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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.

The new attractiveness for international investment in Angola

Introduction

For many years, most international investment in Angola ran into two virtually insurmountable obstacles, which discouraged inversion acceleration.

These two obstacles were the need to count on Angolan partners for any important economic activity in Angola and the difficulties of repatriating investment profits. In practice this meant that the foreign investor risked seeing his share in a business in Angola taken by the Angolan partner and / or failing to recover the money he had invested, as well as the profits. It was a disheartening picture, which only allowed large global companies with sufficient leverage to make investments or encouraged obscure agreements between Angolans and foreigners, which normally took place outside the law.

It is clear that the Angolan economic recovery will have to rely largely on foreign reproductive investment. However, for foreign investment in Angola to become a reality, measures are needed to strengthen the protection of property rights and make financial movements more flexible.

An effort in this direction is being made by the present Government, which must be recognized and encouraged.

New framework for private investment in Angola

We have argued that the Angolan economic model designed since 2002, based on oil exploration and the extravagant stimulus of consumption, did not work. Successful models are generally based on investment (public and private) and exports. This is the path that the Angolan economy should pursue. However, the latest figures have not been encouraging. The indicators of foreign direct investment are bleak, as can be seen in the table below.

Figure 1- Foreign direct investment in Angola. Million USD

In view of this scenario of an abrupt fall in investment that started in 2015, but was more pronounced in 2017, the new Angolan Government, which took office at the end of that year, took several measures to stimulate investment, and above all, remove the mentioned obstacles: weak protection of property rights, mandatory local partner and difficulty in transferring profits.

The measures taken were of a political, legal and administrative nature.

  • From a political point of view, the President announced an effective policy to combat corruption and increase the rule of law and thereby tried to promote confidence in compliance with the Constitution and the Law, what was not occuring  in the past.
  • In legislative terms, the NEW PRIVATE INVESTMENT ACT (Law no. 10/18, 26th of June), which no longer requires partnerships with Angolan citizens or companies with Angolan capital, is of fundamental importance. Therefore, there is no longer the antecedent danger in which the Angolan partner, at a certain point, grabbed  everything for him. In addition, the NEW PRIVATE INVESTMENT ACT in its Article 14 guarantees that the State respects and protects the private property rights of private investors; Article 15 establishes that the Angolan State guarantees all private investors access to Angolan courts for the defense of their interests, with due process, protection and security being ensured.
  • Similarly, the NEW PRIVATE INVESTMENT ACT guarantees the right to repatriate dividends and related amounts without weighing objective criteria or time constraints. And as an additional advantage, there is no provision for a supplementary capital tax rate on dividends and profits.
  • In administrative terms, it should be noted that in 2018, all requests for the transfer of dividends in excess of five million dollars (4.3 million euros) were granted to foreign companies operating in the country.
  • And, most importantly, since 2020, the importation of capital from foreign investors who want to invest in the country in companies or projects in the private sector, as well as the exportation of the income associated with these investments, have been exempted from licensing by the Angolan central bank.

There is a visible effort by the government to create more attractive conditions for foreign investment, this effort is reflected in the attempt to create a more favourable social and political climate, in the new legislation on private investment and in a greater liberalization of financial movements. The dangers of absorption by the local partner or the impossibility of transferring profits are thus mitigated.

Figure 2- New framework for attracting private investment in Angola

New foreign investments announcements. 1st quarter of 2020

The United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo confirmed in February 2020 that several US companies are willing to invest more than US $ 2 billion in Angola.

The Africa-Korea Economic Development Association (AKEDA) will contribute US $ 2 billion to finance the construction of a thermoelectric power station in Benguela province, the institution’s secretary-general announced in Luanda, also in February 2020. Siwoo Chung informed that the amount is part of a global amount of US $ 5 billion that the association plans to invest in several projects in partnership with the Angolan State.

The German chancellor, on a visit to Angola, also offered broad support in the development of the country’s infrastructure, in unquantified values.

Swiss-based company Webcor is expanding the grinding company Grandes Moagens de Angola and plans to invest US $ 250 million in five years. Among the investments is a new factory, in the port of Luanda, which transforms 1200 tons of wheat into flour and bran daily. The regional administrator in Angola for the Webcor Group, says that the company has benefited from obtaining faster visas for investors and workers, lower costs and easier rules for investment.

Additional measures needed

It appears that there is a clear focus on the Angolan Government in creating a more attractive framework for foreign investment and that there are already some positive signs. However, this is not enough and additional measures are required, many of which are pragmatic.

  • The first measure is communication / information. It is necessary to transmit to the international business community, in a systematic and assertive manner, the new framework for investment in Angola, above all, the positive changes that it has undergone since 2018. This is a vital point, as there is a huge lack of knowledge of what is happening now.
  • Secondly, it is crucial to improve the legislation, namely, the one referring to property rights and the land law, seeking to provide the country with clear and effective rules that allow to know what belongs to each one and to avoid the constant disputes over property. . It is also necessary to modify article 19 of the NEW PRIVATE INVESTMENT ACT when it establishes that the transfer of dividends and profits abroad can only be carried out after the complete execution of the private investment project has been confirmed by the competent authorities. A declaration from the private entity that fulfilled these duties should be sufficient, which will be monitored later.
  • Finally, initiatives in the area of des-bureaucratization and dematerialization are important, as well as the definitive abolition of licenses by the central bank for transfers related to investment.

