An Investment Bank for Portuguese Speaking Countries Community

Introduction: The Investment Bank for Portuguese Speaking Countries Community

João Lourenço, President of the Republic of Angola, presented in the inauguration speech of his mandate as acting president of the Speaking Countries Community (CPLP), at the XIII Conference of Heads of State and Government, held in Luanda in July 2021, the “challenge of start thinking about the pertinence and feasibility, even if remote, of creating a CPLP Investment Bank[1]”.

The President of the Portuguese Republic, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, in turn, admitted that the Angolan head of State’s proposal for the creation of an investment bank in the Community of Portuguese Language Countries (CPLP) could advance, if there were significant investments of several parties. And he added that this could become a reality if “significant investments from Brazil, from African economies emerging from the CPLP, from Portugal, but also with the contribution of European funds are combined[2]”.

Although the details of this idea are not known, only knowing that it corresponds to the implementation of an Economic Pillar of the Community of Portuguese Language Countries (CPLP), it is interesting to see how such a proposal could become a reality, which is more important, since doubts have arisen from reputable Angolan experts about its feasibility[3].

***

Our conclusion is that it is possible to envisage the creation of an investment bank and development of CPLP with mixed capital and a reasonably independent and efficient structure, with diverse and plural sources of financing.

Vision, goals and strategic axes of the investment bank of lusophony

What we will call the Banco de Investimento de Fomento da Lusofonia (BIFEL) would be an investment and development bank that would materialize the CPLP Economic Pillar. The CPLP Economic Pillar, as understood from the several statements of the Angolan government, corresponds to a need to transform the collaboration potential of member countries into real wealth and would translate into the creation of common financing mechanisms and large free market areas and freedom of movement.

BIFEL would, therefore, be an instrument for financing the development of the PALOPS and the integration of the corresponding markets.

It would have three basic goals:

i) the financing of large works and infrastructures that bring the PALOPs closer together and make them more competitive in economic terms;

ii) the development of the corresponding economies and common access markets;

iii) the survey of the quality of life of the neediest populations (levelling up).

Thus, there would be a triple concern with economic integration, development and what is currently called levelling up regions and populations[4]. Economic and social aspects would have to be combined.

These goals would have to be operationalized in the creation of three major strategic axes that would, in practice, be transformed into three consigned credit lines.

• The first axis would be dedicated to infrastructure for common benefit: digital structures and networks, ports, airports, means of communication, roads, energies, especially renewable energies, etc.

• The second axis would be aimed at economic growth projects, the formerly called economic development. Here we would have factories, companies, and growth-promoting economic activities.

• Finally, a third axis dedicated to the aforementioned levelling up, with characteristics of economic and social development, would include support for building hospitals, schools, training human resources in education and health, environmental and climate protection.

BIFEL Share Capital

BIFEL would be a mixed financial institution, with share capital from several sources. One could point to an initial share capital of one billion, seven hundred and fifty thousand euros [1, 750 billion euros] (the reference point is that the development bank recreated in Portugal has 255 million euros as social capital and is fully public). In this case, the share capital would be much larger (1.75 billion euros) and the ownership not fully public.

A mixed ownership system for BIFEL is envisioned.

• First, 1000 million euros would be earmarked for the subscription of CPLP Member States: Angola, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Equatorial Guinea, Mozambique, Portugal, São Tomé and Príncipe and East Timor. Each State would participate in capital according to an equitable formula that considered its absolute GDP and GDP per capita, which allowed considering the real wealth of each one, its competitiveness and productivity, and the well-being of its populations.

• Afterwards, 500 million euros would be allocated to observer countries associated with the CPLP: Mauritius, Senegal, Georgia, Japan, Namibia, Turkey, Slovakia, Hungary, Czech Republic, Uruguay, Andorra, Argentina, Chile, France, Italy, Luxembourg, United Kingdom , Serbia as well as the European Union. Each of these countries and the European Union would make the proposals for capital subscription up to the amount it considered within the threshold of 500 million euros.

• A third group of share capital worth 250 million euros would be open to private investors from any country in the world.

Naturally, BIFEL would produce dividends from its borrowing activities in order to compensate its shareholders and would only finance projects in countries subscribing to share capital.

Organic structure of BIFEL

The bank’s structure would be based on three type bodies.

The direction would be ensured by a Board of Directors with a five-year term composed of 7 members, 4 appointed by the Member States, 2 by the Associate Observers and 1 by the Private Investors, the Chairman of the Board being appointed under the prerogative of the Member States, while acting as Vice -Presidents, there would be an element designated by the associated observers and another by the private investors.

The supervision would be incumbent upon a Supervisory Board composed of 5 members, 3 of which were chosen by the Courts of Auditors of the Member States on a rotating basis for three-year terms. Another member would be appointed by the Courts of Auditors of the associated observer countries in the same rotating scheme and finally the fifth member would belong to an international auditor of global reputation, resulting from the co-option of the remaining four members. Finally, there would be a General Assembly where each representative would act according to their share capital.

This structure would allow, on the one hand, the representation of States and shareholders, but would also BIFEL effectively independent corporate body with fiduciary duties and economic efficiency in relation to its shareholders and taxpayers of each State, given the diversity of its organic structure.

The head office would be established in CPLP’s most important financial market, according to the volume of business, with two operational sub-headquarters in the subsequent relevant financial centers.

Conclusion

This could be the outline of a financial  institution dedicated to the PALOPs, combining the advantages of public and private ownership at the same time, deriving from various sources of financing, allowing for a better integration of Portuguese-speaking markets, making each country grow and improve the living conditions of Portuguese-speaking populations, in the end, the ultimate goal of this initiative.


[1] https://www.jornaldeangola.ao/ao/noticias/angola-propoe-criacao-de-banco-de-investimento/

[2] https://www.jornaldenegocios.pt/economia/detalhe/banco-de-investimentos-da-cplp-pode-ter-virtualidades-diz-marcelo

[3] https://visao.sapo.pt/atualidade/mundo/2021-07-20-cplp-economista-angolano-diz-que-banco-de-investimentos-nao-tem-pernas-para-andar/

[4] About the concept as it is being developed in the UK, see: https://www.centreforcities.org/levelling-up/

The importance of the new article 37, paragraphs 4 and 5 of the Angolan Constitution: Non-conviction-based (NCB) asset forfeiture

1Introduction. The Angolan constitutional review, the limits to the right to property and the fight against corruption

One of the main themes of the Angolan constitutional review underway was the delimitation of the right to property, a issue that has become controversial in light of the developments in the processes of combating corruption.

Recently, as an example, we listed the following concrete measures that in some way put the property right of private entities in question. Regarding the “freezing” of assets, assets of Manuel Vicente and Generals Dino and Kopelipa, Jaoquim Sebastião, Manuel Rabelais, among others, were seized or handed over. About Generals Dino and Kopelipa, it is noted that, as representatives of the companies China International Fund Angola — CIF and Cochan, SA, they handed over the shares they held in the company Biocom-Companhia de Bionergia de Angoala, Lda., in the network from Kero Supermarkets and at Damer Gráficas-Sociedade Industrial de Artes Gráficas SA. In relation to Manuel Vicente, the President of the Republic determined the nationalization of 60% of the shareholdings of the commercial company Miramar Empreendimentos, SA”, which covers “43% of the shares belonging to Sociedade Suninvest — Investimentos, Participações e Empreendimentos, SA” and “17% of shares owned by Sommis, SGPS. These shares will belong to Manuel Vicente. Obviously, it is also worth mentioning the restraint of assets referring to Isabel dos Santos and her associates in civil proceedings in Luanda and in criminal proceedings in Lisbon, in addition to the nationalization of Efacec in Portugal[1].

The legal formulas for the seizure of assets were diverse, generally provisional, although in some cases definitive and with the apparent acquiescence of the interested parties. Here the exception is Efacec, whose nationalization in Portugal was equally definitive, but without agreement from the interested party, Isabel dos Santos.

In one way or another, in Angola the procedures have become somewhat confusing, not realizing exactly the global legal effect of the voluntary delivery of goods and its legal stability, and in cases of provisionally seizure, problems arise in the management and maintenance of assets. It is also essential not to let these temporary situations prolong for too long, especially when the fundamental interests of the economy are at stake or jobs at risk.

In view of these events, a clear definition of the constitutional and legal regime for public seizures in Angola became urgent, to provide legal and economic security to the several movements for the recovery of assets described and in progress. This is the meaning of the text that eventually emerged in the constitutional review and that we are going to describe, adding the legal possibilities that this new text opens in terms of legislation with a view to making the asset recovery process faster, more understandable and solid.

2-Article 37 of the Angolan Constitution (ARC)

The 2010 version of the ARC, still in force, guaranteed the property right and defined the conditions for requisition and expropriation in its article 37.º. There, it was established in nº. 1 that: “Everyone is guaranteed the right to private property and its transmission, under the terms of the Constitution and the law.”. Nº. 2 stated that “The State respects and protects the property and other real rights of individuals, legal entities and local communities, only temporary civil requisition and expropriation for public utility being allowed, upon fair and prompt compensation, in the terms of the Constitution and the law.” And number 3 tightened the loop, demanding that “The payment of the compensation referred to in the previous number is a condition of effective expropriation.”

This was an article clearly framed in a liberal and absolute vision of property, not even foreseeing the possibility of nationalization or confiscation, admitting only the expropriation for public utility subject to the payment of compensation, to be effective. On paper, it would be difficult to have a more absolute guarantee of the right to property, and so the current activities of Angola’s National Asset Recovery Service (ANARS) could often touch the constitutional margins, with many of the seizures carried out lacking constitutional validity. Naturally, this fact must have been alerted to the President of the Republic, who took charge in his proposal for a constitutional review to remedy this grey area that was being created by the action of the ANARS. Thus, the President proposed the addition to article 37 of the Constitution of paragraph 4, which would have the following wording:

4. A specific law defines the conditions under which the nationalization of private assets may occur for ponderous reasons of national interest and confiscation for serious offense against laws that protect the economic interests of the State.

This version expressly established the possibility of nationalization or confiscation when there were fundamental reasons for this to happen. It would be up to the law to define the reasons. Thus, the constitutional regularity of asset recovery activities that had previously raised doubts was enshrined.

However, several Angolan jurists raised the problem that this presidential formulation could frighten potential foreign (and national) investors, so necessary for economic recovery by allowing a broad and indeterminate basis for proceeding with the nationalization and confiscation of assets. This possibility would be overstated and without adequate safeguards. That must have been why article 37, after analysis and deliberation in the National Assembly (NA), ended up with two more numbers, the 4th and 5th. Thus, the following wording was defined:

Article 37

(Right and limits of private property)

1. […].

2. […].

3. […].

4. Movable and immovable goods and shareholdings of private individual and corporate persons, in whole or in part, may be subject to public appropriation, when, for reasons of national interest, national security, food safety, public health, the economic and financial system, the supply of goods or the provision of essential services are at stake.

5. Proper law regulates the regime of public appropriation, under the terms of the previous number.

We are not going to enter into a doctrinal discussion about what is meant by “movable and immovable goods and shareholdings” and whether all the possible assets are included, although a clearer formulation that would not raise any kind of doubts would have been better.

What is clear from this article is that there may be public appropriation, ie, a “situation that (…) allows an action on the ownership of the means of production, which will lead to a coercive transfer of these goods to the public sector[2]” and that this appropriation must be justified by reasons of national interest, which the Constitution exemplifies as national security, food security, public health, economic and financial system, supply of goods or provision of essential services. Note that these are mere illustrations that the constitutional norm gives us. In fact, any motive in the national interest will be grounds for public appropriation. From the entry into force of this text, there will be, without any doubt, a general constitutional framework for asset recovery. Let’s see in what terms and what perspectives unfold.

3-The concept of public appropriation

In the absence of any other reference, it seems that the Angolan legislator was inspired by article 83 of the Portuguese Constitution (PC) to introduce the concept of public appropriation instead of nationalization and confiscation. Article 83 of the PC states: “The law determines the means and forms of intervention and public appropriation of the means of production, as well as the criteria for setting the corresponding compensation.”

From the outset, a clear difference between the Angolan and Portuguese norms regarding public appropriation can be seen. In Portugal, any form of public appropriation implies compensation, This is not the case in Angola.

We will detail the regime that appears to be established in the ARC, after the review. Public appropriation will be any coercive transfer of ownership of a good or private participation to the sphere of the State. Public appropriation encompasses nationalization, confiscation, expropriation and all other possibilities of empowerment. In the specific case of expropriation for public utility, the Constitution requires that compensation be made. In other cases, there is no such constitutional requirement. That is, for reasons of national interest the State can withdraw a property from the private sphere without compensation. The fact that the ARC admits this possibility should oblige the ordinary legislator to quickly draw up a law on the basis of public appropriation to guarantee the legal certainty of these situations, as far as possible.

4- The constitutionalization of non-conviction-based (NCB) asset forfeiture

Non-conviction-based (NCB) asset forfeiture is a critical tool for recovering assets arising from corruption when a criminal conviction is not possible[3]. Examples are when the offender has died, has fled jurisdiction, is immune from prosecution or the criminal process is anticipated to be too long rendering it ineffective. The United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) and the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) support its use.

The confiscation of NCB assets is a critical tool to recover the proceeds and instruments of corruption. It is a legal mechanism that provides for the containment, seizure and confiscation of embezzled assets without the need for criminal conviction. A growing number of jurisdictions have established NCB asset forfeiture regimes and such regimes have been recommended at the regional and multilateral level by a number of organizations, notably the World Bank through the StAR Initiative and the aforementioned FATF.

Globally, there are two types of confiscation used to recover illicitly obtained assets: NCB asset confiscation and criminal confiscation. Where criminal asset forfeiture and the NCB differ is in the procedure used to confiscate assets. The main distinction between the two is that criminal confiscation requires a criminal trial and conviction, while confiscation of NCB assets does not. In fact, it can be done through a quick civil or even administrative procedure. This is the possibility that the review of the Constitution has just admitted.

