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Interview with the President of CCILSA – Manuela Robinson

Tim Vieira – South African-Portuguese Entrepreneur and past president of CCILSA and Manuela Robinson
Dr. Paulo Cafôfo, Secretary of State for the Portuguese Communities and Manuela Robinson

CCILSA President Manuela Robinson was born in Mozambique, moved to South Africa when she was only 9 years old and after finishing her studies in business, moved to Lisbon, where she started her career in the banking and financial industry. Manuela then met her husband, Nick – a South African living in Portugal – and moved to the Algarve 19 years ago and continued working in financial services and has over 30 years of experience in the industry. Manuela is now an Associate Director of Blacktower for almost 11 years and successfully runs an excellent team of financial advisors based in the Algarve and Lisbon.
Manuela is a trusted, well-known, and highly-respected pillar in the community due to her unwavering support and expertise through her involvement in multiple organisations. “Along these years, I have been actively involved with different non-profitable organisations and have contributed to a lot of different charitable events. One of the longest standing ones is Rotary where I have been the President of the Rotary Club Estoi Palace International based in Portugal and Assistant District Governor for Rotary International.”

“I am also the President of the Supervisory board for TU – Talentos Unidos (United Talents Association) in Portugal. This is an association that supports and promotes education, training, and uplifting of young people of all ages and in all social environments.”

Most excitingly, Manuela has become the first woman President of the South African Chamber of Commerce in Portugal (CCILSA) since the first quarter of 2023. Manuela told The Portugal News that “Last year, Tim Vieira who was the President of CCILSA at the time – who is a very successful and well-known South African/Portuguese entrepreneur, but also an inspiration and someone that I admire and look up to, asked if I would like to take over from him the presidency of CCILSA. Tim’s focus was now on his new project, Brave Generation Academy, which is a new type of schooling not only in Portugal but worldwide which is growing as we speak. It took a little bit of convincing but I finally accepted the challenge.”
In a recent interview with the English-Language outlet the PORTUGAL NEWS, Manuela referred that “At the moment the Americans are the biggest nation coming into Portugal but there are also so many South Africans moving to Portugal. South Africa is very close to my heart and nothing gives me more satisfaction than to be able to help both corporates and individuals with this transition.” She then proudly added that they will be working closely with the South African Embassy, “I had a meeting with Ambassador Mmamokwena Gaoretelelwe in Lisbon and it was nice to see that she is on board and very much wanting to help and co-operate with the Chamber which will bring added stability and credibility to the chamber and its members.”

Lunch meeting with Parliament Friendship Group for SA Portugal with the President António Maló de Abreu

Taking CCILSA to the next level
Manuela explained that “There is a lot that needs to be done because with covid-19 the chamber almost died, so it is almost like starting from the beginning in terms of generating revenue, bringing on new members, vetting things that are attractive for new members to want to join.”
Adding that, “I want the chamber to be able to help South Africans but also the Portuguese and South African community, entrepreneurs, promote foreign investment and foreign trade. I also want to focus on vocational training, regional and economic development, and other general services.”
Further highlighting that “The chamber is also there as a network for businesses but also for private individuals and I want to increase their credibility in the local community and for them to be more exposed. I would also like to support local development and for people to come in and do talks about their businesses, their experiences, share their knowledge.” The President reaffirmed that at the core of her vision is that “the chamber is of added value.”
Manuela also acknowledged the fact that there has not been any event for CCILSA for the last three years due to the pandemic. “That is something that we will be doing, hopefully soon… we want to have new events and bring people together to see how we can help each other.”
Additionally, Manuela revealed that the CCILSA website will be undergoing some much-needed changes in the next month, to make it more accessible for members along with lots of updated information.
Carefully selected Board Members
Manuela provided insight into her carefully chosen board, stating, “We need to innovate and bring fresh ideas to the table. That’s why I have people of all ages on my board, including members in their 20s and 60s. Each of them possesses diverse expertise in different fields, and I firmly believe that this collective effort can lead to genuine success, enabling us to support other businesses and individuals.”
“As the president, I recognise that I can’t do this alone; it’s all about teamwork. I feel extremely happy and fortunate to be surrounded by highly knowledgeable and talented individuals who will help elevate CCILSA to new heights!”
CCILSA looks forward to a promising future under Manuela’s expert guidance. She concluded, “Whether you’re South African or not, I urge you to consider becoming a member of the chamber. I am confident that you will witness the benefits and value it brings.” Manuela will also continue her successful role at Blacktower and remain engaged in her other commitments with the Rotary and TU – Talentos Unidos Association in Portugal.

Portuguese President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa and Manuela Robinson

Manuela Robinson and CCILSA have not rested on their laurels.

They have recently had several meetings with the SA Ambassador and the relationship has gone from strength to strength. This led to the invitation to be a key speaker at the “Portugal Exportador 2023” event in Lisbon in October 2023. This event aims to boost the bilateral trade and investment relations between South Africa & Portugal. This engagement comes as a result of several events, meetings, and TV appearances both in Portugal & South Africa promoting the Chamber
Having hosted the VIP Lounge at The Portuguese Forum’s Caravela Festival in Boksburg, and had meetings in the Parliament with the Secretary of State for the Portuguese Communities (Secretário de Estado das Comunidades Portuguesas) – Paulo Cafôfo and the Parliament Friendship Group for South Africa – Portugal and their president (Grupo Parlamentar de Amizade Africa do Sul – Portugal), António Maló de Abreu, CCILSA has once again established their inclusive nature and shown their commitment to bridging the gaps between institutions both in Portugal and South Africa.
CCILSA’s calendar is completely full, with the 1st networking event in the Algarve happening on the 26th of July. They are also currently working on their new website, and it is certain to be a great tool once it is completed in the near future.

There are various Chambers of Commerce based in Portugal and outside of Portugal with which CCILSA has been fostering relationships. This policy is also apparent in the close ties which are being nurtured with the South African Consulates in Porto & Madeira.

CCILSA has also recently received coverage from National and International newspapers and media, which has served to highlight the good work being done by all those who dedicate themselves to this cause.
As Nelson Mandela once said: “It always seems impossible, until it is done.”. This is the kind of attitude being employed in creating synergies between Portugal and South Africa in every field. An example of this is CCILSA’s drive to empower International Schools and Sports Associations & Clubs in South Africa and Portugal, and other South African associations and businesses based in Portugal to share closer ties.
In closing, Manuela shared with us the following quote from Nelson Mandela:
“What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.”

Nick Robinson (husband) – Isabella Robinson (daughter) – Ruan Scott (Executive Board Member of CCILSA)

“I’ve been blessed with amazing family and upbringing… my sister Natália, who still today is my very best friend, my mother, Ilda, who was the most loving person I have ever met with a heart as big as the world, and then my father, Manuel Sardinha, my friend, my mentor, my inspiration… Today I have my husband, Nick who is my rock and my safe place… my daughter, Isabella who is my everything and with whom I learn to be a better person every day… I am very GRATEFUL. “

For more information about CCILSA, please visit http://www.ccilsa.org/. Alternatively, to get in touch with Manuela Robinson, you can email her at manuela@ccilsa.org.

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