Artigos

The question of capital in Angola

1- Introduction: IMF, sound economic policies and capital accumulation

Contrary to what some economic studies and forecasts currently carried out by some more or less unknown consultants, the current Angolan economic policy has solid foundations. This is demonstrated by the recent assessment by the International Monetary Fund regarding the agreement between the fund and Angola. The IMF administration is clear in declaring[1]: “The authorities [from Angola government] have supported the [economic] recovery through sound policies that aim to further stabilize the economy, create opportunities for inclusive growth and protect the most vulnerable in Angolan society.”

It would be difficult to have a better endorsement of government economic policy.

However, macroeconomic stabilization and the resumption of economic growth are different realities. There is need of a certain engine to ensure economic growth. It is known that the essential growth model was presented by Robert Solow (Nobel Prize for Economics in 1987), that explains that growth depends essentially on the accumulation of capital, with the increase in GDP resulting from the increase in the capital stock[2].

It is known that the latest Angolan GDP figures for the first quarter of 2021 are negative by 3.4%. So the question that now arises is: how to transform sound economic policies into capital accumulation and promote GDP growth?

2-Capital in the Angolan economy

The essential growth model of the Angolan economy, at least from 2021 onwards, was not a model based primarily on investment, but on consumption derived from imports and on the direct benefit of capital gains from the high price of oil. This meant that the investment that existed was induced by oil and not extended to the economy as a whole[3]. It should also be noted that a good part of the savings gains at that time was not transformed into domestic investment, having been transferred abroad from Angola. In a colloquial way, there was a sharp flight of capital from Angola to overseas countries, namely Portugal or off-shore tax havens[4].

It is public that this model went bankrupt as of 2014, and led to sharp years of recession after 2015. At the same time, it was found that the contribution of gross fixed capital formation (GFCF) to GDP began to decrease from that point on. year (2015). If we look at each year the FCF/GDP was respectively 28.21 %, 26.21 %, 23.24 %, 17.19%. The 2018 number (17.9%) is frightening and makes the discussion about the need to capitalize the Angolan economy more relevant.

Figure 1: Gross Fixed Capital Formation in relation to GDP

“The country has a capital deficit”[5] and this problem has to be resolved so that growth can occur. This aspect has to be one of the guides for future economic policy. A goal must be set to raise the GFCF/GDP rate to higher levels, possibly to the 25/26% that happened in 2007 or 2012, which ensure GDP growth levels (albeit based on oil) of 14% and 8%.  Now a new capitalization not only based on oil has to be carried out.

It’s easy to diagnose. Angola lacks capital and needs strong investment. The answers will be the most costly.

3- Increase capital in Angola

What to do to accumulate and increase capital in Angola?

Our answer is divided into two perspectives, the short-term and the medium-term. Let’s focus on the short term, then make a brief reference to the medium term, although it is clear that there is a continuum, as what is done now has repercussions over time.

The executive has already taken some measures, which we have reported in previous reports[6], such as the Private Investment Law (LIP)-Law no. 10/18, of June 26, which no longer requires partnerships with Angolan citizens or companies from Angolan capital and in its article 14, it guarantees that the State respects and protects the property right of private investors; Article 15 establishes that the Angolan State guarantees all private investors access to the Angolan courts for the defense of their interests, being guaranteed due legal process, protection and security. The range of possibilities for transferring dividends were also expanded. Moreover, in administrative terms, it should be noted that in 2018, all requests for the transfer of dividends above five million dollars (4.3 million euros) were granted to foreign companies operating in the country. And, most importantly, since 2020, the capital import from foreign investors who want to invest in the country in companies or projects in the private sector, as well as the export of income associated with these investments, have been exempted from licensing by the Angolan central bank.

However, this is still not enough, and foreign private investment will take a long time, either because a very turbulent electoral period is starting, or because there is a worldwide distraction with Covid-19. In addition, the executive has not yet communicated with all the worldwide amplification, the opening of Angola for business. Even so, it is essential that the executive maintain the political orientation of openness to foreign direct investment.

More needs to be done in the short term to increase investment in Angola and subsequent economic growth. Below is a list of suggestions.

• The initial suggestion is obvious and is based on strengthening public investment. It is essential that the government becomes an inductor of investment and that the capital gains arising from the rise in oil prices and possible apprehensions in the fight against corruption are applied in reproductive investments with short-term results.

The next two suggestions might be more innovative.