5-Conclusions. Non-conviction-based (NCB) asset forfeiture and the need for a basic law

What is essential from this constitutional modification provided for in article 37 of the ARC is the opening of dynamic possibilities for the implementation in civil or administrative proceedings of the confiscation of assets obtained illegally without the need for criminal proceedings and without compensation, therefore, we have here a large and positive step in the fight against corruption.

However, the constitutional provision immediately requires, for reasons of legal security and guarantee of the right to property, the approval of a basic law on the public appropriation of assets, specifically containing specific provisions on confiscation without criminal conviction. Consequently, after the constitutional review comes into force, it will be time for a basic law on confiscation of assets without criminal conviction and compensation.


[1] https://www.cedesa.pt/2021/05/13/radiografia-do-combate-a-corrupcao-em-angola/

[2] DIOGO SARAMAGO FERREIRA, A nacionalização do Banco Português de Negócios – Análise da Lei n.° 62-A/2008, de 11 de Novembro, Revista de Direito das Sociedades, 2011-1 (169-186), 176

[3] Theodore S. Greenberg, Linda M. Samuel, Wingate Grant, Larissa Gray (2009), Stolen Asset Recovery A Good Practices Guide for Non-Conviction Based Asset Forfeiture, The World Bank, Washington DC.

https://star.worldbank.org/sites/star/files/Non%20Conviction%20Based%20Asset%20Forfeiture.pdf

Angola wants new direction for CPLP

The Community of Portuguese Language Countries (CPLP), whose rotating presidency will be assumed by Angola until 2023, has so far been a mix of an imperial farewell, like its British counterpart Commonwealth, and a club of sympathies and photographic opportunities, not showing being a structure capable of leveraging the political or economic progress of its members.

The current intention of Angola and of the presidency that is starting now seems to be to change this apparent lethargy and to endow the CPLP with instruments, or at least concrete and practical goals, that promote the interest and prosperity of the countries that belong to it.

In this sense, there is a clear commitment to making the CPLP an economic organization that promotes economic and financial collaboration among its several members, possibly creating in the future an integrated market or at least a tax-free free trade area between members.

This strand (free trade area) will likely be added with some structuring funds that allow the richest CPLP countries to support development or create strategic partnerships with the poorest countries in the community. It must not be forgotten that within the CPLP there are oil powers such as Brazil, Angola, Equatorial Guinea and even Timor-Leste, there is a member of the European Union, such as Portugal, there is enormous potential population and natural resources. So, it is normal that economic integration and strategic financial cooperation between the CPLP countries are promoted and reinforced.

Thus, Angola will certainly bet on emphasizing the economic dimension of the CPLP, pointing out goals linked to a free market with reinforcement of economic cohesion and strategic partnership among its members.

A second point is linked to the free mobility of people. Once the Covid-19 crisis is overcome, it makes perfect sense beginning to deepen in practice a project for the free movement of people residing in the CPLP. Obviously, this project has to be combined with the free movement that already exists in Portugal in relation to the European Union, as well as greater economic integration, and also dispelling fears of intercontinental demographic pressures. However, it will be the most practical and tangible example that the CPLP is an organization with a future and that it says something to the population.

Do not doubt that at a time when peoples yearn for the improvement of living conditions, any organization only has a future if it embraces these aspirations, which are reflected in the goals we have stated:

 i) free market in CPLP,

ii) cooperation for economic cohesion and

iii) population mobility.

These will be the pillars that will allow the CPLP development beyond its post-imperial imagination and that seem to guide the Angolan policy for its CPLP presidency, as is clear from our reading of the notes released by Angola regarding the XIII Conference that Luanda will host under the motto “Building and Strengthening a Common and Sustainable Future”, having significantly scheduled for 15 July, a Round Table on Economic and Business Cooperation, in a hybrid format (face-to-face and virtual meeting).

Angola seems to bet on a CPLP that goes beyond post-imperial nostalgia and that stands as an engine of economic growth and improvement in the quality of life of populations belonging to the Community.

Sonangol. Oil or energy company?

1- Introduction. Sonangol’s privatization and the oil market

On June 15, 2021, at 16.00, the sale price of Brent oil (which serves as a reference for Angola) was USD 73, 45[1] . A month and a half ago, the price was around USD 66.00, and in recent times there has been a sustained rise in the price, as we had predicted in a previous report[2]. If we notice, when we made this forecast (June 2020), the price of oil was situated at USD 36.6. In practice, in one year the price doubled.

However, the government has put forward more details on Sonangol’s partial privatization. The Minister of Mineral Resources, Oil and Gas, Diamantino Azevedo, repeated[3] his promise to approve the schedule for the sale of 30% of Sonangol’s capital on the stock exchange during the current presidential term, explaining that it will be a staggered process, and that there will be several available tranches: “stocks for Sonangol workers, stocks for Angolans who are interested and for strategic partners who later want to become partners”, a model that we defend in due course[4].

A third element to consider when analyzing Sonangol’s is the energy transition. In the United States and Western Europe, at least, this has become something of a recurring mantra forcing oil companies to modify their strategies so that they are less dependent on oil and contribute to a “green” economy. Sonangol finds itself at this crossroads between the need to recover its old aura, to be privatized, but not just relying on oil.

This report will analyze the possible solutions that the Angolan oil company has and point out some strategic paths.

2-The two determining forces in Sonangol’s strategy

There are two somewhat opposing forces regarding the strategy Sonangol may adopt in the future.

The first force “glues” the company to the oil price and aims to keep it as an oil company. In this view, what Sonangol must do is focus on its “core business” – oil – and then become efficient. Therefore, in this context, Sonangol’s restructuring is focused on achieving profits in the oil business, making profitable investments in the area and increasing as much as possible, at the lowest cost, in oil production. The essential measures taken by the current government with a view to reorganizing the company are in this direction. As Minister Azevedo said: “The first measure we took was to free (Sonangol) from the concessionary function, which could create conflicts of interest. We could not take a company with a concessionary, regulatory and business function to the stock exchange”, and another measure was create an “attractive” company that “encourages investment”, which involved reducing the number of subsidiaries and selling non-nuclear oil companies[5].

The other, somewhat opposite force is the energy transition (the green economy). Here it is argued that Sonangol should not be overly dependent on oil, and that Sonangol should become, as happens with other companies, for example, BP, Aramco or Galp, a global energy company and not an oil company. To this is added the potential of non-oil natural energy resources that the country has, such as sun, water, etc.

3-China, India and the OPEC gap

Contrary to what one might think in a Eurocentric analysis, the answer to Sonangol’s future characterization is not obvious. Much depends on the markets to which Sonangol wanted to allocate its production and on the country’s development needs. If you look at it, the recent rise in the price of oil was essentially “pulled” by China’s renewed oil appetite. According to the Bloomberg[6] financial agency, it was the strong demand for gasoline in China that boosted the need for crude oil. The truth is that China is among the biggest drivers of fluctuations in oil prices and China has been buying oil like there is no tomorrow, as a result, prices have gone up. The question is whether China will continue to drive this rise in the medium term in a way that allows for a sustainable oil strategy in relation to Sonangol.

There are two broad lines to consider in trying to anticipate China’s future behavior. The first is its economic level, while the second is its commitment to the energy transition.

China is not yet at an economic level that corresponds to a rich and developed country. According to data from the World Bank, in 2019, the Chinese GDP per capita is in the order of USD 10,000. For comparison, Portugal, one of the poorest of the rich countries, has a GDP per capita on the same date of USD 23,000 and the United States is at USD 65,000[7]. Countries with GDP per capita identical to the Chinese are Argentina, Lebanon, Bulgaria, Kazakhstan, Turkey or Equatorial Guinea. It is easy to see that China still has a long way to go and will need a lot of energy, especially oil.

China’s oil demand has nearly tripled over the past two decades, accounting on average for a third of global oil demand growth each year. From what we have just exposed, China will continue to lead the demand for oil in the coming decades. However, the pace of the country’s oil consumption will not grow as fast, although it will continue to grow. Over the past two decades, China’s oil consumption has grown by more than 9 million barrels per day (mb / d) from 4.7 mb / d in 2000 to 14.1 mb / d in 2019. China’s oil use should continue to grow, albeit at a slower pace, as China is also investing heavily in renewable energy.

China is the world leader in electricity production from renewable energy sources, with more than twice the generation of the second country, the United States. At the end of 2019, the country had a total capacity of 790 GW of renewable energy, mainly hydroelectric, solar and wind power. China’s renewable energy sector is growing faster than that of fossil fuels, as is its nuclear power capacity. China has pledged to achieve carbon neutrality before 2060 and peak emissions before 2030. By 2030, China aims to reduce carbon dioxide emissions per unit of GDP by more than 65% from the level of 2005, increase the share of non-fossil energy in primary energy use to about 25 percent, and bring the total installed capacity of wind and solar electricity to over 1200 GW. Furthermore, China sees renewable energies as a source of energy security and not just a means of reducing carbon emissions[8][9].

In India, another of the world’s great countries in a process of growth, the situation is as follows: trade relations between Angola and India amount to US$4 billion, of which US$3.7 million correspond to exports from Angola to the Asian country, being 90% related to oil. Angola is currently the third most important African exporter to India, when in 2005 it was not relevant. In 2017, the Ambassador of India issued a statement in which he highlighted: “Trade between Angola and India increased by 100% in 2017.” The thing to remember is that India is becoming a significant partner of Angola through its oil needs.

In terms of GDP per capita, India in 2019 was around USD 2000.00. It is easy to see that the growth that India expects is enormous, even if it does not have China’s ambitions of world leadership, just to reach its current level, it has to multiply its GDP by five. Obviously, this implies a growing need for oil. India was the world’s third largest crude oil importer in 2018, and has an estimated oil import dependency of 82%. India’s economic growth is closely related to its demand for energy, so the need for oil and gas is expected to grow even further, making the sector very investment-friendly. At the same time, India is one of the countries with a large production of energy from renewable sources. As of November 27, 2020, 38% of India’s installed electricity generation capacity came from renewable sources. In the Paris Agreement, India committed to a target of achieving 40% of its total electricity generation from non-fossil fuel sources by 2030. The country is aiming for an even more ambitious target of 57% of total electricity capacity from renewable sources by 2027.

Official data indicate that Angola’s oil production reached, in May 2021, only 34 million 887 thousand 890 barrels, less about one million compared to April. In that month, a daily average of one million 125 thousand 416 barrels of oil was obtained, when the forecast was one million 184 thousand 813. This means that Angola is below the target set by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). ), which was 1 million 283 thousand barrels per day, in May, with subsequent increases.

4- Conclusion: Sonangol’s challenges

Considering all of the above, it is evident, first of all, that there is a large margin for Sonangol to continue to focus on oil, either because not even the quotas defined by OPEC for Angola are met, ie, Angola is producing less than it should in a tight market situation, either because the large potential oil futures markets such as China and India will need plentiful oil shipments.

To that extent, Sonangol should not make the mistake – as some oil companies are doing – of underestimating the potential for growth in the oil market. In the Western world with mature economies, the demand for oil may not feel as strong as in the past, but in fast-growing economies, more oil will be needed, albeit often not as exponentially as before.

There is space and market for Sonangol, as an oil company, to grow. Therefore, Sonangol’s ongoing strategic structuring should focus on producing more oil more efficiently, both in terms of costs and in terms of the environment.

However, this model focused on oil efficiency has to be matched with the enormous potential that is opening up in renewable energies and the company has to take advantage of energy synergies, as many of its counterparts are doing and also China and India.

At the present time, when the intention is to privatize Sonangol from a global perspective, it seems sensible to commit Sonangol to tasks in the area of ​​renewable energies. In fact, to be an attractive company for the international stock market, Sonangol must present itself as adopting the latest trends in oil companies, i.e., also following the needs of the energy transition.

Not abandoning or belittling oil, Sonangol must boldly explore the combined possibilities brought by renewable energies.

This exploration of renewable energies by Sonangol should not start from scratch, but rather seek some sustainability and economies of scale. One hypothesis, which we have already touched upon in a previous report[10], would be a strategic partnership with Galp for this purpose. As is known, Galp accelerated its energy transition process.

As this hypothesis was not adopted, Sonangol should review the rationality of its permanence at Galp. In fact, at this moment, the Angolan position in Galp is “sandwiched” between Isabel dos Santos and the Amorim family, corresponding to a mere financial investment. This doesn’t make much sense anymore. Either Galp becomes a strategic partner for Sonangol’s energy transition, or a position review becomes required.

The alternative would be for Sonangol to acquire a company that is minimally established in the field and develop its activities based on this new platform. At this time, partnerships have already been announced with ENI and TOTAL to develop projects in renewable energy that will be operational in 2022. Perhaps a strategic focus in this area is more interesting, which would translate into an internal commitment by Sonangol and, as mentioned above, it would go through the purchase or merger with a company operating in the renewable energy sector, to provide initial support for Sonangol.

In short, Sonangol must become a bi-focused company: on oil and renewable energies.


[1] https://www.ifcmarkets.com/pt/market-data/commodities-prices/brent

[2] https://www.cedesa.pt/2020/06/03/angola-petroleo-e-divida-oportunidades-renovadas-2/

[3] https://www.dw.com/pt-002/governo-angolano-admite-privatiza%C3%A7%C3%A3o-gradual-de-30-da-sonangol/a-57879593

[4] https://www.cedesa.pt/2020/01/29/um-modelo-de-privatizacao-da-sonangol/

[5] Idem note 3

[6] https://oilprice.com/Latest-Energy-News/World-News/Chinese-Gasoline-Demand-Is-Driving-Oil-Prices-Higher.html

[7] https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GDP.PCAP.CD?locations=US

8 Cfr. https://www.oxfordenergy.org/publications/chinas-oil-demand-in-the-wake-of-covid-19/ and

[9] Deng, Haifeng and Farah, Paolo Davide and Wang, Anna, China’s Role and Contribution in the Global Governance of Climate Change: Institutional Adjustments for Carbon Tax Introduction, Collection and Management in China (24 November 2015). Journal of World Energy Law and Business, Oxford University Press, Volume 8, Issue 6, December 2015.

