Spectacular, Empty Buildings: Urban Luxury Resorts and their Failures in Mozambique

Authors: Alicia Lazzarini*, Bucknell University
Topics: Economic Geography, Africa, Urban Geography
Keywords: Africa, investment, Mozambique, China, urban development, hotels
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2019
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:45 PM
Room: 8201, Park Tower Suites, Marriott, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

With new inflows of globalized capital, grand infrastructure and building projects have transformed Mozambique’s post-conflict landscape. In Maputo, the capital, the most notable projects have included extending road networks, constructing building complexes and malls, and, the subject of this talk, establishing large hotels targeting an international business and elite government clientele. One of the most noted of these building projects has been the Gloria Hotel. With its attached shopping center, sweeping scale, and super-luxe aesthetic, the hotel exceeds the size and, some suggest, grandeur of the Polana Hotel, the country’s most extravagant Portuguese colonial hotel. What marks the Gloria, however, and the city of Beira’s counterpart, the Golden Peacock Resort Hotel, is that new entrants to Mozambique’s investment scene have built these hotels. Namely, the Anhui Foreign Economic Construction Group (AFECC), a Chinese minerals exploration, supermarket, and hotel industry enterprise owns both hotels, and has fulfilled some of the most major recent infrastructure projects in the country. Yet, these hotels, while well discussed, have remained primarily unfilled. Mozambicans complain of low quality standards despite their spectacular nature, and prevailing gossip suggests they were built through nefarious private-government deals. The AFECC Gloria Hotel and Golden Peacock are grand, vacant investments, failed sites even as they contribute to their respective city skylines. Centering ethnographic fieldwork, this paper investigates why and how these sites have failed as spectacular investment sites, vis-à-vis their Chinese-Mozambican associations, to tease out the work they do in these cities’ changing urban and financial spheres.

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