 Let us address the first of the most unorthodox suggestions. As mentioned, a good part of the savings obtained by Angolans in Angola was remitted abroad, decapitalizing the country. Now we have to reverse this.

In this sense, the government should, in the first place, sell the dormant shares and assets or in which there is no very relevant strategic interest, which it has abroad. With the result of this sale, it would constitute an investment fund to be invested within Angola. Thus, the first heterodox proposal to increase the capital available in Angola is to sell what there is abroad that belongs to the State (directly or indirectly) and place it in the Angolan economy. Certainly, Sonangol’s position in Millennium BCP should be sold and transformed into investment capital in Angola, and possibly an indirect stake in Galp, if it is not possible to reach a strategic agreement with the Amorim family to better monetize the Angolan position.

• The second suggestion refers to fighting corruption. It is necessary to get out of a certain delay that entered into and boost the capital recovery.

Thus, the government should directly approach those it calls “hornets” and propose a negotiated solution to their situation. Either they deliver the assets that are abroad for investment in Angola, or they will face long prison terms. In relation to these assets, the method outlined above would be followed: Provided market prices were acceptable, everything would be sold and the capital returned to Angola for investment according to a formula agreed between both parties.

This “negotiation” would not be carried out by common means, but by a special force to be set up in Angola and would have short deadlines, not judicial deadlines.

There will have to be a radicalization in both directions in the fight against corruption. More effective punishment or forgiveness with repatriation. Unlike what happened in the previous repatriation law, there would be no waiting, but there would be a proactive attitude on the part of the executive.

By way of an illustration, the participation of Isabel dos Santos in NOS, that of General Kopelipa in the BIG bank and in several hotel developments, the apartments that the former figures have in Estoril, etc., could be sold. The result of these sales would return to Angola where it would be invested in terms to be agreed between the State and the former owners.

These listed measures could give some boost to the Angolan economy and thus promote economic growth immediately.

At the medium-term level, the essential thing is that there is no rampant corruption,  good communication infrastructures are created, an investor-friendly legal apparatus and fast, non-corrupt courts, an educated workforce (this does not mean having degree courses but the necessary skills) and reasonable taxes. In short, an inviting political and social climate for investment.


[1] IMF, Fifth review under the extended arrangement under the extended fund facility and request for modifications of performance criteria— press release; staff report, and statement by the executive director for Angola, June 2021, available in  https://www.imf.org/en/Publications/CR/Issues/2021/06/30/Angola-Fifth-Review-Under-the-Extended-Arrangement-Under-the-Extended-Fund-Facility-and-461318

[2] Cfr. Recent reassessment and description in Philippe Aghion, Céline Antonin e Simon Bunel (2021), The Power of Creative Destruction

[3] Cfr. Rui Verde (2021), Angola at the Crossroads. Between Kleptocracy and Development

[4] Cfr. For example: Isabel Costa Bordalo, Angola com 60 mil milhões USD é terceiro em África na fuga de capitais,  https://www.expansao.co.ao/angola/interior/angola-com-60-mil-milhoes-usd-e-terceiro-em-africa-na-fuga-de-capitais-94979.html

[5] Jonuel Gonçalves (2021), Angola: Não é a Covid que está a provocar a crise económica, https://www.dw.com/pt-002/angola-n%C3%A3o-%C3%A9-a-covid-que-est%C3%A1-a-provocar-a-crise-econ%C3%B3mica/a-58859385

[6] CEDESA, (2020), A nova atractividade para o investimento internacional em Angola https://www.cedesa.pt/2020/03/09/a-nova-atractividade-para-o-investimento-internacional-em-angola/

Indications and Summer Forecasts for the Angolan Economy

Indications

The latest figures available from the National Institute of Statistics on the Angolan economy point to a decrease in GDP in the 1st quarter of 2021 in the order of -3.4%, an unemployment rate in the same quarter of 30.5%, and a annual inflation rate for the month of July 2021 of 25.72%[1]. None of these figures that reflect macroeconomic magnitudes are encouraging in the short term.

However, there are other economic and financial realities to consider in order to have a global view of the movement underway in the Angolan economy, and which allow for a more optimistic perspective.

To begin with, in terms of the budget balance and public debt, essential elements of the support program of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the expectation is that the 2021 budget balance will be positive, possibly above 2% of GDP (further on we will present our prediction). In relation to public debt, as we had predicted in previous reports, its sustainability is consolidated, as recognized by the IMF representative in Angola very recently (see our forecast below)[2].