[10] https://www.cedesa.pt/2021/02/10/sonangol-galp-que-futuro-conjunto/

The realignments of Angola foreign policy

1-Introduction. Angola’s geopolitical repositioning

At the moment, when we finish this report, the President of the Republic of Angola is in Paris with the President of the French Republic. This meeting represents one of the points in the ongoing realignment of Angola’s foreign policy. One has only to remember that in the last days of José Eduardo dos Santos, the French were “punished” due to their role in Angolagate.

Angola is not an indifferent country. It has played a geopolitically relevant role throughout its short but intense history after independence. First, it was one of the violent stages of the Cold War, where Americans and Soviets clashed with the virulence that they could not adopt in other geographic locations. Angola ended up being a Soviet bastion of great nomination, where they in reality won when in confrontation with the United States. After the Soviet phase, Angola was once again innovative and became the first African country to receive the new China that opened up to the world and sought in Africa a continent for its expansion and testing of its ideas. Angola has become a partner par excellence of China.

Obviously, this being a simplification, from the point of view of the major trends, the geopolitical position of Angola started to be aligned with the Soviet Union and after its fall, with China. Not being a country that is enraged anti-Western, very far from that, because Angola has a profound influence of European culture, the country has anchored itself in other places over time.

For several reasons, at this moment, Angola is rehearsing a different geopolitical approach that tends to devalue the role of both Russia and China, and to find new references and political dialogues. This text will focus on this devaluation, the new vectors that influence the Angolan repositioning, the countries that will now play a more relevant role in Angola’s external concerns, in addition to a short note on Portugal. Angola’s influence in southern Africa and its stabilizing role in Congos will not be addressed.

2-The decline of the Angolan relationship with Russia and China

The decline in the Soviet (now Russian) relationship with Angola is easy to describe. The Soviet Union’s commitment to Angola was part of a long-term strategy for the involvement of the North Atlantic through the countries of the South. The incursion into Africa that was accelerated by the “loss” of influence in the Middle East in the 1970s due to the cut promoted by Sadat from Egypt and by the Kissinger’s full exploitation. Suddenly, the Soviet Union found itself without one of the main supports it had in the Middle East and from where it hoped to condition the Americans. What is certain is that this situation led to a deepening of several alternatives, among which Angola later stood out. Naturally, the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the end of the Cold War, with the consequent disintegration of the Soviet Union, meant that Russian interest in Africa waned considerably. The Russia that emerged after Gorbachev’s collapse was no longer interested in any global competition with the United States, but in its survival and transformation. He quickly lost interest in Angola.

It is true that at the present time, Putin has recovered some of the imperial dynamics and is looking for some influence in Africa, but it is still of short reach and has resulted in the sending of mercenaries from the Wagner group, which have had little efficiency, namely in Mozambique. In Angola, there is no significant behaviour by Russia, especially as an essential and determining partner. There are obviously contacts and relationships. There is a lot of talk about the Russian influence on Isabel dos Santos, who might be a citizen of that country, but the fact is that there are no visible Russian investments or ties with Luanda with obvious relevance. In 2019, Russian investments in Angola of 9 billion euros were announced, but there is no known sequence of that. In addition, Angola’s external public debt to Russia is zero according to data from the National Bank of Angola (BNA), having been fully settled by 2019.

It is more difficult to wind up the declining relationship with China. In fact, Chinese investment in Angola has been growing, at least until 2020, and the Angolan external public debt vis-à-vis China in 2020 represented US $ 22 billion, equivalent to more than 40% of the total. The Chinese implantation in Angola is profound, suffice to mention in sociological terms the relevance of the City of China.

However, there is evidence that the Chinese preference is decreasing, or at least, being mitigated. The first indication refers to the negotiations for a new loan that took João Lourenço to China at the beginning of his term. The first information for the press reported large amounts to be made available by China, of around 11 billion dollars. The reality is that there were several procrastinations on that loan, which apparently ended up involving a reduced amount of US $ 2 billion that might have suited to make payments of Angolan debt to Chinese companies.

What is certain is that if we observe the evolution of the Angolan public external debt to China, we will see that there was a remarkable leap between 2015 and 2016, from about US $ 11.7 billion to US $ 21.6 billion, which the debt reached the peak in 2017, 23 billion dollars and that since then has been decreasing with a significant cadence. It seems that China does not want to be involved with Angola any more, preferring to go on managing the current involvement.

If on the part of China it is possible to glimpse some recalcitrance in the relationship with Angola, on the Angolan side there are also obstacles. The first of them is the nature of the Angolan debt to China. Many claim that a good part of this debt is what is called “odious debt”, that is, it served to benefit corrupt private interests and not the country’s development. There is the impression that the opacity with which doing business with China has allowed the creation of situations of corruption that are too evident and harmful to the country. Thus, China’s debt is partly seen as a debt of corruption. In addition, quality problems have arisen in some Chinese buildings in Angola financed by Chinese debt. It is not clear whether this lack of quality is due to any Chinese negligence or objectionable behaviour on the part of Angolan officials, but it is certain that the image persists.

This means that since China is still a key partner for Angola, it is currently in a kind of reassessment phase. It is necessary to resolve the problem of the debt of the past linked to corruption, of the way of contracting too opaque on the part of China and also issues related to quality. It is a demanding task, but required to reactivate the Chinese and Angolan common interest.

If the relationship with Russia does not have the relevance of the past and with China is in a phase of reevaluation and reconditioning, it is clear that Angola, above all, given the changes as it passes, will have to actively seek new partners.

3-The new vectors of Angolan action: goals and countries

The Angolan relationship with Russia and China concurred with the need to assert its own sovereignty, independent of external interference, and also to obtain funds for war and post-war reconstruction. João Lourenço’s current foreign policy is placed at a slightly different level, in which it is important to gather external support for the two major reforms that are being carried out internally: economic reform and the fight against corruption. Both reforms need external collaboration, without which they may not survive.

Economic reform is based on the so-called Washington consensus proposed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), although international intellectuals and bureaucrats have already abandoned this designation and refuse it. Even so, it implies the adoption of policies to raise taxes and restrict expenditure with the respective fiscal consolidation. Naturally, this type of policy is recessive, in the short term, it increases the economic crisis in Angola. The great way to overcome this effect is to obtain foreign investment and a lot. In fact, says the theory followed, that with these disciplinary reforms of the IMF, foreign investors start to trust the governments that follow them and feel safe to invest. In short, foreign investment is the necessary counterweight to the IMF reforms and the key to their success. Consequently, it is not surprising that one of the main vectors of Angolan foreign policy is the approach to countries with a remarkable reproductive investment capacity and with proven evidence.

In what concerns the fight against corruption, the panorama that is presented is that, in general, it is the countries with the potential to invest in Angola, those in which judicial collaboration is required to recover assets or trace illegal financial movements. The Angolan oligarchies that diverted public funds sent them to the most advanced countries or those with the greatest financial potential.

Therefore, there is a group of countries that currently are of great interest to Angola: they are those with an efficient investment capacity and with a financial system through which many of the illicit movements of Angolan funds have passed, as well as where assets bought, possibly with these funds. At the moment, neither China nor Russia are countries where more investment is expected, nor were the places chosen, apparently, to park illicit goods or assets. Or if they were, there is no knowledge of what is going on there and it is sheltered.

It is in this context that a number of countries have assumed relevance. A first group is the Western Europe countries that have stood out in visits and announcements of investments in Angola. At the beginning of April 2021, the Prime Minister of Spain, Pedro Sanchez, paid a visit to Angola. This visit was accompanied by a great Spanish commitment, affirming Angola as one of Spain’s preferred partners in Africa, and this as a great Spanish bet. It was announced that Angola was the “prow” of a project in Madrid that he called “Focus Africa 2023.” Last year, it was the turn of German Chancellor Angela Merkel to visit Angola within the framework of an Angola-Germany Economic Forum and more broadly of a German Marshall Plan for Africa. Also, President Macron announced a visit to Angola, which has been postponed due to Covid-19. In turn, the Italian President had already visited Angola in 2019. In relation to the United Kingdom, there have been no visits of such high level, but some interest in Angola is beginning to be noticed due to the impositions of Brexit, which they demand new markets for the UK, although there is a huge lack of knowledge.

Visits have followed several promises of investment from Western Europe. The Italian oil company (ENI) plans to invest seven billion dollars (5.9 billion euros) over the next four years in research, production, refining and solar energy, it announced in early April 2021. Before, British businessmen said they intend to invest around US $ 20 billion in Angola. Germany and France also have several projects underway.

This axis of Western Europe has become vital in Angolan foreign policy, as these countries need new markets and investments, to get out of excessive dependence on China, and in the British case, also to look for post-Brexit alternatives, and being mature markets, they have to find out where the youth and the future is, and that is in Africa.

With João Lourenço able to convey the image that governs a competent government and with stable macroeconomic rules and turned to the free market, Spanish, French, British, Italian or German investors will feel safe to invest. At the same time, many of the fortunes out of Angola lay there, so there will be an opportunity to create mechanisms for their recovery or redirection.

It should be noted that, contrary to what one might think, this Westernization of Lourenço’s foreign policy does not pass through Portugal, but indicates a direct approach between European countries and Angola and vice versa.

To this Western European axis it is necessary to add another one, the Gulf axis. The Gulf countries, in which the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia stand out. These countries, previously dependent on oil, have entered into a diversification policy. Dubai for some years now and with tremendous success. Saudi Arabia is still taking its first steps, with the so-called Vision 2030, but what is certain is that they want to invest outside their traditional scope and find new markets. In fact, Dubai already has several investments in Luanda and one of its companies has now taken over the Port of Luanda and in Saudi Arabia, Luanda has now opened an Embassy, ​​which reveals its interest in the kingdom. On the other hand, we know, Dubai is a quite important international financial center and where several Angolan financial movements have gone through, as well as being used in tax evasion schemes in the diamond trade. Allegedly, contrary to what has been its practice, Dubai will be collaborating with requests for Angolan legal aid, representing a typical example of the new geopolitical axis that we are describing, countries with potential for investment and judicial collaboration in the fight against corruption.

In summary, we conclude that a new Angolan geopolitical approach focuses on the countries of Western Europe and the Persian Gulf. But it doesn’t stop there.

4-India’s potential

The amount of trade between Sub-Saharan Africa and India has grown steadily, and today India is a key trading partner for Africa. With regard to Angola, the country is today the third most important exporter in sub-Saharan Africa to India, when in 2005 it was irrelevant. In 2017, the Ambassador of India issued a statement in which he highlighted: “Trade between Angola and India increased 100% to US $ 4.5 billion in 2017, (…) At the end of July, outside the 10th BRICS summit , in Johannesburg, the President of Angola, João Lourenço, met with the Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, and the two reaffirmed the need to increase trade and cooperation in areas such as energy, agriculture, food and pharmaceutical processing. ” As India grows and becomes a very important player worldwide, it is normal for Angola to look at this country with a new vision. It is a millionaire market to which an immensity of Angolan exports can reach.

5- The United States of America. The ultimate prize

The relationship between Angola and the United States has been ambiguous. In fact, even in the days when the US administration supported Jonas Savimbi and UNITA, there was a relationship with Luanda linked to oil and the protection of American multinationals operating in territory dominated by the MPLA government.

Currently, the United States represents everything Angola wants, the country of the dollar with an enviable investment capacity and financial innovation, with a universalizing legal structure that allows it to use multiple legal instruments around the world to pursue the fortunes of corruption. It is also from the United States that Angola needs to raise the various “red flags” that were erected during the time of José Eduardo dos Santos and made Angolan financial life much more difficult. The United States is the key country for this new Angolan phase of foreign investment and fight against corruption, because from here the definitive stimulus for progress can come.

In a way, João Lourenço was unlucky to come across Trump when he needed the USA. It is known that Trump had no interest in Africa, that he only served for his wife to take a trip in colonial style attire. Worse would have been impossible. But American indifference does not have to be an obstacle to a greater Angolan commitment to relations with the superpower. In the early 1970s, Anwar Sadat from Egypt also decided that he wanted to get closer to the United States. These occupied with a thousand and one crises, among which Vietnam stood out, paid no attention to Sadat, who continued to follow his line, expelling Soviet advisers and starting a rapprochement with the Americans.

Historical comparisons and evolutions aside-Sadat ended up murdered for having signed a peace agreement with Israel on American auspices- what seems more logical for Angola at this stage is to accentuate a closer relationship with the United States, even if they are not attentive. And they won’t be, because between Covid-19, China and Russia, and multiple small internal crises have a lot to deal with. However, effective and real US support for the new Angolan policy is essential for the country to come out of the doldrums and no longer have external financial constraints, so a vigorous approach to the US administration would be advisable on the part of Angola, despite of the mutual distrust that exists.

6-Portugal is different

Regarding the visit of Pedro Sanchez, Spanish Prime Minister, Angola came up with some criticisms of the Portuguese government, accusing him of inaction and of being overtaken by Spain. This is nonsense. Not even Portugal can think of having a monopoly on relations with Angola, nor is there any danger in Portuguese-Angolan relations. Portugal is always a separate case, its influence comes less from the government and more from soft power, from the umbilical connection that remains between the peoples of both countries. Luanda continues to stop when Sporting wins the championship or Benfica have a very important game, the favorite destination of most Angolans is Portugal, easy personal relationships are established between Portuguese and Angolans. Portuguese businessmen always look to Angola as a possibility for expanding their business. The relations between Angola and Portugal have an underlying relationship between the peoples before the intervention of the governments.

