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Seeing is Believing: Bank Executive Connecting China via EMBA


Strong, resilient, hardworking … when it comes to China, these three words instantly come to Osvaldo Macaia’s mind.

The 37-year-old senior executive from the largest bank in Angola can still clearly remember his impressive trips to Beijing three years ago, when he was acting as the director of the Legal Department of Angola’s Ministry of Finance.

During in-depth technical discussions with Chinese financial and commercial entities on various cooperation agreements between the two countries, Osvaldo was astonished by China’s rapid development in the economic sector and the unique, creative and flexible financial system the country has been exploring.

The signing of financing agreements to avoid double taxation, the candid interaction with officials from China’s Ministry of Commerce, as well as the fruitful field visits to China’s large banks all formed a clear picture of China in his mind of a great country with a strong and well-structured economy and a very patient, resilient people.

China is becoming more and more importantin the global economy,and learning how to do business in China and with Chinese people is becoming increasingly important. As an emerging market, Osvaldo knows China will definitely play a major role in the global stage.

It was at that point that a little seed of gaining “Chinese wisdom” and being a better self was planted in his mind.

The seed has grown and finally broken through the soil along with the deeper cooperation between China and Africa, especially the increasing efforts from China to help African people combat the COVID-19 pandemic. Osvaldo told himself that it was time to make a move.

Applying for the prestigious EMBA program in China’s leading Tsinghua University is his solid first step, as he believes that the program, which gives him an opportunity to learn about China’s business atmosphere, market concepts and environment, will play a vital role in taking him on a different path and make him feel more prepared in terms of leadership and technical skills to embrace future professional challenges.

Osvaldo said he spent a lot of time choosing which school best suited him, and finally decided on TIEMBA(Tsinghua Insead Executive MBA)as the platform that would best allow him to get to know more smart people and obtain Chinese experiences.

Desipte the programme is a big investment financially, after finishing one semester, he believes more firmly than ever that knowledge is priceless,after finishing one semester, he believes more firmly than ever that knowledge is priceless.

Before holding the position of Non-Executive Vice President of the Board of Directors of Banco Fomento Angola, the largest Angolan bank in terms of assets and customer base, Osvaldo, born in Cabinda, earned a degree in Law from the Faculty of Law of the Universidade Agostinho Neto in 2006 and a postgraduate degree in Business and Labor Law from the Faculty of Law of the University of Coimbra in 2009.

He has been a Public Officer of the Government of Angola for over 15 years, starting his career at the Ministry of Labor and Public Administration and then moving on to the Ministry of Finance. Between 2018 and 2021, by appointment of the President of the Republic of Angola, he assumed the role of Executive Board Member of Sonangol, the largest Angolan State-Owned Enterprise which operates the entire value chain of the oil and gas sector and has several non-core businesses in Angola and across the world.

The posts that he has occupied throughout his professional career required him to navigate various other areas of knowledge, such as economics, finance, accounting, strategy, as well as having strong leadership qualities.

“Doing this competitive and challengingEMBA,Iintend to acquire strong foundations in these areas of knowledge, as well as knowing and being exposed to the international business environment and having my first learning experience outside a Portuguese-speaking country,” Osvaldo said.

In the special case of the TIEMBA Program, by bringing together two of the best business schools in the world, INSEAD and Tsinghua University, considered “state of the art” business education institutions, I have a unique opportunity to explore three different realities of business approach and thinking in the West, Asia and Middle East, he said.

In 2020,INSEAD was the second best Business school in the world after Harvard Business School.

At first, Osvaldo didn’t have much idea of how to communicate or do business with Chinese people. Through the program and communications with his Chinese classmates, who he described assmart, friendly and supportive,he realized for the first time the importance of creating good interpersonal relationships before doing any business.

“Sentiment and interpersonal relationships have a huge upside in the decision to do or not do business in the Chinese context, unlike in the West,” he said.

The program also allowed him to gain a deeper understanding of the similarities and differences between China and his home country, with the biggest difference being that the Chinese economy is consolidated and diversified, while Angola’s economy faces strong diversification challenges beyond oil revenue.

Angola’s GDP in 2020 was estimated to be approximately 60 billionUS dollars, and GDP to public debt ratio is estimated at 120%, of which 55% is foreign debt, with 70% of the foreign debt held by Chinese entities.

These numbers clearly reveal the unavoidable political, economic, and financial relationship between the two countries. “However, having reached this stage of intensity in the financial relationship between the two states, we must move to a stage in which Chinese companies feel attracted to invest in Angola outside the traditional platforms of political and financial cooperation between the two states,” he said.

This raises several challenges, mainly the ability of both Chinese and Angolan businesspeople to understand the specific context of the two countries, and overcome cultural and linguistic barriers.

“Only a relationship that moves from the phase of mere political cooperation between states to a cooperation between their peoples (citizens and companies) can assert itself as solid, long-term and prosperous,” Osvaldo said.

With the COVID-19 pandemic, and especially the emergence of new virus variants, still rampant around the world, Osvaldo unfortunately has to take the courses online. But one belief that helps him overcome many challenges, such as the time difference between Angola and China, is that future business opportunities will certainly appear in China, and understanding Chinese culture, understanding Chinese society and trying to keep up with the pace of development in China, is something every intelligent businessperson has to seriously think about.