In terms of exchange rate with reference to the month of July 2021, the Kwanza has already appreciated 1.8% against the dollar and 6.1% against the euro, since January 2021, breaking a strong period of strong devaluation started in 2018. Furthermore, 3.5 years after exchange rate flexibility, the gap between formal and informal market rates is below the 20% target announced by the central bank at the time of liberalization, between 7% and 8% for the dollar and euro respectively. Note that at the time prior to liberalization, the same gap was 159% and 167%.

Figure 1 – Kwanza Exchange Rate Variation against the Dollar and Euro (July 2021)

Currently, some sectors are already announcing an increase in the profitability of exports due to the favorable exchange rate policy. This is the case of cement, where Pedro Pinto CEO of Nova Cimangola assures that “To boost exports, the devaluation of the currency helped, because all the costs that the company has in national currency, in dollars, were lower and, in this way, the competitiveness of the company to place products on the international market. In other words, all those products that we continue to buy in Kzs and that have not suffered large price variations in dollars were lower and, therefore, allowed the company to have greater profitability with exports.[3]

Also a reference to PRODESI (Program to Support Production, Diversification of Exports and Substitution of Imports), which has generated more than USD 29 million since the beginning of the year. As the main exported products, emphasis is placed on cement, beer, glass packaging, bananas, juices and soft drinks and sugar[4].

These movements are reflected in the trade balance. Angola’s trade balance recorded, in the 1st half of 2021, a surplus of USD 8,381.9 million[5], an increase of 40.2 % compared to the results recorded in the 2nd half of 2020 (USD 5,978.8 million)[6]. Within this framework, there was an increase in exports of 25%, naturally still influenced by the increase in exports from the oil sector of 28.4%.

Figure 2 – Angola’s Trade Balance and Trade Relations with China

But there is also a significant increase in trade with one of Angola’s main trading partners, China. “Trade between Angola and China increased 23.9% in the first half of 2021, to US$10,550 million (€8,985 million), compared to the same period last year”[7]. According to Gong Tao, Chinese ambassador to Angola, despite the adverse effects caused by the covid-19 pandemic, Chinese companies remain interested in investing in Angola, highlighting the recent construction of factories, one dedicated to the production of tiles and another qualified for the production of energy and water meters.

2021 Summer Forecasts

In modeling the perspectives we present here, several factors are taken into account, among which we highlight the main ones. The first element is the calculation of the oil price (always a determining factor in the Angolan economy). We assume that the price of Brent will maintain a slight upward trend, standing at a level between USD 65 to USD 75 per barrel. A relative stabilization or possible appreciation of the Kwanza against the dollar and the euro is also part of our model, which makes it possible to reverse some of the falls in the past that were merely nominal due to the more flexible exchange rate. We anticipate that the post-Covid-19 world recovery will boost the Angolan economy’s exports, as is already happening with China. Finally, we anticipate that the environment for foreign investment will gradually improve as a result of legislative reforms and the commitment of political power. We have as a recent example the several advertisements coming from Turkey. At the end of July 2021, Angola and Turkey signed 10 cooperation agreements, in the fields of economy, trade, mineral resources and transport, having already announced an increase in the trade balance with Angola to a value of around USD 500 million[8].

From the point of view of obstacles, it is worth mentioning the immense lack of capital. This is the main element for any sustained recovery, and also the inexistence of economic diversification[9] and the persistence of administrative bureaucracy.

All things considered, our model predicts that by the year 2021 the Angolan economy will come out of recession, and GDP growth will reach between 1.4% and 1.75%.

Our model points to a budget surplus between 2.3% and 2.75%, depending on the evolution of the oil price until the end of the year. And considering the evolution of the Kwanza exchange rate, our forecast is that in 2022, the public debt/Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ratio will be below 100%, achieving greater consolidation.

Figure 3 – CEDESA Model – Forecasts for the Angolan Economy

Consequently, the initial period of strong adjustment and contraction of the Angolan economy is expected to come to an end this year, with no more shocks and global control of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The special case of Unemployment

We understand that unemployment is a special case that should be treated differently, both statistically and in terms of public policies. In terms of statistics, it should be better ascertained who is occupied with informal productive paid activities and who cannot effectively obtain any paid work they want. We should avoid statistical biases that disturb the proper understanding of reality.

