Hooper and Louw Construction is recognised for its fearlessness in the rebuilding of Mozambique’s construction industry over the past 28 years
Writer: Phoebe Calver
Project Manager: Kane Weller
A sense of adventure has always been at the very heart of Hooper and Louw’s operations, driving forward its success in the rebuilding of a post-war, fragmented Mozambique.
Originally based in Cape Town before operations began in 1989, the Company’s two founding directors, Roger Hooper and John Wells-Louw were running an array of small businesses involving the manufacture and export of sports equipment and custom-made joinery when fate intervened.
The Company as we know it today landed its first job in early 1989 when Cape Town-based Grenco Refrigeration landed a contract, set to build an ISO-compliant fish processing factory in Inhambane, Mozambique. Due to the ongoing civil war in Mozambique at that time, Grenco needed to recruit a brave young team to carry out the project.
“We secured a storage facility in Cape Town harbour where we were able to consolidate our shipment,” explains John Wells-Louw, Director of Hooper and Louw. “After three months of careful planning, procurement and prefabrication there, we landed in Maputo and shortly after flew north to Inhambane to wait for all the materials that were shipped up from Cape Town. At the time we had our own personal military section allocated to ensure our safety on site.”
Since the success of that initial project, the Company has been involved in various adventures in the industry and created numerous business plans which inevitably ensured the gravitation towards what it does best: construction.
“Ever since our first two projects in Mozambique we have had a love-hate relationship – we love the country and its people, but can struggle with the hardships – that has taken us from strength to strength in the industry,” adds Wells-Louw. “From factories to private lodges and boutique hotels, we have carried out numerous projects that have led us to the discovery of our niche place within the market in what must surely be one of the most beautiful places on the planet.”
Over the years the Company has attributed a large amount of its success to the hands-on approach it demonstrates in every single project it is involved in.
Wells-Louw states: “All three Directors get personally involved with planning and execution of each project, liaising closely with clients throughout every stage of the project and taking tremendous pride in the quality that we are able to produce.”
In that essence, Hooper and Louw provides far more than a simple contractor service. Having been in the industry and in Mozambique for a long time, it knows the services that are needed and the development opportunities that are still to be tapped into after the devastation of the civil war in the country and with this knowledge the Company is able to assist potential clients who wish to invest in the country.
“Mozambique still desperately requires a lot of work and this massive opportunity for regrowth is recognised by the Government in the country,” Wells-Louw describes. “Worthwhile incentives are available for companies wishing to invest in the country, and recently we are seeing this trend more regularly in the oil & gas industry thanks to the multiple gas and mineral deposits located here.
“There has been a noticeable influx of companies entering the country for investment purposes, however, it is not an easy place to work when it comes to lack of infrastructure and government regulations in particular.”
Wells-Louw continues: “Everything you want to do in terms of planning permission needs a plethora of different bits of paper to be signed off on. Of course we are used to this, and therefore we have been able to aid newer companies coming into Mozambique and through that have made some valuable contacts in the industry.
“We are able to offer our clients a full range of support; from design and build services to consulting, legal support and environmental impact studies.
“Throughout all our projects, Hooper and Louw has built up excellent relationships, both with our clients and industry vendors. By working closely with our clients we are to assist them in achieving their dreams in what is still a somewhat hostile investment environment.”
Diverse project range
Thanks to its industry experience in Mozambique, Hooper and Louw is a well-respected specialist in a diverse range of projects. In recent years especially, the Company has carried out exciting work to meet eco-friendly, rustic and clean-cut briefs.
“Over the years we have carried out too many projects to count, however those in the early days really do stick in my mind for the difficulty and danger,” explains Wells-Louw. “Of late we have completed three projects that we are especially proud of and attached to.”
One of these stand-out projects is a boutique hotel named Villa Santorini, originally built with the purpose of a private luxury holiday house located on the coast. At the time of the project’s completion it was a lot bigger than initially planned and after much consideration and the addition of a few units and spa facilities, the boutique hotel we see now was borne.
“That project has been going on for about seven years now and we have just finished the final phase,” Wells- Louw says. “With something like this there is always room for expansion and I believe the owners have just bought the plot next door, so it will be exciting to see how we move forward with that in the coming months.”
Another of Hooper & Louw’s more memorable projects is the Gorongosa Nature Reserve in central Mozambique, where the Company built a training and conference centre.
“We were on site at the nature reserve for around three-and-a-half years and it was quite the experience, especially getting used to lions and elephants strolling through camp,” explains Wells-Louw. “We were tasked with the construction of an eco-friendly building and therefore we were obliged to ensure that we were minimising the environmental impact, carrying out studies that eventually led to us obtaining our green certificate that reaffirms our ability to build green.”
The third development is very different to both those mentioned before and is one of the longest client relationships Hooper and Louw has ever had, spanning more than 17 years.
“This relationship started in the 1990s with our client who at the time didn’t have vast sums of money, but had an abundance of drive and determination to make the project work,” Louw describes. “Initially the plan was to build a small backpacker- style complex. However, we thought we could do a little more than that and nearly 20 years later we are still adding to Bahia Mar Club, which has has become one of the most popular destinations on the Mozambique coast.”
The Company is dedicated to building client relationships, working with each to achieve exactly what they want. This is one aspect that from time-to-time needs to be done at the expense of job profitability, however it is worthwhile to Hooper and Louw to show its dedication to each customer and project. It is part of the Company’s business ethic and sense of responsibility to its clients.
“Our work ethic has always been centrally focused on achieving hands-on project management and with our experience and knowledge in the sector, we can create a package that will answer to all our clients’ needs,” concludes Wells-Louw. “We try to take the sting out of the fact that Mozambique is still compromised after the 20 years of civil war, to continue delivering the goods to our clients.
“We have discovered our niche and where we want to be; now we simply have to continue on the same path with a little more fine-tuning along the way. I hope that we will be able to retain and build upon our market share in the future, making internal improvements to our systems and uplifting and training our staff to the best of their ability.”