India: a new strategic bet for Angola?

The centrality of trade relations between India and Angola

Angola has become the epicenter of many international relations. There is talk of the rapprochement with the United States, the recalibration with China, the history with Russia, the role in the Great Lakes. However, one of the relationships that is discreetly becoming more important, but seems to have been forgotten, or needs to be discovered, is the relationship with India.

India is currently Angola’s third largest trading partner, sharing around 10% of Angola’s foreign trade, mainly due to the purchase of crude oil in bulk. The trade balance is in Angola’s favor, with India being Angola’s 2nd largest oil importer, accounting for 90% of bilateral trade. The trade relationship is clearly driven by the oil partnership.

Clearly, since 2021-22, India-Angola bilateral trade has been on the rise, reaching 3.2 billion dollars in 2021-22, with a large increase in Indian exports to Angola of 452 million dollars (45 % increase year-on-year). Bilateral trade in 2022-23 reached 3.9 billion dollars (by February 2023), with Indian exports to Angola registering a new high of 575 million dollars[1] .

Figure 1: Angola – India: Imports/Exports

(in millions of dollars)

Source: Embassy of India in Luanda (April 2023)[2]

As a comparison, the value of trade in tradable goods (excluding services) between Portugal and Angola totals €1,149.3 million (M€) in exports and €488.1 M€ in imports, on average for the 2019-2023 period.[3]

It’s easy to see that the value of trade relations between India and Angola is three times greater than that between Angola and Portugal. India is already a giant in its relationship with Angola.

Figures in millions of USD. For Portugal average 2019-2023, for India values 2023.

The Indian community in Angola is made up of around 4,000 people, mainly based in offshore oil fields or working in establishments owned by Indian owners, mostly involved in restaurants, supermarkets, commerce and other services; in industries dealing with plastics, metal, steel, clothing. In the non-oil sector, several projects are being carried out by Indian companies in the retail, hotel, agricultural plastics, scrap metal, steel, trade and other services sectors[4] .

India’s potential in relation to Angola

Having established the strong economic ties between India and Angola, it is worth highlighting India’s potential and the possibilities it opens up for Angola.

India is one of the world’s fastest growing large countries, expanding at an annual rate of 6-7%. New data shows that private sector confidence is at its highest level since 2010. Already the fifth largest economy, it could take third place by 2027, after America and China. India’s influence is manifesting itself in new ways. American companies have 1.5 million employees in India, more than in any other foreign country. Its stock market is the fourth most valuable in the world, while the aviation market ranks third. India’s purchases of Russian oil drive global prices. Increased wealth means more geopolitical clout. India has sent ten warships to the Middle East to contain the Houthis in Yemen.[5]

India’s strong presence in the Gulf should also be noted. Since Modi (the Indian prime minister) took office in 2014, India has transformed its relationship with the Gulf states, moving from one centered on energy, trade and Indian expatriates, to a new framework that encompasses political relations, investment and cooperation in defense and security. In addition, India has a keen interest in the stability of the Gulf, given that approximately 8.8 million Indian citizens live in the region[6] .

These are the essential facts, which pose a strategic challenge for Angolan presidential diplomacy.

As we all know and have mentioned in previous reports, João Lourenço’s new foreign policy, launched after 2017, is based on several vectors: a rapprochement with the United States and Europe in general, a new relationship with the Gulf States, a friendly recalibration with China and a repositioning with Russia. All this has been done. Now it will be India’s time.

India as a strategic priority for Angola

Given India’s economic growth and potential, its relationship with the Gulf States, as well as its global position as a country that is friendly to the United States but maintains its own external sovereignty, which leads it to buy oil from Russia, among other things, it is important to include India in Angola’s strategic priorities.

The point is not only that India is a market with clear potential for Angolan oil, as well as for other future exports, such as those linked to the agri-food sector, but also that it is a source of technological innovation for Angola. However, India’s economic aptitude is also important and relevant in discovering new robust markets for Angola.

Equally important is that India can be a support for Angola in its relations with the Gulf, where many Indians occupy prominent positions in the financial sector, and at the same time serve as a support for the difficult negotiations with China over the debt and, finally, serve as an example to the United States of a friendly country, but one that follows its own foreign policy.

These elements, both economic and in terms of international relations, are strong enough to attract the attention of Angolan presidential diplomacy to create a common framework for intense political and commercial cooperation. It is easy to understand that India can be an excellent expansion market for Angola, as well as a technological partner, and can also be complementary to Angola in many political aspects, both in establishing bridges with the Gulf countries and in knowing how to draw the boundaries of balance in relations with the major powers. This experience should be assimilated by Angola.

It should be remembered that the history of relations between heads of government (presidents of the republic and prime ministers) is not very intense. The first visit by an Indian prime minister to Angola took place in May 1986, by Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, which was reciprocated by Angolan President José Eduardo dos Santos in April 1987. PM Dr. Manmohan Singh met President José Santos on the sidelines of the G-8 meeting in L’Aquila, Italy, on July 10, 2009. In October 2015, Angola’s Vice-President Manuel Vicente visited India to take part in the Third India-Africa Summit. Finally, during his visit to Johannesburg to attend the BRICS Summit, Angolan President João Lourenço met Prime Minister Narendra Modi on July 26, 2018 and discussed ways to improve trade and investment between the two countries and also to deepen cooperation in sectors such as Energy, agriculture, food processing and pharmaceuticals[7] .

There really is no proximity between diplomacies at the highest level. Now, it is this pattern that would indicate that we need to move to a new level. This is possibly the time to create a strong bridge between India and Angola, based on political and economic aspects.

[1] Embassy of India Luanda (2023) Bilateral Brief on India-Angola Relations:

[2] idem

[3] GPP (2024) ANGOLA Trade with Portugal (PT) 2019-2023:

[4] Ditto note 1

[5] The Economist (2024), How strong is India’s economy?

[6] Viraj Solanki (2024) The Gulf region’s growing importance for India:

[7] See note 1.