On the other hand, it is clear that it will not be the market or the private economy that will solve the problem of lack of employment in the short term, especially for young people. To that extent, the authorities are urged to develop a Keynesian-type employment promotion program, if necessary using available capital from the fight against corruption, as we have advocated in other reports. The state has to spend money on job creation.


[1] Cfr. https://www.ine.gov.ao/

[2] Cfr. https://www.sapo.pt/noticias/atualidade/representante-do-fmi-em-angola-afirma-que_611bf099d1bccf29fd83b48c

[3] https://mercado.co.ao/grandes-entrevistas/a-desvalorizacao-da-moeda-permitiu-que-a-empresa-tivesse-maior-rentabilidade-com-as-exportacoes-XJ1038347

[4] https://www.angonoticias.com/Artigos/item/68811/prodesi-rende-mais-de-usd-29-milhoes-em-exportacoe

[5] https://www.bna.ao/Conteudos/Artigos/lista_artigos_medias.aspx?idc=15419&idsc=15428&idl=1

[6] https://www.angonoticias.com/Artigos/item/68824/balanca-comercial-regista-superavit-de-usd-83819-milhoes

[7] https://www.rtp.pt/noticias/economia/comercio-entre-china-e-angola-recupera-24-no-1o-semestre-apos-forte-quebra-em-2020_n1343994

[8] https://www.angop.ao/noticias/economia/angola-e-turquia-reforcam-balanca-comercial/

[9] Cfr, the most recent elements on the sectoral participation in the GDP that demonstrate the immense and reinforced weight of the oil sector. https://www.bna.ao/Conteudos/Artigos/lista_artigos_medias.aspx?idc=15907&idsc=15909&idl=1

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

Sonangol and the reinvention of the Angolan economy

This is a time of reinvention for Angola. Sonangol is no longer the engine of the Angolan economy and it is necessary to find a new driver. There are two reasons for the need to overcome the economic model based on a single product – oil.

The first reason is Sonangol itself. The results for 2019, presented by the Angolan oil company, are structurally discouraging. Although they show a profit, this profit derives from unrepeatable extraordinary results and the essential elements of the oil operation are stagnant: production does not increase, sales do not exceed the level of previous years. The company’s net income was USD 125 million. However, revenues remained stable compared to the previous year. Sonangol produced around 232 thousand barrels of crude oil per day, a number similar to the past and made sales of USD 10,231 million, which represents a 4% reduction compared to the 2018 financial year.

In short, oil exploration no longer adequately supports Sonangol. Not supporting Sonangol means not supporting the country.

In addition to this stagnation at Sonangol, there is the fact that oil is being increasingly viewed with skepticism, seeking to invest in alternative energies and moving away from the use of black gold. This is obviously not a short-term process, but it will have been accelerated with the Covid-19 pandemic. Oil will still have price rises, possibly peaks in higher demand, but everything indicates that the gluttonous years will be over, as other energy sources will emerge that will more or less gradually replace oil. Just note that in the last few months the price of the Brent barrel has fluctuated between USD 53 in October 2019, USD 60 in January 2020, USD 12.78 in April or USD 40.7 recently. However, he never returned to the 2014 figures where he was often above USD 100.

These two reasons mean that the Angolan economy has to reinvent itself, and more quickly than it thinks. It is not just a matter of restructuring Sonangol and focusing it on the oil business. It is not enough, because this business is stagnant. It is the economy itself that needs restructuring, which in the official jargon of the Angolan government is called diversification.

The problem is that diversification implies the creation of a new offer in the Angolan economy, of the production of goods and services that did not exist in the recent past. And for production to exist, investment is necessary. Investment requires, obviously, the contribution of capital.

And here we face another issue that affects the Angolan economy, which is the lack of capital and the recessive policies that intensify this scarcity. Following the parameters chosen by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the neoclassical orthodoxy of the economy, a program to contain / reduce public debt and reduce the deficit is being imposed on Angola.

We have many doubts as to whether such a program is justified in the case of the Angolan economy, especially considering the doctrinal contributions in Modern Monetary Theory, but the fact is that such a program to cut spending and increase taxes is being followed. However, the pursuit of such a policy ends up limiting the availability of capital for investment, whether public or private. Therefore, it prevents the so-called diversification that is so necessary to overcome Sonangol’s stagnation.