At the official level, the Portuguese government is generally welcoming towards Angola. Around 2005, he welcomed the wishes of Angolan investment, currently he accepted the requests for judicial cooperation from Angola in relation to Isabel dos Santos, as it ended up sending Manuel Vicente’s case to Angola after great pressure from Luanda. Let’s say there is a manifest porosity of the Portuguese position, easily adapting to the positions and needs of Luanda. This position, combined with the interest of the Angolan elites in Portugal, has ended up consolidating a good relationship between the two countries, despite a bump or two. It is clear that after April 25, 1974, Portugal lost interest in Africa, making its accession to Europe and becoming a modern western country its number one priority. This project has been a little tangled since 2000, but it has not led Portugal to a revision of its European focus yet, it only forced it to take a longer look at Africa, after decades of disinterest. Perhaps there is a time when Portugal wants to focus its foreign policy on Portuguese-speaking countries, but this is not the time, as it is not for Angola, which wants to embrace other “voices”, such as the English-speaking and French-speaking countries, thus, the best that governments can to do is to make life as easy as possible for its population who wish to work in common and mutually support each other’s requests, but little else.

Conclusion

The summary of the new Angolan geopolitical position is that Angola is betting on vectors linked to foreign investment and fighting corruption, assuming relevance in foreign policy, partnerships with Western Europe, Spain, France, Italy, Germany, United Kingdom, with the Persian Gulf, Emirates and Dubai, and with India. At the same time, a strengthening of relations with the United States is anticipated. Portugal will always have a place apart.

Reference Bibliography:

-Banco Nacional de Angola-Statistics- www.bna.ao

-Douglas Wheeler and René Pélissier, História de Angola, 2011

-Ian Taylor, India’s rise in Africa, International Affairs, 2012

-José Milhazes, Angola – O Princípio do Fim da União Soviética, 2009

-Robert Cooper, The Ambassadors: Thinking about Diplomacy from Machiavelli to Modern Times, 2021

-Rui Verde, Angola at the Crossroads. Between Kleptocracy and Development, 2021

-Saudi Vision 2030- https://www.vision2030.gov.sa/en

-Tom Burgis, The Looting Machine. Warlords, Tycoons, Smugglers and the Systematic Theft of Africa’s Wealth, 2015.

-Public and informational facts taken from Lusa, DW, Jornal de Negócios, Jornal de Angola, Angonotícia and Novo Jornal.

Rule of Law and Corruption in Angola: for a mini-system of justice against corruption

1. Introduction. Fight against corruption in Angola. Goals and facts

Corruption has become such a widespread phenomenon in Angola that it has jeopardized the survival of the state itself and the country’s economic viability. The so-called fight against corruption is not a matter of the police and combating criminal activity. It is something much bigger and much more important. In fact, what is called corruption in Angola is a more widespread phenomenon of large-scale appropriation of national resources and “privatization of sovereignty”[1]. It consists of varied behaviors that fulfill various criminal types such as fraud, abuse of trust, embezzlement, tax fraud, money laundering, among others, and not just the crime of corruption. What this phenomenon entails is the capture of the State and the Economy by the corrupt forces and the use of their mechanisms of power for their own benefit. It is a systemic degradation of the country’s political and economic body. Ultimately, corruption in Angola prevents the functioning of political institutions and the economy in a free market environment[2].

We believe that it was the perception of the seriousness of corruption for the political and economic development of the country that led João Lourenço to determine as one of the fundamental goals of his presidential mandate the fight against it. It is not worth mentioning the numerous speeches and actions initiated on the topic, to confirm that the fight against corruption has effectively become an insurmountable point of the presidential mandate.

If this goal is clear and justified, the questions arise at the level of implementation. Some criticize what they call the selectivity of the cases taken to court, others the slowness and still others the trampling of legal forms.

We do not see that there is selectivity in the fight against corruption. Just observe the judgments that have taken place and we will see that the people who have been sentenced are different. We have in the case of “Thai fraud”, a former Director of the foreign investment office, Norberto Garcia and a former Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces, General Nunda. Both were acquitted and now occupy important positions, Garcia in the presidential office and Nunda as Ambassador in London. Then we have Augusto Tomás, former Minister of Transport, who was sentenced to effective imprisonment, José Filomeno dos Santos, son of the former President of the Republic, sentenced to five years in prison and awaiting the result of the appeal in freedom, just like Valter Filipe, former Governor of the National Bank of Angola. Finally, we recently had Manuel Rabelais sentenced to 14 years in prison. Rabelais was the strong man of social communication at the time of José Eduardo dos Santos. He also awaits the outcome of the appeal in freedom. It can be seen that they are not all, not even the majority, of the family of José Eduardo dos Santos, only one is a son; have different prison issues and different results. No selectivity is confirmed.

Different is the procedural slowness and some disruption with legal forms. Even recently, the Attorney General of the Republic in relation to the alleged case related to Isabel dos Santos, which will possibly be the most important and outstanding process in Angola, said that it was overdue because it was too complex[3]. And many other lawsuits drag on and raise legal doubts. Not going into details here, what is worth noting is, at this moment, (April 16, 2021), there is only one very relevant political process that has been res judicata and served time. The other two cases of very relevant people are on appeal, and nothing else has come to trial.

This scenario for a situation of extreme urgency like the one described above is very short. There is no doubt that the fight against corruption was an urgency and priority of the State and that it was assumed as such by the President, what is verified is that the judicial results are still limited. Our opinion is that this lack of results is a consequence of a good faith option of the political power that does not work. This option was to combat corruption with the normal and customary means existing in the Angolan judicial system. The use of the judicial system as it stands to fight corruption is not satisfactory. We will see the reason why such an option does not work and the alternatives.

2. The option to fight corruption within the pre-existing judicial system

When the political power chose the fight against corruption as its main goal, it decided to make this fight through the pre-existing judicial bodies and with the usual regular people. There was no organic or personnel renewal, just mere adjustments, the Vice-AGR moved up to AGR (Pesident), the Presidents of the Supreme Court and Constitutional Court switched positions and some slightly hasty laws on asset recovery were passed. So, few moves to launch the fight against corruption. This option must have corresponded to a formalistic opinion given by the most eminent Angolan jurists according to which, the fight against corruption should be carried out within the rule of law and with the existing legal means. Only in this way would the necessary rights of defense and credibility of the processes be guaranteed. And in the face of foreigners it could always be said that there would be no abuse on the part of the authorities as it was the installed judicial system that was operating within the usual regulations of the rule of law.

This legal normality seems correct, but in reality, it is what prevents a real, swift and effective fight against corruption. What we are watching is the machine and people who were captured in the past by corrupt interests to make this fight against corruption. For this reason, cases are physically lost in the courts, others turn into a mess, others come up with unacceptable decisions and others extend inexplicably. In fact, handing over the existing judicial structure the fight against corruption cases  turns out to be a mistake. If that structure was also corrupt, it cannot, for reasons of elementary logic, be judging corruption, the patronage relations of the past, the favors owed, the usual venality, are too strong, for suddenly a blanket of integrity to remove everything. What we have been seeing is that the judiciary system is unable to fight corruption. Lawsuits with beginning, middle and end are rare. It is as if there is a dysfunctionality between the intentions of the Executive Branch and the concretizations of the Judiciary Branch.

The reality is that we are asking for a structure that collaborated and benefited from the corruption that is now combating it; in the end, to turn against itself. Safeguarding, that in this structure there are agents of change, judges, prosecutors, police, employees, who must be praised for their hard work, the fact is that they are an exception – even if they are large – and do not prevent the judicial structure as a whole from being conservative and risk-averse to fighting yesterday’s allies.

To that extent, the fight against corruption may turn out to be inglorious and not work, given the various existing structural obstacles.

3. Historical examples of overcoming the atavistic magistrates

It is not the first time that magistrates, due to their conservatism and risk aversion, call into question the intentions of new regimes. There are impressive historical examples, which also contribute to solutions to this problem.

Briefly, we will refer to two situations.

The first to mention occurred after the French Revolution and the establishment of the legal regime that followed, namely at the level of administrative law. This right was considered key to the development of the new regime as it would regulate the activity of the new State and its relations with citizens. Being the revolutionary state and wanting to institute a regime based on new values ​​- Freedom, Equality and Fraternity – feared that the judges, belonging to the privileged classes and one of the pillars of the Ancien Régime, would prevent these demands and become insurmountable obstacles to the new measures. To remedy this danger as early as 1790, an August law would define a code of relations between the judiciary and the administration, prohibiting the courts from participating in the exercise of legislative and executive powers, in particular by preventing the ordinary judge from intervening in the activity of the administration . A year later, a new Penal Code provides for sanctions against judges who rule on the functioning of an administrative body. The logic that presided over administrative law after the French Revolution was a logic of tightness vis-à-vis the judiciary, for the Revolution to move forward, the judges had to be removed. This logic has evolved and has allowed the creation of a new judicial system, autonomous from the ordinary judicial system. Thus, alongside administrative laws, administrative courts and administrative judges emerged, a body foreign to previous judges[4].

Another situation in which there was a need to circumvent the conservatism of judges linked to an old regime, occurred in Austria, after the end of the First World War (1918). There, a Republic replaced the old Habsburg Empire, and a new class of judges was needed to enforce the new Republican values. It is in this context that the Constitutional Court and Hans Kelsen’s new conceptualization on the subject arises. A new court is set up with different judges.

This means that in several historical circumstances, when political power felt that judges and courts did not correspond to new times and values, it became necessary to create new parallel, complementary or supplementary judicial systems. It is a suggestion of this kind that is made in relation to the present time in Angola[5].

4. Rule of law for corruption

Many argue that in Angola there are already adequate mechanisms to fight corruption and that it is imperative to respect the rule of law, considering that this is represented by the systems and laws as they are at the moment. We cannot subscribe to this thesis for two reasons. The first is based on a theoretical point of view, while the second has an eminently practical character.

In theoretical terms, the rule of law is no more, nor less than respect for the law approved according to pre-established criteria, therefore, the opposite of arbitration. The rule of law implies that there is a law and that everyone respects it. Several legal thinkers add to this formal assumption, that the rule of law also contains a substantive element linked to equality – all are equal before the law, and to freedom – there is a presumption in favor of freedom in the implementation of legal norms. Others go even further by equating the rule of law with a range of fundamental rights and democratic principles[6]. We did not follow this last version, staying for the second. However, this is not important, it is important to note that the rule of law admits that there are specific rules for certain situations. A typical example is the constitutional rules for the State of Emergency (see Articles 58 and 204 of the Angolan Constitution), another example is the system of autonomous administrative law as it exists in France or Portugal. In Portugal, we have a very clear situation of a system completely separate from the ordinary judicial system, with its own laws, specific courts, judges with independent careers in what concerns administrative law, the right of state power and its relationship with citizens. Therefore, from a theoretical point of view and the rule of law, it is not difficult to design mini legal systems dedicated to certain matters.

If, from a theoretical point of view, there can be a different rule of law for issues of great economic and financial crime and state capture (alias corruption) with different rules from the normal rule of law, from a practical point of view it is clear that this is the only way they will be able to combat the corruption installed in the sovereign power of the State. Only by establishing a mini-system that is impervious to influence and with its own rules will this be feasible.

The truth is that each national legal system admits several subsystems according to the subjects or properties outlined. This does not violate any conception of the rule of law, on the contrary it creates rules and obligations for all, transparent and clear, in certain areas. In short, there will be a rule of law for normality and a rule of law for corruption.

5. The proposal: creation of the mini-anti-corruption judicial system

The proposal presented here is simple: to create an anti-corruption judicial mini-system from scratch, or more precisely a legal system relating to major crimes of an economic and financial nature and the capture of the State.

This legal system would operate independently of the other judicial bodies and would consist of four parts:

i) A special body with judicial powers for investigation and prosecution. This body would be a mix of judicial police and public prosecutors having powers to investigate, apprehend, search and detain, ask for international judicial cooperation and in the end make an indictment or file a major corruption case. It would only work in these cases and would be composed of a body of agents with focused and dedicated training.

ii) A system of courts dedicated to these crimes. For the judgment and appeal of cases of serious economic-financial crime and capture of the State, there would be a system of courts solely dedicated to this matter. This system of courts would imply a revision of the Constitution with regard to Article 176 nº3 and nº5. Jurisdiction should be allowed for major crimes of an economic and financial nature and also abolish the ban on courts with exclusive jurisdiction to judge certain types of offenses.

iii) An autonomous and dedicated body of judges would be another part of this mini-system against corruption. Certain judges would specialize in these matters who would fill the seats in the courts.

iv) Finally, this system should have a simplified procedural law drafted in the same way as the current American or French law that allows for quick and fair judgments.

Alternatively, and in case it is not intended to carry out a constitutional review on the subject, instead of creating a system of exclusive courts with its own judges, it could always establish specialized sections to fight corruption in the existing judicial courts. Courts in the provincial capitals or Luanda alone, as well as the Appeal and the Supreme Court, would have specialized sections for corruption. In this case, article 176 was respected when new courts were not created with exclusive powers to judge certain types of infraction, but at the same time we would have sections of ordinary courts or rooms dedicated to the topic. This is already constitutionally possible and the remaining proposed mini-system remained as described.


[1] The expression is characterized by Achille Mbembe, On the postcolony, 2001.

[2] On the impact of corruption in Angola see Rafael Marques, The space of freedom between corruption and justice, 2019, in MakaAngola (https://www.makaangola.org/2019/12/o-espaco-de-liberdade-entre -a-corrupcao-ea-justica /), Ricardo Soares de Oliveira, Magnificent and Beggar Land: Angola Since the Civil War, 2015 and Rui Verde, Angola at the Crossroads. Between Kleptocracy and Development, 2021.

