leader of the team, and without the team there is no leader. «If you want to go quicker, go on your own; if you want to go further, go with others», goes an old African saying. A team that is totally as one, when it comes to strategic goals, is the key to success.    

«National and foreign investors are still interested in investing in the insurance sector»

ENSA Seguros still leads the insurance sector. What strategies are used to remain strong in the Angolan market?

 We have consolidated a business culture that favours the quality work for the benefit of customers, which presupposes the implementation of technologies, processes, distribution channels and the development of people with KSA (Knowledge, Skills and Attitude) to ensure a close relationship and the ability to meet customer needs.

 

How do you see Angola in 2016? What is ENSA Group's main focus for this year? What path do you plan to take?

 This is going to be a very difficult year, judging by the course taken in 2015 and the continuing presence, if not deterioration, of the constraining external and internal variables of the main macroeconomic performance indicators of the national economy. The country needs to strengthen the emphasis on resilience and on increasing the sense of urgency, to resist systematic shocks and increase its ability to adapt to change. At ENSA we have to be better than the others, continuing to improve our efficiency to increase sales, and reduce and control operational costs.

 

Are Angolans still investing in the insurance sector, even given the current economic situation of the country, with the lack of foreign exchange and the exit of companies from the Angolan market?

 National and foreign investors are still interested in investing in the insurance sector which shows that they believe in its potential. We view the situation without any fatalism. We have to face up to the harshness of the figures and proceed on the basis that we should be the actors of change. We have resisted and faced our own difficulties of critical situations that affect billing processes, and the foreign currency liquidity so necessary to meet the needs of risk cover with regard to reinsurance, health or technology. Angolan operators have to stoically resist, creating a new culture that allows us to adapt to the new times. Businesspeople and citizens, Angolans and residents of Angola, know, more and more, that in a crisis situation you should protect your personal property and assets, and that taking out insurance, for that purpose, is still the best way to achieve this.    

We know that you still divide your time between the various activities you undertake: legal practice, business management, the lessons you give and music, giving each the same quality. How do you explain this success in a single man?

 I am a man who accepts being loaned out, adapting to new situations, and very passionate. From music, very early on, and from tutoring while I was still at secondary school, I was loaned out to the legal profession and to university teaching and, then, to management. From the outset, I dedicate myself to what I like and I quickly like what I do. The essential focus, at the moment, is management; I have an excellent team in the legal firm, which reduces case and decision-making interventions. Over the years I have been composing and I don't even feel that music takes up any space. It is a source for freeing up space and helps my soul.

 

You have written several popular songs. What do you look for in music? A refuge, an escape from routine life, a future passion??

 Guitar at seven, first stage appearance at nine, and since I was a babe in arms listening to my mother Esperança, who loved to sing so much. Music is part of me, and always has been. It is in my soul. Today, it is the key to my work-life balance. As such, I have said: take music away from me and I will be, without a doubt, less professional in everything else.    

«Angolan operators have to stoically resist, creating a new culture that allows us to adapt to the new times»    

Does social responsibility touch you? How? What can be done to increasingly promote human beings?

 I am surrounded by the feeling that in the middle of the great national effort made in the physical reconstruction of structures and of the balance of people, everything that has been done is still very little before so many people in the country pleading for economic growth, and the improvement of human development indexes, in need of emerging from poverty with human dignity. Changing the status quo demands a stance in which every citizen or organisation feels socially committed, in a shared process of authentic strategic partnership with the state. Personally, I have concerns about solidarity regarding children, culture and the arts. The country will be what we are able to give today to children with regards to their human rights. Education in the various fields of the arts, liable to provide sensitivity, curiosity and the ability to think, create and innovate. Artists, for their part, are beings that are particularly able to gauge the social heartbeat, the anxieties, the concerns and the dreams.

 

Do you feel successful, as a man and a professional?

 I consider educating your children and family harmony the best parameters for assessing personal success, and the investment made, in general, has brought about very good results. Professionally, I feel the recognition of people, institutionally and socially. It just happens that I am permanently dissatisfied and restless. Each victory places us on new level of responsibility, and before an inner impetus to face new challenges of social change.    

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