Thus, the outlook facing the Angolan economy at the moment is difficult. On the one hand, its engine – Sonangol – is stalled, on the other, the creation of capital to mobilize productive investment to diversify the economy is being strangled due to the recessionary policies adopted. This has obvious repercussions on the economy’s figures. GDP growth is negative – 3.6%. Unemployment assumes a staggering number of 32.7% and inflation of 22.8% (similar in August 2020). None of these numbers are encouraging.

The Angolan economy needs political courage to reverse this state of affairs.

Sonangol has to be restructured, but as an energy company and not merely an oil company. In reality, it is not enough to focus on oil, you will have to present yourself with a modern renewable energy company, taking advantage, for example, of the sun. If the United Kingdom recently announced that it wants to become Saudi Arabia by the wind, Angola may be Saudi Arabia by the sun. Therefore, an imaginative restructuring of Sonangol is necessary.

At the same time, recessionary economic policy must be abandoned. Although there should be budgetary discipline and not paying works twice or paying wages to phantom employees, as well as not contracting public debt to feed private pockets, the fact is that the policy of financial rigor must be complemented by a policy of fiscal stimulus that allows building a sufficient capital base to carry out the necessary reproductive investment. A public and private pro-investment tax policy is fundamental in reinventing the Angolan economy.

An overview – Two good news for the Angolan economy: Abolition of the Business Permit and the materialisation of privatizations

It is encouraging the effort that the Angolan authorities are making to liberalize the economy and make it competitive in the middle of the storm that hit the world, with serious consequences for Angola.

A first measure announced is of particular importance for the creation of a favourable and stimulating business environment in Angola.

ABOLITION OF COMMERCIAL PERMIT AND STATISTICAL REGISTRATION

According to information made public, within the scope of measures to simplify business bureaucracy and to deal with the economic slowdown eventually caused by Covid 19, the Government “intends to revoke the procedure for issuing the business license for all economic activities and the obligation of companies to carry out statistical registration in the act of incorporation.” Of course, some exclusions from this free regime are foreseen, such as those related to the trade in foodstuffs, live plant species, animals, birds and fishing, medicines, car sales, fuels, lubricants and chemicals.

Apparently, apart from these sectors, the need for issuing a business license by the central administration is canceled.

This step, and as long as it is not replaced by another, is very important and has a clear relevance.

Do not forget that, according to the World Bank Report “Doing Business 2020”, which analyzes the position of countries in the world regarding the ease of doing business and generating wealth, Angola ranks 177th out of 190 nations. Consequently, at the end of the list.

It is clear that there is an urgent need to facilitate business and entrepreneurial initiative in Angola, so it is imperative that the State promotes the business environment in the country. One of the problems detected by the World Bank Report was the delay between 14 and 45 days to obtain a permit from the Ministry of Commerce to start business activities in Angola. This requirement would have a historical justification linked to the industrial conditioning policies of the Portuguese Salazar colonial regime, carried on by the Soviet leaderships that prevailed in the 1970s and 1980s. However, at present, the existence of Licences is an obstacle to internal free trade and country empowerment business education.

For this reason, we must emphasize and applaud this decision to abolish the need for commercial permits.

As for the statistical registration, it is now carried out with the tax identification number. Another positive simplification measure.

A second positive fact to note is the continuation of the privatization process, despite the shutdown of activities derived from Covid 19.

ACCOMPLISHED PRIVATIZATIONS

Seven entities belonging to the Angolan state have recently been privatized. This was the Camaiangala Agro-industrial Farm, located in the province of Moxico, with an area of ​​19 thousand hectares, with a grain processing factory and a structure for livestock; the Longa (Cuando Cubango), Cuimba (Zaire) and Sanza Pombo (Uíge) and Modular Slaughterhouses in Luanda, Camabatela and Porto Amboim, the Catete Silos Complex, the Caxito Cold Warehouse and from the Caxito Tomato and Banana Processing Factory.

In the case of small or medium-sized structures, the important thing, in addition to the revenue brought to the State, is that these sales demonstrate the Government’s commitment to proceed with the privatization process in a crescendo until reaching the large Angolan companies and Blue Chips. This procedure allows to test the multiple privatization processes and methods in smaller series, refining the administrative and decision-making machinery in order to accelerating privatizations.

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The relevance to be retained from this information is the Government’s strong commitment to pursue a policy of effective market implementation, promotion of entrepreneurship and privatization. Thus, the country will lay down the roots for the structural success of the economy in the medium term.