[3] https://www.jornaldeangola.ao/ao/noticias/pgr-admite-complexidade-no-caso-isabel-dos-santos-2-2/ 

[4] Jean-Louis Mestre, « Administration, justice et droit administratif », Annales historiques de la Révolution française 328 | avril-juin 2002. http://journals.openedition.org/ahrf/608

[5] Sara Ligi, “Hans Kelsen and the Austrian Constitutional Court (1918-1929)”, June 2012, Co-herenci,a 9(16):273-295. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/262430581_Hans_Kelsen_and_the_Austrian_Constitutional_Court_1918-1929

[6] See a detailed analysis of the concepts of the rule of law and their historical and spatial differences in Rui Verde, Brexit. The triumph of chaos? 2019

The economic and financial sector in the Angolan constitutional review – In particular, the enshrining of the independence of the central bank

1. Introduction. Constitutional review in Angola

The present Angolan Constitution (CRA) dates from 2010 and has never been revised. Recently, President João Lourenço announced that he had taken the initiative to propose a constitutional revision.

A first comment that this action raises is that the Angolan president has a courageous policy facing the several challenges that have been placed on him: combating corruption, economic reform, quick reaction to Covid-19. At the moment, the fruits of this determined confrontation are not yet reaping, and there lies some paradox, a reformist president risks being submerged by his own reforms.

The present proposal for constitutional revision is minimalist, and so it was assumed by the government. In this sense, it risks creating expectations in the population that later will not be met. However, it represents a very important step in the discussion of the Angolan political model and the fact is that the constitutional discussion will be more important even though the effective changes that will eventually be inserted in the Constitution.

The purpose of this text is to highlight and analyze the main proposals for constitutional revision in the area of ​​economics and finance.

2. The proposed constitutional review law in the economic and financial area

The first proposed modification is found in article 14 of the CRA, which concerns private property. The expression “promotes[1]” is introduced, with the meaning of being a function of the State in addition to guaranteeing and protecting private property and free enterprise, also the promotion of private enterprise. Positive State behavior is introduced, that of promoting free private initiative.

Later on, a new number 4 is added to Article 37 that regulates the “Right and limits of private property”. This number establishes the possibility of nationalization in the case of “ponderous reasons of national interest”. It also introduces confiscation as a sanctioning measure, which is permitted when there is a serious offense against laws that protect the economic interests of the State.

Naturally, it is in the Title about the Economic, Financial and Tax Organization that some modifications in the economic area are added. Article 92 will contain new paragraphs 2 and 3. The new wording proposed for paragraph 2, aims to “clarify the scope and meaning of the principle of community property, as a type of property enshrined in Article 14 of the Constitution, which defines the nature of the economic system by calling the regulation of the exercise of this type of property the rules of customary law that do not contradict the economic system, the social market regime and the fundamental principles of the Constitution ”. Paragraph 3 establishes the legal existence of the unstructured sector of the economy, i.e., it refers to the informal economy, pointing to its progressive institutionalization.

Then we have article 100 on the National Bank of Angola (BNA). In paragraph 1 of this article, it is determined that the BNA will be the “central bank and issuer of the Republic of Angola” and will have as primary functions: to guarantee price stability in order to ensure the preservation of the value of the national currency and ensure the stability of the financial system. Therefore, the BNA’s functions are limited to combating inflation and the stability of the financial system.

Then, in paragraph 2, “the new legal nature of BNA is enshrined, as an independent administrative entity, with an eminently regulatory nature, and the content of the principle of independence of this type of entities is signaled”. “Transmission of recommendations or issuance of directives to the governing bodies of the BNA on its activity, structure, functioning, decision-making” is hereby prohibited on the priorities to be adopted in the pursuit of constitutional and legally defined attributions, by the Executive Branch or any other public entity.

Subsequent paragraphs of the same article state that: “The Governor of the National Bank of Angola is appointed by the President of the Republic, after hearing in the National Assembly’s Specialized Labor Committee.” And they stipulate a detailed procedure for that appointment. There is a duty of parliamentary hearing, but the final decision rests with the President of the Republic.

Another change concerns the General State Budget (GSB). Article 104 proposes an amendment “in order to remove a current idea that the budget of local authorities is part of the GSB”. The GSB will provide for transfers to be made to municipalities, but not their income and expenses.

3-Analysis and comment on the proposed changes to the economic and financial Constitution

The articles to be amended are 14, 37, 92, 100 and 104.

ARTICLE 14

In relation to article 14, the State will be responsible for promoting private initiative. In addition to the rhetorical aspect of such a statement, in practical terms, this rule allows the State to assist the private sector in a consistent manner, for example, expanding free zones and tax benefits for the private business, subsidizing private companies, creating partnerships with the private sector. The State shouldn’t be merely passive and adopt a positive and active attitude towards the private sector. It is a good sign for the market.

ARTICLE 37

Article 37 is of a different nature and constitutes the only constitutional amendment directly related to the fight against corruption. In the face of a constitutional gap, the general principles on which nationalization and confiscation can take place will now be established. This last part is essential to achieve the recovery of assets that is underway in which it becomes very difficult to understand the legal framework.

It is now clear that the state can confiscate assets when there has been a serious offense against laws that protect its economic interests. In simple language, it is now clear that those who have been charged at the expense of public funds may be without these assets, with no need for a final criminal case, but only the conclusion that they have carried out a serious offense against the laws that guarantee economic interests of the State. This rule is to be applauded in the present context of combating corruption.

ARTICLE 92

If the promotion of private initiative and the speeding up of the recovery of assets obtained from corrupt activities are measures that deserve praise, more doubts raises the rule of article 92 regarding the informal economy. More than “its progressive framing in the structured economy system” (proposed wording of Article 92, paragraph 3), which essentially means the payment of taxes and fees, what the Constitution should advocate was the adoption of supportive policies to the informal sector of the economy, which is a real buffer from the lack of work and an incubator for potential successful small and medium-sized companies[2].

It has already been pointed out that in southern Africa, the informal economic sector is a crucial element of survival, given that 72% of all non-agricultural employment resides in the informal sector and the majority of new jobs show up there. The informal economy provides income and employment to all people, regardless of education or experience. In Angola, the majority of employed people are also involved in the informal economy, as otherwise they would not be able to support all of their expenses. To that extent, it is necessary to be very cautious in establishing rules about the informal economy because it helps the Angolan government[3].

ARTICLE 100

In terms of public opinion, the core of the constitutional change in economic and financial terms will be found in article 100 referring to the BNA. This article contains three main lines:

  1. The BNA is the “guarantee price stability in order to ensure the preservation of the value of the national currency and ensures the stability of the financial system”. Thus, the BNA’s functions related to inflation and the financial system are precisely determined;
  2. The BNA becomes an independent administrative authority and therefore “independent in the pursuit of its duties and in the exercise of public powers”. It is the famous independence of the central bank, which today is defended by most economic doctrine.
  3. The Governor of BNA is appointed by the President of the Republic, after hearing the National Assembly. It should be noted that the National Assembly has no right of veto, but of hearing.

The enshrining of central bank independence corresponds to the modern dominant trend in economic doctrine. The arguments in favor of central bank independence can easily be summed up. Governments are thought to tend making wrong decisions about monetary policy. In particular, they are influenced by short-term political considerations. Before an election, the temptation is for the government to cut interest rates, making economic cycles of expansion and retraction more likely. Thus, if a government has a history of allowing inflation, inflation expectations start to rise, making it more likely.

An independent central bank can have more credibility and inspire more confidence. Having more confidence in the central bank helps to reduce inflationary expectations. Consequently, it becomes easier to keep inflation low. Thus, there is an attempt to introduce additional credibility in monetary policy and to increase the fight against inflation. It should be noted that inflation is an evil that has endured in the Angolan economy for too long.

This measure is correct and should be considered positive.

ARTICLE 104

The last change concerns the clarification of the differentiation between the General State Budget and the Municipalities, as part of the material preparation for the installation of the municipalities.

Conclusion

Minimalist, the proposed constitutional revision in the area of economics and finance aims to reinforce the signs of the market economy and macroeconomic stability, highlighting as an essential element of this law the consecration of central bank independence and its focus on combating inflation.

*****

Attachment: New proposed wording of the norms referring to the economic and financial sector

“Article 14

(Private property and free enterprise)

The State respects, and protects the private property of natural or legal persons and promotes free economic and business initiative, exercised under the terms of the Constitution and the Law ”.

“Article 37

(Right and limits of private property)

1. […].

2. […].

3. […].

4. Own law defines the conditions under which the nationalization of private goods can occur for ponderous reasons of national interest and of confiscation for serious offense to the laws that protect the economic interests of the State ”.

“Article 92

(Economic Sectors)

1. […].

2. The State recognizes and protects the right to community property for the use and enjoyment of means of production by rural and traditional communities, under the terms of the Constitution and the law.

3. Own law establishes the principles and rules to which the unstructured sector of the economy is subject, aiming at its gradual inclusion in the structured economy system ”.

“Article 100

(National Bank of Angola)

1. The National Bank of Angola, as the central bank and issuer of the Republic of Angola, guarantees price stability in order to ensure the preservation of the value of the national currency and ensures the stability of the financial system, under the terms of the Constitution and the law.

2. As an independent administrative authority, the National Bank of Angola is independent in the performance of its duties and in the exercise of public powers to which it is concerned, in accordance with the Constitution and the law.

3. The Governor of the National Bank of Angola is appointed by the President of the Republic, after hearing the Specialized Labor Committee of the National Assembly, competent by reason of the matter, under the terms of the Constitution and the law, observing, for this purpose, the following procedure:

a) the hearing is triggered at the request of the President of the Republic;

b) the hearing of the proposed entity ends with the vote on the report in accordance with the law;

c) It is up to the President of the Republic to make the final decision in relation to the nomination of the proposed entity.

4. The Governor of the National Bank of Angola sends to the President of the Republic and to the National Assembly, a report on the evolution of monetary policy indicators, without prejudice to bank secrecy rules, the treatment of which, for the purposes of control and inspection by the National Assembly it is ensured under the terms of the Constitution and the law ”.

“Article 104

(General State Budget)

1. […].

2. The General State budget is unitary, estimates the level of revenue to be obtained and sets the authorized expenditure limits, in each fiscal year, for all services, public institutes, autonomous funds and social security and must be prepared in such a way as to that all the expenses provided for therein are financed ”.

3. The State Budget presents the report on the forecast of funds to be transferred to local authorities, under the terms of the law.

4. The law defines the rules for the preparation, presentation, adoption, execution, inspection and control of the General State Budget.

5. The execution of the State Budget complies with the principles of transparency, accountability and good governance and is supervised by the National Assembly and the Court of Auditors, under the terms and conditions defined by law ”.


[1] All citations without a specific source mentioned are from the 2021 Constitutional Review Law Proposal Rationale Report made public by the Government.

[2] Alain de Janvry e Elisabeth Sadoulet, Development Economics, 2016, p. 19

[3] Moiani Matondo, Em defesa das zungueiras e da economia informal, MakaAngola. https://www.makaangola.org/2020/04/em-defesa-das-zungueiras-e-da-economia-informal/

Sonangol & Galp: what future together?

0-Introduction. Failure to take advantage of synergies between Sonangol and Galp

It was a recent article in the Jornal de Negócios, by its director Celso Filipe, which drew attention to the lack of synergies between Sonangol and Galp[1] and which serves as a starting point for this note on the topic.

Sonangol is the Angolan oil company and for many years it has been the real core of the country’s economy. In fact, it still is, despite the government’s diversification policy. In technical terms, the group consists of Sonangol E.P. (a public company) and a myriad of subsidiaries[2]. Galp is a Portuguese group also linked to oil, which includes several companies such as Petrogal, Galp Energia etc[3]. Obviously, Sonangol is the giant of the Angolan economy, while Galp is one of the largest companies in Portugal, alongside EDP.

The interesting thing is that since 2005, Sonangol has been a shareholder of Galp, although such participation is not assumed directly, but through a company of the Amorim family. It is known that, in an initial phase, this participation was publicly attributed to Sonangol, but then the daughter of President José Eduardo dos Santos, Isabel dos Santos, emerged as the holder of interests in the same participation, and there was sometimes factual confusion between what belonged to Isabel dos Santos and Sonangol. Today there is a dispute between the position of Sonangol and that of Isabel dos Santos, which led to the investigation of the latter in the Netherlands, where the vehicle company that it uses to control its position is headquartered[4].

Therefore, we have more than 15 years of indirect participation by Sonangol in Galp. The curious thing is that during that time, Sonangol and Galp never really sought to create synergies between the two companies. Sonangol’s participation was limited to being seen as a financial participation. Sonangol invested money and received dividends from that money. Nothing else. As Celso Filipe points out, in the aforementioned article: “Sonangol never sought to create industrial synergies with Galp, which could benefit the activity downstream and upstream of production and even improve its profitability.”

• The approach of Sonangol’s partial privatization requires that its holdings be valued to the maximum and the exploitation of synergies is done in the most efficient way so that the company obtains the best price for the sale of part of its shares.

• In addition, the current Angolan economic crisis requires an additional effort by its largest company to increase profitability.

These two reasons make it imperative to revisit the topic of Sonangol’s participation in Galp in order to see what is the best way to maximize its usefulness.

With this objective in mind, we will start by defining Sonangol’s current position at Galp, and understand its formal justification, suggesting a change, then we will try to find explanations for the purely financial strategic position that the Angolan company adopted in its Portuguese counterpart and finally, we will explore the various options for the future.