Figure 3- Additional measures to accelerate foreign investment

The opportunity for privatizations in Angola. 2020 analysis

Introduction

The privatization program currently underway in Angola has a scope never before outlined in the country and deserves extra attention by the international business community.

Legislation

The legal basis for the Angolan privatization program is found in the Privatization Act (Law No. 10/19, 14th of May) and ProPriv (Presidential Decree No. 250/19 5th of August). The Private Investment Act (Law 10/18, 26th of June) is also relevant.

Table 1- Basic legal regulations for privatizations

Privatization Act Law No. 10/19, May 14th
ProPriv Presidential Decree No. 250/19, August 5th
Private Investment Act Law No. 10/18, June 26th

Terms of reference

Under ProPriv, 195 public entities will be privatized during a 4-year program (2019-2022). These entities were grouped into four sectors: National Reference Companies, Sonangol’s Participating and Active Companies, Industrial Units in the Special Economic Zone (SEZ) and Other Companies and Assets to be Privatized. The sectors of activity that refer to privatizations are diverse: mineral and oil resources, telecommunications and information technologies, finance, transport, economics and planning, hotels and tourism, industries, agriculture, fisheries.

In the list of to be privatized companies, we have the country’s most important such as Sonangol (oil), Endiama (diamonds), Unitel (telecommunications), TAAG (aviation), Banco Económico (ex-Besa, bank), ENSA (insurance company)), CUCA (brewer) and also another type of more modest entities such as Centro Infantil 1 de Junho, Pungo-Andongo Farm or INDUPLAS (plastic bags industry). It is, therefore, a comprehensive and an extensive program.

Table 2 – Core elements of privatization

195 entities to privatize
4 years (2019-2022)
Key companies such as Sonangol and Endiama

Achievements

To date, the privatization program has been focused on small industries and entities. In 2019, Angola earned US $ 16 million due to the privatization of five factories, which costed the State approximately US $ 30 million. For 2020, the 2nd  phase of privatization embraces 13 plants located in the Economic Zone Luanda / Bengo. The factories operate in sectors such as ​​metal packaging, concrete, carpentry, plastic bags, paints and varnishes, metal towers, PVC tubes, metal tiles, PVC fittings manufactoring, absorbents and cement bags.

Also in progress is the privatization of several agricultural projects, as well as some assets belonging to Sonangol.

Advantages and opportunities

This vast privatization program is extremely attractive to foreign investors due to several reasons, namely:

  • IFC / World Bank Quality Assurance. The privatization program is being carried out within the framework of the IFC-International Finance Corporation, which belongs to the World Bank, that provides investment, advisory and asset management services to encourage the performance of the private sector in less developed countries. IFC guarantees a global projection of the project and the World Bank warranty seal in the procedures followed, in addition to being an experienced partner and knowledgeable of the global rules. In this way, the Angolan privatization process comes with an appreciable quality certification that can reassure foreign investors.
  • Institutional strengthening and property protection in progress. The present government is committed with the consolidation of institutions, the transparency of due process and the adequate protection of property rights through the promotion of the rule of law. This is not immediate obtained allowing to quickly remove the risks associated with losing investments in Angola.  However, it is a trend already in motion.  In this context, it is important to highlight the new Private Investment Act (Law no. 10/18, 26th of June) that expressly provides legal guarantees to investors, regarding their rights, property and also legal guarantees (articles 14 , 15 and 16 of the Law metioned). In addition, the same Act drops the local investment partner exigence for any foreign investment, which was a source of the greatest abuses and fraud in the relationship with the non-national investor. And the investment is no longer preceded by permission, preventing or delaying registration.
  • Economic reform towards free markets.The executive led by João Lourenço, with the support of technicians from the International Monetary Fund, is developing an economic liberalization program for the economy that increases competition between companies and reduces barriers to entry into the markets. This becomes accentuated connecting to the fight against corruption, which has the immediate consequence, in economic terms, of the breaking of the existing monopolies and oligopolies in the country and which limited competition, besides imposing higher prices and abusing practices regarding taxation. Consequently, in addition to the legal reinforcement, the economic component seems more prepared for a functioning market economy.
  • Atractive companies to be privatized. To privatize are companies with great worldwide attraction such as Sonangol, Endiama or Unitel. They are what can be called the Blue Chips of Angola, that will offer a very high growth potential to the investor once they are submitted to a strict management discipline, rationalized investment and optimization of their values. At a time when the African economy due to demographics and the complementarities with Asia that act as determinants, has an increased growth potential, it becomes a good bet to invest in large companies linked to natural resources and communications in Angola .
  • Small and medium-sized companies with lucrative niche markets. The interesting thing about the program is that the universe of companies to be privatized is vast and diverse. In this context, several small and medium-sized companies can be the basis for small investors who want to explore niche markets in Angola or Southern Africa from a platform that tends to be business friendly and eager in infrastructure development. In Africa, the potential of small and medium-sized enterprises is very large. Some surveys carried out in specific South African provinces, encouragingly, conclude that 94% of small businesses surveyed are profitable, while 75% of small business owners believe they earn more money running their own businesses than in any other alternative. The areas covered by these companies are very diverse: travel, tourism and hospitality; agribusiness; brewers; etc.
  • Business problems are not structural. The companies to be privatized suffer essentially two types of problems: incompetent management and lack of capital. Any new investor who provides professional management and fresh money to the company will be able to successfully exploit its potential. The markets are yet to develop and far from being mature, consequently, there is a very broad and stimulating path for companies with capital and professional management.
  • High rate of return on investment. Given the needs that are still emerging in the Angolan market and the possibilities that integration with SADC (Southern African Development Community) bring, the prospects for obtaining high profit rates are high. In fact, there is a low-cost labor force and with a very large market extension. These two factors predict growth and a good return on capital.