1- Sonangol’s position at Galp

What results from Galp’s public corporate documents is that Sonangol does not hold any direct stake in the Portuguese oil company. Galp’s largest shareholder is Amorim Energia, BV with 33.34% of the capital, followed by Parpublica (which holds the Portuguese State’s shareholdings) with 7.48% of the capital and several investment management companies such as Massachusetts Financial Services Company, T. Rowe Price Group, Inc. and BlackRock, Inc. with about 5% each. Then there is Banco New York Mellon and Canada’s Black Creek Investment Management with around 2%[5]. This list of reference shareholders includes a company based in the Netherlands with the name Amorim, the Portuguese State and several American financial institutions. Sonangol does not appear.

In fact, Sonangol’s position is associated with the Dutch company Amorim. Sonangol holds the majority of the capital of a company called Esperaza Holding BV (also based in the Netherlands). In turn, Esperaza participates with 45% of Amorim.

This means that Sonangol has a minority position in Galp’s majority company. If Sonangol represents 45% of Amorim’s capital, it is clear that the Amorim family owns the other 55%. In turn, it seems that even in Esperaza Sonangol’s position is not total, since it shares it with Isabel dos Santos, with a dispute between them that it will not be cured here, since it does not affect the assumption that Sonangol controls Esperaza.

Fig. No. 1- Sonangol’s indirect participation in Galp

In a way, Sonangol’s position appears “sandwiched” between the Amorim and Isabel dos Santos, effectively lacking strategic room for maneuver and not having a decisive role at Galp, since it is always mediated by the Amorim.

Is the doubt that persists one see the reason why Sonangol accepted to participate in Galp in a dependent and submissive position to the Amorim? Was it a political demand from the Socrates government at the time, to avoid an overpowering onslaught by Angola? Was there shyness or ineptitude in negotiations on the part of Angola? Or was it a strategic formulation of Isabel dos Santos to appear unseen? We have no elements to justify this indirect choice.

• What can be said today is that Sonangol’s indirect position is detrimental to the appreciation of its shares as it is always dependent on a third party, in this case the Amorim, and does not have direct access to the company. This does not give value to the position or give it room for strategic maneuver.

What can be seen is that Sonangol’s stance enhances the Amorim’s leading role as they, with a mere 18.33% of the company, control 33,34%. We do not know whether Sonangol receives (or has received) any “prize” from the Amorim for this contribution or if there is any shareholder pact.

If there is no “prize” or shareholder agreement that benefits Sonangol, the truth is that, from Sonangol’s point of view, what will make the most sense is to split its position from Amorim and make its participation in Galp independent. This, as mentioned above, will give financial value to the participation as it becomes direct, and will give the Angolan company more strategic room for maneuver. This element is even more relevant at a time when it seems that strategic differences between the Amorim and the Galp’s CEO, Carlos Gomes da Silva, led to his hasty departure from the helm of the company. We don’t acknowledge the role Sonangol played in this divergence and its resolution, if any.

2- Possible reasons for the “passivity” of Sonangol’s position in Galp

As we have been saying, Sonangol’s role in Galp has been passive, essentially limiting itself to receiving dividends and not looking for any strategic synergy. The question that arises is why such a large and important participation, which  several Sonangol CEOs  consider in their public speeches as strategic, ended up being nothing more than a financial investment?

The first reason to justify such behavior is of a formal nature. Since Sonangol is not a direct Galp shareholder, it did not have the necessary means of influence to propose and create any synergy. This justification seems to us too formalistic and does not necessarily correspond to reality. However, it should be noted that in 2020, regarding several controversies involving Isabel dos Santos, Galp’s CEO, Carlos Gomes da Silva, was not afraid to affirm that “Isabel dos Santos is not a direct or reference shareholder [ of Galp] ”, adding“ The long-term reference shareholder is Amorim Energia, which is controlled by the Amorim family [6]”. Although the context of these statements is perceived, they still represent an effective disregard for the Angolan position, but that basically corresponds to the truth.

A second reason for Sonangol’s passivity is linked to the preponderant role that Isabel dos Santos played in Galp’s Angolan participation. The businesswoman only worked for a short time in Sonangol (2016-2017), in the remaining time, that is, between 2005 and at least until the emergence of several controversies in 2019/2020, her position was that of a private entrepreneur. in constant investment process. Isabel dos Santos did not stop in the extension of her “economic empire”, making purchase after purchase, investment after investment. In Angola, in addition to the initial investment in Unitel (a leading telecommunications company), Isabel dos Santos, as of 2008, enters several sectors such as distribution, banking, and hospitality. In banking, in addition to participation in BFA, the foundation of Banco BIC, in the distribution sector, launched Candando. In Portugal, she participated in BPI, bought BPN, took a stake in what is today NOS, in addition to Galp. She also bought vast real estate.

There is a pattern in Isabel dos Santos’ business activity, that of the investment cascade, using loans or dividends from one company to acquire others, not worrying, at this stage, in strategically integrating her business conglomerate. Now, the behavior observed in the construction of Isabel dos Santos’ “empire” and the possible political control that she assumed for some years over the Angolan participation in Galp, may have implied an option for receiving dividends as a priority. In fact, Isabel dos Santos would need Galp’s dividends to cover her expenses and, without having other relevant oil interests, there would be no focus on building synergies.

This is a working hypothesis that, of course, needs to be confirmed as the documentation on the involvement of Isabel dos Santos in the control of the Angolan position at Galp, between 2006 and 2016, is made public.

• However, what appears to be that the determining interest in this Angolan participation in Galp in the referred period was that of Isabel dos Santos and her main concern was to obtain funds for investment in its expansion and maintenance of its business conglomerate.

Obviously, this hypothesis does not explain the apathy observed after Isabel dos Santos left. Since 2018, there have been no special moves by Sonangol vis-à-vis Galp. At this stage, this inertia can be justified by the strategic uncertainty that has plagued Sonangol and also its participation in Galp.

In one way or another, this is the imperative time to take a rational stand on this participation.

3- Sonangol’s several options vis-à-vis Galp

When the Angolan oil company is in the process of restructuring and intends to privatize part of the capital, it is essential to consider what it will do in relation to its participation in Galp.

There are several hypotheses for action. To better analyze them and discover the most appropriate course, it is pertinent to approach the strategies that each of the companies is following, since both are in a moment of reconfiguration.

Sonangol’s strategy

As for Sonangol, the strategy followed is based on several vectors, of which we highlight[7]:

-Like several of its counterparts, ARAMCO or BP, the oil company wants to become greener. It is also intended to permanently move away from the image of corruption. The plan for the next seven years, focuses on renewable energies and the relaunch of exploration and production in several oil blocks. In particular, Sonangol intends to:

– Increase the capacity of operated production of crude oil, with a target of not less than 10% of national production, instead of the current 2%.

– Invest in several oil blocks in order to increase net rights, with the relaunch of exploration and production in several oil blocks expected this year (blocks 3/05, 3 / 05A, block 5/06, Kon 4, as well as the cooperation, together with Total, of blocks 20 and 21, three years after the first oil).

– Optimize and modernize the Luanda refinery and ensure an increase in refining capacity, with investment in new refineries, in order to reverse the fuel import situation.

– Increase the capacity to distribute LPG [liquefied petroleum gas], monetize LNG [liquefied natural gas] and invest in renewable energy projects.

– Consolidate the company’s position as a reference player in the shipping segment in the region.

– Reinforce the position of trading crude oil and refined products in the international market, thus leveraging additional sources of revenue collection in foreign currencies.

– Increase onshore storage capacity, replacing floating storage.

-Optimize the retail network, aiming to consolidate the position of largest distributor of liquid hydrocarbons in the national market, in an environment that is increasingly liberalized, as well as relaunching the distribution and commercialization activity in other countries in the region, of which we have already the re-entry process is underway in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Galp’s strategy

Galp is also in a strategic transition phase[8]. Decarbonisation has now become a priority, already manifested in the decision to close the Matosinhos refinery and the Sines Thermoelectric Power Plant. In fact Joana Petiz at Dinheiro Vivo[9], says that it was the Amorim’s commitment to accelerating the energy transition that led to the shortening of Carlos Gomes da Silva’s mandate and the appointment of Andrew Brown. Brown will have a mandate to bring about an intense change in Galp’s business, which is already advanced in its energy transition. In reality, Galp is the largest producer of solar energy in the Iberian Peninsula and invests in lithium, having acquired 10% in the company to which the lithium exploration in Portugal, Savannah Resources, was handed over.

However, despite these movements, oil is the company’s main source of revenue, with a special emphasis on holdings in Brazil, which make a substantial contribution to the company’s sustainability. Apparently, this will be where the financing for new projects “like gas in Mozambique – an intermediate step in the transition to cleaner energy – will come from, as well as the new bets from the oil company, including the exploration of lithium in Portugal[10]”.

Brief comparison between Sonangol and Galp

In 2019, according to the Reports and Accounts, Sonangol obtained total revenues in the order of US $ 10 billion, and an EBITDA of 5 billion. In turn, Galp achieved revenues of more than 19 billion dollars and an EBITDA of just over 2.5 billion dollars. Both companies affirm they are committed to an energy transition, this bet being more visible in Galp, but in terms of revenues both are dependent on oil.

Fig.2- Galp / Sonangol comparative table (source Annual Reports 2019, quot. € / $ to 5-2-2012)

 Billing (2019) (M.USD)EBITDA (2019) (M.USD)Main Source RevenueStrategic Alternative
Sonangol10.2315.550OilGreen/Renewable
Galp20.0662.852OilGreen/Renewable

The various options

Sonangol can choose one of the following options or a combination of several in relation to Galp:

1-Sale of participation;

2-Reinforcement of participation;

3-Maintenance of the strategy as a financial investor;

4-Synergy in the energy transition;

5-Industrial and commercial synergies.

Let’s look at each hypothesis.

Sale of participation

It is clear that lately the price of Galp’s shares has been discouraging. If you notice, throughout 2020 the bonds were losing value, even in October they were below € 7.00. It should be noted that this happened after the start of Covid-19, as in February 2020, the securities were being traded at around € 14.00. At this point, stock trading is slightly above € 8.00. The reality is that it is only after the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic is over that it will be possible to assess Galp’s trend market value.

Fig.nº 3. Recent evolution of Galp’s prices (source: https://www.galp.com/corp/pt/investidores/informacao-ao-acionista/acao-da-galp/desemecimento-da-acao)

Consequently, there is nothing to advise a low sale at this time.

Strengthening participation

Alternatively, Sonangol, given the low price of Galp shares, could consider strengthening its position in Galp. This would be justified as long as Sonangol had funds available for such an acquisition and saw an additional strategic interest that would lead it to have a more influential position in the company.

Maintaining the strategy as a financial investor

This has been Sonangol’s position for the past 15 years and, of course, it has borne fruit, being able to choose to maintain its posture. If we analyze Galp’s ROE (return on equity) since 2011, we see different numbers. In 2011, we had a robust number in the order of 14, 73%. In 2013, the number was around 2.86%. 2015, presented 1.91%, 2016, 2.86%. ROE in 2019 was at 6.75%, and recently in September it was negative, -8.19%[11]. This instability is important for Sonangol to evaluate its participation in Galp as it allows the Portuguese company to be qualified in terms of risk and consequent expected profitability.

This means that Sonangol will be able to convince itself that there are other more satisfactory alternatives for investing its capital and that they do not bring such large fluctuations, preferring to disinvest. We believe that if this is Sonangol’s option, this will mean that sooner than later, when the price is good, it will eventually sell the position.

Synergy in the energy transition

This is the option that seems most promising to us. With Galp already embarking on an advanced energy transition program and Sonangol wanting to take more firm steps in this direction, as indeed a good part of the large oil companies is already doing, the alliance or cooperation between Sonangol and Galp in this area, namely in solar energy, where Galp, as mentioned, has a prominent position in the Iberian Peninsula, and Sonangol comes from a country with great potential, there is a great possibility for joint action. In this sense, the possibility of creating and implementing common and ambitious projects in the area of energy transition is envisaged, providing Sonangol with the Know-How it does not have yet, and giving Galp a broad market for the development of its already designed strategy.

Industrial and commercial synergies

Obviously, the possibility of industrial and commercial synergies is immense. From oil refining at Galp’s refineries, to derivatives and shipping, in addition to using Galp’s accumulated experience in pre-salt prospecting in Brazil to open up new horizons in Angola, there are a myriad of possibilities that could be explored[12].

4. Conclusions

• The first conclusion reached through this short analysis is the need to legally reformulate the participation of Galp’s Sonangol. This should appear independently and directly in the shareholder body of the Portuguese company.

• The second conclusion is that there is a wide map of possible synergies between Sonangol and Galp, and it is strongly advised to develop them in the areas of energy transition, namely in solar energy.


[1] https://www.jornaldenegocios.pt/economia/detalhe/a-oportunidade-perdida-da-sonangol-na-galp

[2] https://www.sonangol.co.ao/Portugu%C3%AAs/GrupoSonangol/Paginas/Grupo-Sonangol.aspx

[3] https://www.galp.com/corp/pt/sobre-nos/a-galp/organizacao

[4] https://www.dw.com/pt-002/empresa-de-isabel-dos-santos-investigada-na-holanda/a-54948244

[5] https://www.galp.com/corp/pt/investidores/informacao-ao-acionista/estrutura-acionista

[6] https://www.publico.pt/2020/02/18/economia/noticia/galp-isabel-santos-nao-accionista-direta-referencia-1904644

[7] See CEO interview Sebastião  Gaspar Martins in https://www.dn.pt/dinheiro/sebastiao-gaspar-martins-a-sonangol-reitera-o-seu-interesse-estrategico-em-estar-na-galp-13266123.html

[8] https://www.dinheirovivo.pt/empresas/galp-muda-ceo-com-plano-verde-e-litio-em-cima-da-mesa-13224149.html

[9] idem

[10] idem

[11] Study from https://www.macrotrends.net/stocks/charts/GLPEY/galp-energia-sgps-sa/roe

[12] We followed Celso Filipe’s suggestions closely at https://www.jornaldenegocios.pt/economia/detalhe/a-oportunidade-perdida-da-sonangol-na-galp

A radiography of the fight against corruption

1- Introduction. The discussion on fighting corruption in Angola

The fight against corruption was established as a main goal in the beginning of João Lourenço’s presidential term. What we want to know in this analysis is whether this fight has gone from rhetoric to practice, and, above all, what elements can identify a clear response to a theme that has become the subject of political dispute in Angola. To reach provisional conclusions – since the process against corruption has not ended yet – we will analyse some structural elements of the fight against corruption, such as the discourse of political power, the legislation adopted, the bodies created, international cooperation, the cases under investigation, the asset recovery and the universe of legal charges. Balancing all these elements together we will draw a picture of the current fight against corruption.

This text seeks to ascertain whether there is a fight against corruption in Angola, using the mentioned index elements. It does not take a general assessment of this fight, this will only be done at the end of the presidential term, nor does it investigate the failures and improvements necessary for that fight, which has been done in other studies. Here we want to gather elements and conclude about the praxis of fighting corruption in Angola.

2- Structuring elements of the fight against corruption

2.1- The political discourse

The fight against corruption began with a strong appeal from the political power that started with the inauguration of the President of the Republic. At that time, in September 2017, João Lourenço elected the fight against corruption as one of his priorities, stating that he will confront the corruption that “rages in state institutions.” The President emphasized the “direct negative impact on the State” of corruption, saying that it threatens “the foundations of the country” and concluding that this will be “one of the most important fronts of struggle in the coming years”[1]. Later, in February 2020, after several speeches of the same content, when the possibility of an agreement between the State and Isabel dos Santos was publicly raised, the President went out on a rally to vigorously reaffirm the priority of fighting corruption and denying any agreement with Isabel dos Santos[2]. Recently, on the anniversary of the Attorney General’s Office (AGO), he reaffirmed his commitment to this fight and praised the role of the AGO[3].

Three different moments, and three clear and solemn speeches on the fight against corruption by the President of the Republic and the holder of the executive power. The same rhetoric has been followed by other policy makers over the past few years. There have been no hesitations or setbacks in grammatical constructions. Therefore, from the point of view of political discourse, there is no doubt that there has been a strong and permanent commitment since 2017 in the fight against corruption, with the first analytical element being fulfilled. It is necessary to comply the following elements.

2.2.- Anti-corruption legislation

The political discourse was accompanied by legislation with a focus on combating corruption. The government passed two laws on the repatriation of capital, which it considered to be the cornerstone of its anti-corruption policy. These laws are the Law on the Repatriation of Financial Resources, alias the Law on Voluntary Repatriation (LVR), Law No. 9/18, of June 26, and the Law on Coercive Repatriation and Extended Loss of Assets, alias the Repatriation Corercive Law. (RCL), Law No. 15/18, of 26 December. These laws will represent the executive’s commitment to ensure that funds diverted by corruption, return to their rightful owner, the State. We will see further below which are the effects of applying these laws in terms of values. Later, in 2020, the National Assembly passed a new Penal Code and a new Penal Procedure Code. Although these laws are structuring for the entire State and the legal system, it should be noted that the new Penal Code has a specific chapter on Crimes Committed in the Exercise of Public Functions and in Prejudice to Public Functions (articles 357 to 375) which includes corruption (art. 358 to 361), undue receipt of advantages (art. 357), influence peddling (art. 366) and embezzlement (art. 362), among others. The entire sanctioning typology of criminal law has been revised and systematized to make it easier to understand and adapt.

Also, in the area of ​​public contracts, there were several changes aimed at strengthening transparency and the fight against corruption. Public contracting legislation was amended by Law No. 41/20, of 23 December. In 2018, the government approved the Primer on Ethics and Conduct in Public Contracts, the Practical Guide for the Prevention and Management of Risks of Corruption and Related Infractions in Public Contracts and the Guide for Reporting Corruption and Related Infractions in Public Contracts. In the area of ​​financial information, mechanisms to control illicit flows and to prevent money laundering were clearly reinforced. Note should be taken about Law No. 5/2020 of 27 January on the prevention and fight against money laundering, the financing of terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, resulting from the ratifications of the United Nations Conventions against Illicit Traffic in Narcotics and Psychotropic Substances, against Transnational Organized Crime and on the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism. Important, too, was Presidential Decree No. 2/18 of 9 January, which approved the Organic Statute of the Financial Information Unit, hereinafter referred to as the FIU and the Supervisory Committee, as a public service specialized in the coordination at national level of reinforcements for the prevention and repression of money laundering, financing of terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

We see, therefore, there is a massive update of legislation against corruption and money laundering. The rhetoric was lumped by the legislative act, the words to the norms. The next element of analysis concerns the organic.

2.3- Anti-corruption agencies

The government chose not to create new bodies, and to base the execution of the anti-corruption policy on the already existing institutions: Attorney General’s Office (AGO), Banco Nacional de Angola, Financial Information Unit, Criminal Investigation Service (CIS), etc.

However, at the level of the AGO, it created a sub-body with specific functions in the fight against corruption: the National Asset Recovery Service. This service was created by Law 15/18, of December 26, Law on Coercive Repatriation and Extended Loss of Assets. According to article 13 of that Law, the main task of this National Service is to proceed with the location, identification and seizure of assets, financial and non-financial assets or products related to crime, whether those assets are in Angola or abroad. In addition, the Service has the expertise to ensure international cooperation among its counterparts, as well as to exercise the other attributions conferred by law, in which it is worth mentioning the initiation of any civil, administrative or fiscal action in order to recover the assets taken out illegally from the State.

The practical functioning of the Service has been based on the opening of patrimonial investigations attached to the criminal proceedings that are under terms in the judicial authorities, to investigate and identify the location of assets that may be the subject of a confiscation order and the adoption of measures necessary for its recovery. Within this scope, the Service carries out all necessary measures (sending rogatory letters to its counterparts, ordering seizures and requesting foreclosures) to ensure that the assets do not dissipate. It should be noted that this body does not act alone, but in cooperation with the bodies that have the main processes. However, the truth is that it has stood out for the amount of seizures and measures taken.

There are several examples of the Asset Recovery Service’s activity. In July 2020, it ordered the seizure of three buildings, office and residential, called Três Torres, in Luanda. The buildings, known as Três Torres and recently built, include Torre A Offices, and Torre B and C Residencial, are located in the urban district of Ingombota, in Luanda, the country’s capital. At the time, Deutsche Welle said that: “The name of Manuel Vicente, ex-president of Sonangol and ex-vice president of the country, is pointed out, on the grapevine, as being connected to the buildings[4].” In September 2020, the Service determined the seizure of the minority shareholding of 49% of AAA Ativos in the SBA, as well as buildings of the AAA group, belonging to Carlos São Vicente, within the scope of the patrimonial investigation process linked to the criminal process that it concerns. In 2021, five housing projects were seized, namely Tambarino Project (Lobito, Benguela), Palanca Negra (Malanje), Mifongo Project (Malanje) and the Ex-Petro projects, in Golf II and Nova Vida III, both in Luanda. At the same time, as part of a lawsuit against the former chairman of the board of the Banco de Poupança e Crédito (BPC), Paixão Júnior, the Service also seized containers of material for the erection of a yoghurt factory in Benguela that was delivered to the Smart Solution company.

These are mere examples of a broad work that is being developed by this service dynamically directed by Public Prosecutor Eduarda Rodrigues. This Service could possibly be the embryo of a more global and comprehensive anti-corruption body, as we have argued.

2.4.- International judicial cooperation

Along with the asset recovery work carried in the sub-organ described above, there has been a wide appeal to international judicial cooperation. First, it is important to highlight the requests addressed and fulfilled to Portugal. The activity with Portugal has been immense, since the rogatory letters referring to Isabel dos Santos and her associates that have already led to multiple “freezes” of social participation in Portuguese lands. It was recently reported that the Central Court of Criminal Investigation (TCCI) arrested the bank accounts in Portugal of three Isabel dos Santos’ friends, at the request of the judicial authorities of Angola. The seizure of the accounts of Mário Leite da Silva, Paula Oliveira and Sarju Raikundalia was carried out in the context of a rogatory letter sent from Angola to Portugal in January 2020. In that letter, the Angolan authorities requested the preventive seizure in Portugal of assets by Isabel dos Santos and his three friends up to a total value of 1.15 billion euros, as a guarantee of possible future compensation to Angola[5].” Carlos São Vicente and others were also the subject of rogatory letters and requests to Portugal.

The Angolan AGO reported days ago that requests for cooperation have already been made to Switzerland, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, the United Kingdom, Singapore, Bermuda, the United Arab Emirates, Mauritius, the Kingdom of Monaco, Malta, the Isles of Man and others. Within the scope of international cooperation, the Attorney General’s Office has already requested the seizure of assets worth approximately US $ 5 billion.

3- Benchmarks

3.1.- Quantitative indices

All the activity that has been described has shown quantifiable results that are reproduced here:

• Since the beginning of the fight against corruption, the Angolan State has definitively recovered in cash and assets a total of around 5.3 billion dollars.

• In addition, it asked to seize US $ 5.4 billion in foreign jurisdictions.

• In Angola, assets worth around US $ 4 billion have already been arrested and seized. Such assets are still subject to the respective lawsuits still pending, awaiting a final decision at first instance or on appeal.

• 1522 criminal cases were opened regarding corruption-related crime and alike.

3.2. Qualitative indices

In terms of criminal charges, the prosecutor’s office has handed down charges against a variety of senior dignitaries. Noteworthy are the accusatory orders against: General Sachipengo Nunda, former Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces, Norberto Garcia, former director of the External Investment Agency, Valter Filipe, former Governor of the central bank, José Filomeno dos Santos, former CEO from the Sovereign Fund, Augusto Tomás, former Minister of Transport, Manuel Rabelais, former Minister of Social Communication, Carlos São Vicente, former President of the AAA Group.

In addition to these public figures, there are a myriad of cases at the provincial level that are replicated in each one. Recently, it was noted that the former director of the Regional Office Planning, Urbanism and Environment in the province of Bengo was sentenced to two years in prison for the crimes of active and passive corruption and undue receipt of 125 million kwanzas. In the same process, the former director of the legal office of the Provincial Government of Bengo, and the ex-director of the office of the former governor were also sentenced to one year in prison for the crimes of passive corruption and degree of influence and having benefited from monetary values in the business.

In what concerns the “freezing” of assets, the assets of Manuel Vicente and generals Dino and Kopelipa, among others, were seized or handed over. Regarding the latter two, it should be noted that as representatives of the companies China International Fund Angola – CIF and Cochan, SA, the generals handed over the shares they held in the company Biocom-Companhia de Bionergia de Angoala, Lda., in the Kero Supermarket chain and in the company Damer Gráficas-Sociedade Industrial de Artes Gráficas SA. Still in relation to Manuel Vicente, the President of the Republic determined the nationalization of 60% of the shareholdings of the commercial company Miramar Empreendimentos, SA “, which covers” 43% of the shares belonging to the Suninvest — Investimentos, Participações e Empreendimentos, SA “and” 17% of the shares belonging to Sommis, SGPS. These shares belong to Manuel Vicente.

Obviously, it is also necessary to mention the seizures of assets referring to Isabel dos Santos and her associates.

4-Conclusions

In this study we tried to assess, with precise elements, the reality of the fight against corruption in Angola at this moment. Take an “x-ray”. We conclude that there is a powerful rhetoric to support the fight against corruption, that appropriate legislation has been passed, a specific sub-body has been created with a view to recovering assets, an entity that has shown itself to be quite committed. International judicial cooperation is quite broad. From the asset recovery point of view, between seizures and definitive deliveries, perhaps US $ 10 billion have already been obtained. Various accusations have already been made against several senior individuals.

What is to be concluded from this list is the scope of those who have already been the target of an accusation or action to recover assets. It cannot be said that there is selectivity, because in fact we have a representative sample of the former senior officials, nor can it be said that there is no action. There were many and diverse. It does not mean that the scope of the fight cannot and should not be extended. In sum, there is a wide-ranging fight against corruption in Angola, which translates into the elements that we have identified here.

However, this does not mean that this fight does not need several improvements and has several flaws, which we have already identified in previous studies, namely, the lack of specialization and of its own extensive investigation and justice bodies, the need for promptness, and the creation of modern mechanisms to prevent the continuation of corrupt practices.

Fig. nº 1-  Table of Contents to Combat Corruption

Supporting political SpeechYES
Adequate new legislationYES
New OrganicYES/Partial
International Judicial CooperationYES
Asset RecoveryYES
Criminal chargesYES/Need for specialization and promptness

[1] https://www.publico.pt/2017/09/26/mundo/noticia/joao-lourenco-promete-combater-a-corrupcao-que-grassa-o-estado-1786811

[2] https://www.dw.com/pt-002/jo%C3%A3o-louren%C3%A7o-quebra-o-sil%C3%AAncio-e-fala-%C3%A0-dw-sobre-isabel-dos-santos/av-52240806

[3] https://novojornal.co.ao/politica/interior/joao-lourenco-elogia-pgr-no-combate-a-corrupcao-uma-das-suas-prioridades-anunciadas-quando-tomou-posse-101998.html

[4]  https://www.dw.com/pt-002/angola-pgr-apreende-tr%C3%AAs-pr%C3%A9dios-em-luanda/a-54272442

[5] https://angola24horas.com/component/k2/item/20926-justica-portuguesa-arresta-contas-bancarias-de-amigos-de-isabel-dos-santos

Flashes of optimism in the Angolan economy at the beginning of 2021

0-Introduction. A different focus for Angolan economic analysis

The consulting companies that are dedicated to the study of the Angolan economy follow a conjunctural methodology in which the predominant narrative is based on the negative numbers about the macroeconomic aggregates and their possible perspectives.