Table 3 – Reasons for attracting privatizations in Angola

• IFC / World Bank Quality Assurance
• Ongoing institutional strengthening and property protection
• Liberalizing economic reform
• Desirable companies
• Small and medium-sized companies with attractive niche markets
• Business problems are not structural
• High rate of return on investment

Problems to solve

The problems envisaged are of three types: bureaucratic-administrative and assessment of the real situation of companies. There is also a lack of clarity of purpose in relation to large companies and banks.

On the bureaucratic-administrative issue, it is important to highlight the multitude of coordinating entities. The President of the Republic appears as the leader and strategic coordinator, but then we have the Minister of State for Economic Coordination as the general coordinator of the program, the Secretary of State for Finance and Treasury under the Ministry of Finance as the operational coordinator, each Sectorial Ministry will have duties of sharing information and data of companies operating in the sector. The State Assets and Participations Management Institute (SAPMI) as manager and executor of the program, in addition to other institutions with specific roles. Perhaps because of this, all schedules have been exceeded. By mid-February 2020, around 50 companies were expected to be privatized. The number as seen earlier is much smaller. In fact, the privatization program has not reached an exciting dynamic phase, the so-called momentum.

“The Privatization Czar”

It is essential to give privatizations an accelerated dynamic. For this, the best solution is to nominate what can be called a “Czar of Privatizations”. Someone the President trusts  who, under his command alone, directs the privatizations with legal powers to instruct any minister or body and to override them by deciding to concentrate the competencies and powers for the privatizations.

Technical problems

The remaining types of problems are of a more technical nature. For many companies, there is no clear idea of ​​their values ​​or of any hidden losses that may exist. For example, in relation to banking, the previous due dilligence has encountered several situations in which unknown impairments are detected that require recapitalization or levels of non-compliance with some indicators of financial balance, namely excessive concentration of investments in low-profit properties.

No internal audit work has been done on the companies to be privatized. This obviously implies that investors are taking risks. The answer that cannot be given is that a thorough internal audit will have to be carried out for each of the 195 companies. This will be impossible and would require an endless delay in privatization.

Thus, it will be necessary to provide for possible state compensation mechanisms if impairments are found after a certain level, imputing liability below that level to buyers. At the same time, in doubtful cases, the State will have to sell at a sharp discount. And trust that appropriate private management will make it possible to solve most cases.

In fact, the essential point of the privatization program, more than obtaining revenues for the State, is to create professional management based on investment that contributes to the structuring of flourishing markets, so it is justified to sell at a discount or to support any previously undetected impairments. It is a risk that the State must accept in order to achieve the eagerly-awaited objective of creating a competitive free market economy.

Finally, in relation to large companies, the total privatization program must be defined and publicly disclosed with reference to the percentage amounts to be offered to the market, the dates and other qualifying conditions. There is still a lot of ignorance in the national and international markets about the privatization of these companies.

INVESTOR RECOMMENDATIONS:
◈ For large investors, the Angolan Blue Chips that are going to be subjected to privatization have vast potential for growth and rationalization of costs and organization, so they can provide very high rates of return on investment;
◈ For small and medium entrepreneurs there is a range of companies that can serve as a platform for launching moderate sized businesses;
◈ In general, given the positive Schumpeterian social climate that is being created, there is a strong recommendation to participate and buy in the privatization process in Angola.
 
RECOMMENDATIONS TO THE ANGOLAN STATE:
◈ To avoid delays and some administrative and decision confusion, a “Czar of Privatizations” should be instituted, managed directly by the President of the Republic and with delegated legal powers that will allow him/her to carry out the privatizations;
◈There must be mechanisms to compensate for the lack of internal audit by companies;
◈ Capital repatriation mechanisms for investors must be clarified;
◈ Clarification is required with dates, percentages and specific conditions for privatizations to take place in major reference companies (Blue Chips).