However, a more detailed analysis of the evolution of the Angolan economy suggests that behind the numbers of inflation, unemployment, GDP growth and public debt, which are not very encouraging[1], a series of public political reforms are taking place together with the reinforcement of certain economic trends that will indicate the construction of a new, more positive economic reality for Angola.

This study deals with the positive elements that point to the correction of the direction of the Angolan economy in a sense more consistent with the necessary prosperity.

A-Positive trends in the Angolan economy

1-The International Monetary Fund (IMF) and public policy reform

A first element that allows to shed a different light on the perspectives of the Angolan economy lies in the recent assessment carried out by the IMF. In fact, on January 11, the IMF Executive Board concluded the fourth review of the Extended Fund Mechanism Agreement for Angola and approved the disbursement of an additional USD 487.5 million[2].

The important thing in this decision is the IMF’s positive assessment of the reform of Angolan public policies. The IMF states that: “The [Angolan] authorities achieved a prudent budgetary adjustment in 2020, which included gains in non-oil revenues and containment of non-essential expenses, while preserving essential spending on health and social security networks. The approval of the 2021 budget in December consolidates these gains. The authorities have also allowed the exchange rate to act as a shock absorber and have begun to implement a gradual shift towards monetary restraint to face increasing price pressures [3]”.

According to what the IMF explains, the economic policy followed by the Angolan government is developed in the following vectors:

-The stabilization of public finances, which is the cornerstone of the authorities’ strategy. In this regard, the government achieved a strong fiscal adjustment in 2020. In addition, its budget for 2021 consolidates non-oil revenue gains and the containment of budget expenditures for 2020, while protecting priority social and health expenditures.

These advances help to reduce the budget’s dependence on oil revenues.

– Reformulation and management of public debt. The government has implemented debt profile reform agreements, in addition to benefiting from the extension of the Debt Service Suspension Initiative until the end of June 2021, which will provide significant debt service relief and help reduce risks related to debt sustainability. We will elaborate below on the reformulation and management of public debt.

-Restrictive monetary policy and exchange rate easing. After easing the monetary constraint to mitigate the shock of COVID-19, the National Bank of Angola (BNA) began, once again, to face the increase in inflationary pressures through the tightening of monetary policy. A more gradual tightening of monetary policy is needed to reduce inflation. Exchange rate flexibility served as a valuable buffer during the crisis. Efforts are underway to develop a liberalized foreign exchange market.

-Reform of the financial sector. Continued progress in financial sector reforms was critical, especially the completion of the restructuring of the two struggling public banks. The timely adoption of the revision of the BNA Law and the revision of the Financial Institutions Law is the key to continuing this progress.

Finally, the IMF highlights the fundamental aspect that underlies all political reform, which is the maintenance of the fight against corruption.

What can be seen clearly from this IMF assessment is that the government is pursuing a reformist policy based on the assumptions made by this international organization, and is implementing difficult reforms.

It is known that many of these IMF policies have an initial recessive effect, especially fiscal consolidation when it involves raising taxes and cutting wages and subsidies, as well as restrictive monetary policy to fight inflation. It is therefore no wonder that the first result of adopting IMF policies is recession and not growth.

What is expected is that this “housekeeping” creates the conditions for a sustained and virtuous growth of the Angolan economy.

Fig. Nº. 1 – Economic policies of the Angolan government celebrated by the IMF

2-Management and careful reformulation of public debt

The executive followed an appropriate strategy when initially negotiating with China the issue of public debt. As we described in previous reports, the Chinese debt is key to Angola, as it represents about 50% of external commitments[4]. Consequently, it was important, first of all to ensure the appropriate terms with China, although they are not public knowledge, apparently imply a three-year suspension of payments agreement. The adherence already mentioned to the IMF’s debt suspension program allowed the government room for maneuver. It should be noted that the Eurobonds on which a lot has been written and pointed out various dangers, has a smaller weight in the total Angolan debt, around USD 8 billion, thus not having, on the contrary, what one could think of exaggerated pressure on Angolan finances in this area.

So, for now, the issue of public debt pressure seems to be eased and within the government’s management capacities.

3-Meridian oil price recovery

As we had also anticipated, after an abrupt drop in the price of oil at the beginning of the pandemic (March 2020) there would be a rise[5], which is gradually happening.

The reality is that following a trend that was already very clear at the end of the year, the barrel of brent finally reached a price above $ 55, a value that had not been reached since the end of February 2020, the month before the start of the pandemic.  Still being the most relevant indicator for the Angolan economy, and considering that the budget for 2021 was calculated based on USD 33 per barrel, we have a financial margin of more than USD 20. This is an additional “cushion” in the management of Angolan public finances.

It is clear that it is not known for how long this rise in the price of oil will continue. The commitment of the new Biden administration to the Paris Agreement, the evolution of the Chinese economy, the decision to cut or increase production by Saudi Arabia and the maintenance of the restrictions resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic are factors that may imply a further decline in the oil price.

Therefore, movements in the oil price are always unknown and these moments of increase must be used by the government to reinforce its reserves for future reproductive and social investments.

Fig. No. 2- Evolution of the Brent price since February 2020

4-Decrease in imports of food basket and agricultural production with continental relevance

The diversification policy combined with the promotion of the national industry through the substitution of exports has been another “motto” of this government. This policy allows in one fel swoop to reduce external dependency and create a thriving national industry.

While it is still untimely to draw any definitive conclusions about the results of this policy, some figures emerge that can be encouraging, at least in relation to the dependence on imports and foreign exchange spending on foreign trade.

According to data provided by the Ministry of Industry and Trade, Angola managed to record a reduction of almost US $ 100 million in the import of products from the basic basket and other essential goods in the last month of 2020, compared to the same period in December 2019. In December 2019, the Government disbursed US $ 250 million for imports, while in the same period of 2020, it only spent US $ 152 million[6].

In particular, it is worth noting the reduction in sugar imports, which went from 2.1 million tons in 2019, at the cost of 17.6 million dollars, to 1,472 tons, at the cost of 831,121 dollars. Regarding the importation of current rice, in 2019 Angola imported 136,985 tons in the amount of US $ 37.2 million and in 2020, only 59,505 tons, in the amount of US $ 10.5 million. In what concerns chicken (the most consumed meat in Angola), it is also worth mentioning a considerable reduction, compared to 2019. In that year, 46,385 tons were imported, for US $ 51.5 million, whereas last year, only 32,447 tonnes were acquired, for a value of just over US $ 25 million.

Fig. Nº. 3- Comparison of annual imports of basic basket products (Dec.2019 / 2020 in USD million)

These are just some of the products highlighted in the considerable reduction in imports, however this trend has proved to be general in the remaining products that make up the basic basket.

For these numbers to be considered a success, it is necessary to compare them with the internal consumption of the same goods, and understand if the decrease in imports was due to a substitution by domestic products or only reflects a decline in demand as a result of the economic crisis.

In the latter case, although they represent savings in foreign exchange, they do not mean a success in politics, but a decrease in the quality of life of the population. However, even in this situation, national investors should be alert to proceed with investments in these areas in order to correspond to future demand growth.

Statistics published by the Angolan Ministry of Industry and Trade and released by the Portuguese news agency Lusa show the enhanced sustainability of some Angolan agricultural production.

Angola asserts itself as a continental-level agricultural producer. Angola is the largest African banana producer and the seventh in the world with an offer of 4.4 million tons, according to the latest table of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Fund (FAO). It should be noted that the banana continues to be the most produced and consumed fruit in the world. Angola, in particular, has declared itself self-sufficient in banana production for more than six years, with emphasis on the provinces of Bengo and Benguela. In these provinces, private companies already export the fruit to countries such as Portugal, Zambia, Democratic Congo and plan to bring the fruit to the United States, the world’s largest consumer[7].

In relation to cassava, Angola has an annual production estimated at more than 11 million tons of cassava, being today the third largest producer in Africa, after Nigeria and Ghana, and wants to bet on its transformation into starch[8].

5-New investments and exports. Two examples: Rio Tinto and Gold

The finance minister recently told Reuters: “We are building a future (through our reform program) that prioritizes direct investment (not just with China, but with other partners). We want to add value for our economy to create jobs. We want the money to stay. Borrowing is an option, but we are trying to change the way we relate to our partners [9]”.

Thus, it appears that the government is betting on direct investment to revive the economy and also to increase exports.

There are two recent examples that are important to underline in this context. The first is the entry of the powerful multinational Rio Tinto into the Angolan market. Apparently, such a perspective will materialize this year[10].

Also important is the first export of gold mined in Huíla in 2020, in the amount of sixteen hundred and ninety-six ounces sent to Portugal and the United Arab Emirates, which corresponds, at the current price, to more than three million dollars. Obviously, what is relevant is not the amount of gold exported, but the beginning of a trend. As with the entry of Rio Tinto, it is important to mark a trend that brings other big investors like Anglo-American or DeBeers.

None of these investments is very firm yet. Their reference is important because they can represent future axes for the development of the Angolan economy, now in the beginning.

Fig. nº 4 – Signs of optimism in the Angolan economy

B-Necessary policy adjustments

The foregoing demonstrates that the Angolan government pursues an economic reform policy based essentially on the IMF’s revenues: i) budgetary balance and debt control, considering financial solvency as a sine qua non for economic growth; ii) restrictive monetary policy to control inflation; iii) flexible exchange rate policy, allowing for a devaluation of the currency that encourages exports and hinders imports; iv) investing in investment and the private sector as engines of the economy.

Basically, the policy followed corresponds to what was once called the Washington consensus[11]. This is the standard reform package adopted by the IMF, World Bank and the US Treasury Department since the late 1980s and which corresponds to a liberal model of the economy, based on fiscal prudence and the free market.

Naturally, this model has potential for Angola, but it is not enough. There are not  strong enough institutions in Angola yet to guarantee the functioning of a free market in which some do not end up dominating others and creating oligopolistic and inefficient situations, as there is not a private sector strong enough to become the engine of the economy.

Making Angola’s economic reform dependent on reforms inspired by the Washington Consensus is not enough, a broader view is needed.

This broader view should imply structural institutional reform. This means that property rights must be clarified by abandoning the confusion that the collectivization of property has generated and still generates, courts must be put in place, bureaucracy is no longer an obstacle, and obviously great corruption must be eradicated. In addition to structural institutional reform, it should be realized that the State has a role to play in this new phase. There is no robust private sector in Angola, nor can everything be delivered to foreign investors with short-term perspectives. A mix should be found between the state and the private sector. In fact, this is how the most advanced Western countries work, despite rhetoric. It is important to adopt the concept advanced by Mariana Mazzucato of Entrepreneurial State[12].

The point to consider in economic reform in Angola is that the role of the government, in the most successful economies, went far beyond creating the right infrastructure and setting the rules. The State is a fundamental agent to achieve the type of innovation that allows companies and economies to grow, not only by creating the “conditions” that allow innovation. Instead, the state can proactively create a strategy around new areas of high growth before the potential is understood by the business community by financing the most uncertain phase of research in which the private sector is risk-averse, seeking new developments, and often even supervising the marketing process.

In addition, the IMF’s recessionary policies, while necessary, must be offset by other types of policies that alleviate the socially depredating burden of those. In short, there must be a mix of reformist policies that is more comprehensive and adequate to Angola, so that in the end the first flashes of success have sustained results.

C-Conclusions

It is necessary to look beyond the negative conjuncture numbers of the Angolan economy and understand that there is a reformist economy policy that is beginning to bear fruit and to mark some new trends. This policy has been applauded (and possibly advised) by the IMF, and here lies its strength and weakness. Strength because it contains some indispensable measures to clean up the Angolan economy and launch it on the path of growth. It also strengthens because its adoption and implementation brings the praise and support of the IMF and sister organizations. However, this policy also has weaknesses, including the lack of attention to institutional reform, the weakness of the private sector in Angola, the recessive effects of contractionary policies, among others.

Consequently, with signs of optimism in the medium-term perspectives of the Angolan economy, it is necessary to improve the economic policy that is being followed, including the intensification of institutional reforms that ensure that the judiciary works, bureaucracy does not hinder, corruption does not divert resources. In addition, the role of the State as an entrepreneurial partner in the private sector should be reviewed.


[1] See the most recent figures: Unemployment 34% (III quarter 2020), Annual inflation 25.19% (December 2020 / December 2019), GDP growth -5.8% (III quarter 2020) at https: // www. ine.gov.ao/

[2]  https://www.imf.org/en/News/Articles/2021/01/12/pr216-angola-imf-executive-board-completes-4th-review-of-the-eff-arrangement-approves-disbursement

[3] idem

[4] https://www.cedesa.pt/2020/05/05/porque-a-china-deve-reduzir-a-divida-de-angola/

[5] https://www.cedesa.pt/2020/06/03/angola-petroleo-e-divida-oportunidades-renovadas-2/

[6] https://www.noticiasaominuto.com/mundo/1663059/angola-importou-menos-100-milhoes-de-dolares-de-produtos-da-cesta-basica

[7] https://www.plataformamedia.com/2020/12/15/angola-e-o-maior-produtor-de-banana-em-africa-ha-seis-anos/

[8] https://www.noticiasaominuto.com/economia/1663123/angola-e-terceiro-maior-produtor-africano-de-mandioca

[9] https://www.minfin.gov.ao/PortalMinfin/#!/sala-de-imprensa/noticias/8787/angola-prioriza-investimento-directo-nao-apenas-com-a-china

[10] https://mercado.co.ao/negocios/diamantifera-endiama-quer-concretizar-entrada-da-rio-tinto-em-angola-HC1004823

[11] https://piie.com/commentary/speeches-papers/what-washington-means-policy-reform and https://web.archive.org/web/20170715151421/http://www.cid.harvard.edu/cidtrade/issues/washington.html

[12] See  https://www.wook.pt/livro/the-entrepreneurial-state-mariana-mazzucato/19312561