Angola’s economy rebounded strongly after experiencing slow growth due to oil and financial crises. Economic growth is expected to reach 8.2% in 2013, and 7.8% in 2014, driven by the expansion in the oil and gas sector and a public expenditure programme designed to encourage economic diversification.
The government has embarked on ambitious reforms to improve governance but the business environment remains challenging in terms of institutions and infrastructure settings. Nonetheless, the creation of the Sovereign Wealth Fund (SWF) will help insulate the economy from volatile oil prices.
The country has made significant strides in a variety of human development indicators, including poverty, health and education but still ranks low in the Human Development Index (HDI) at 148th place out of 187 countries surveyed and continues to provide only a rudimentary social safety net in the form of fuel and utility subsidies.
The Angolan economy rebounded strongly after several years of low growth attributable to the lingering effects of the global financial crisis. Real gross domestic product (GDP) grew at an estimated rate of 7.9% in 2012 (up from 3.9% in 2011) on account of the strong performance of the energy, transportation and construction sectors. The outlook for 2013 and 2014 remains positive, with economic growth projected to reach 8.2% and 7.8%, respectively. This will be driven by a combination of continued expansion in the oil and gas sector and a public expenditure programme designed to encourage economic diversification.
The implementation of the 2009-12 Stand-By Arrangement (SBA) programme of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) helped the country to regain macroeconomic stability, achieve an improved fiscal position, more comfortable level of international reserves, a stable exchange rate, and lower inflation. Furthermore, large domestic arrears were settled, and progress was made in strengthening fiscal transparency and accountability. However, the country continues to face massive developmental policy challenges, including the reduction of the dependency on oil, the diversification of the economy, the rebuilding of the economic and social infrastructure, the improvement of the institutional capacity, governance, public financial management systems, human development and living conditions of the population. These factors are constraining the pace of diversification of the economy and preventing small- and medium-sized enterprise (SME) development and job creation. Unemployment remains significant at about 25%, and the incidence of poverty remains high at 36.6% of the population.
Much of the country’s growth over the past decade can be directly attributed to the exploration of natural resources. Oil still accounts for nearly 80% of government revenue, 90% of exports and 47% of the country’s GDP. This makes the economy heavily dependent on oil revenues and vulnerable to oil price shocks. In an attempt to further diversify the economy, a 5 billion US dollars (USD) Sovereign Wealth Fund (Fundo Soberano de Angola) was created in October 2012. The fund was endorsed by the IMF, which had long advocated such an instrument to help insulate the economy from volatile oil prices. Nonetheless, the main challenge rests on the government’s ability to ensure transparency, accountability and equitable distribution of the country’s natural resource earnings. Moreover, as Angola continues to access non-concessional financing to meet its development needs and expands the exploration of its natural resources, the government will need to guarantee the preservation of the country’s debt sustainability, while ensuring greater transparency and accountability in the management of oil revenues.
Recent Developments & Prospects
Since the collapse in oil prices that caused severe macroeconomic imbalances in 2008-09, the country has embarked on an ambitious programme for revitalisation of its infrastructure network using expansionary policies. Its real GDP growth increased from 3.9% in 2011 to an estimated 7.9% in 2012, largely driven by the expansion in the oil and gas sector and a public expenditure programme designed to encourage economic diversification. The country is expected to record a GDP growth rate of 8.2% in 2013 and 7.8% in 2014. This will be mainly driven by the projected increase in oil production by about 4% to over 1.8 million barrels per day (bpd) coupled with strong performance in the non-oil sector, in particular, transportation, construction and energy which are expected to grow by over 7% in 2013.
Economic growth is based on the projection of a robust increase in oil and gas exports that are expected to reach USD 65.7 billion in 2013 and USD 62.7 billion in 2014. This will be attained at an average oil price of USD 96 per barrel in 2013. Foreign direct investment (FDI) is expected to average USD 9 billion, mostly directed to projects in pre-salt oil explorations. Workers’ remittances will remain at USD 50 million while official development assistance (ODA) disbursements will reach USD 225 million up from USD 144.6 million recorded in 2008. Public investment’s contribution to real GDP growth is expected to accelerate to 3.1% in 2013 and 2.1% in 2014 as the country continues to address its infrastructure gaps. Private consumption is also projected to expand by 3.3% and 3.1%, in 2013 and 2014, respectively, as a result of strong domestic demand driven by rising per capita income and price stability.
Despite the apparently robust aggregate demand growth, there are downside risks if oil prices decline further (e.g. below the average price of USD 85 per barrel) which would stagnate Angola’s foreign reserves. This could be exacerbated if the state-owned oil enterprise, Sonangol, were to delay the transfer of resources due to the treasury or if the external sources of financing were to dry up. Economic growth is likely to remain vulnerable to external price shocks in the short to medium term, since investments in the non-oil sector are largely driven by public expenditure which is primarily dependent on oil and gas. Unemployment also remains high at 25%, and economic growth benefits remain concentrated on 5% of the population and 0.18% of country’s territory, according to the report1 from the Centro de Estudos de Investigação Cientifica (CEIC) of the Catholic University of Angola. The country’s high GDP per capita of USD 6 120 also masks immense regional asymmetries in income distribution which is illustrated by the Gini coefficient of 0.586, one of the highest in the sub-Saharan region.
In the meantime, oil remains the most important engine of growth in Angola, accounting for over 47% of the country’s GDP. In 2012, oil production averaged 1.80 million bpd, up from 1.66 million bpd in 2011. The output increase was largely due to production recovery in the oil blocks of Grande Plutónio and Pazflor. The government aims to expand crude output to 1.84 million bpd in 2013 and reach 2 million bpd by 2015. The previously unlicensed deep water Kwanza Basin (150 km west of the country’s capital, Luanda) is regarded as one of the world’s richest untapped reservoirs of crude with the potential to significantly increase Angola’s production capacity. Angola also has the second largest natural gas reserves in Africa (297 billion cubic meters). In December 2012, the government announced that exports from the delayed USD 10 billion investment in the Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) project at Soyo are expected to begin in the first quarter of 2013. This will contribute to strong growth. The government has also negotiated eight new offshore oil extraction projects with international oil companies. Chevron, Total, British Petroleum and ExxonMobil are expected to bring projects online which include floating, production, storage and offloading (FPSO) facilities designed to increase Angola’s daily offshore oilfields production capacity by 1 million bpd.
Apart from oil and gas, the mining sector remains underdeveloped but very promising. Diamond production currently accounts for 0.9% of GDP but has strong growth potential. According to the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme, 2009 Annual Global Summary, Angola is the world’s fourth largest producer of diamonds. The sector was hit hard during the financial crisis and Angola’s diamond prices slumped heavily before recovering slowly in the last few years. In 2012 two huge diamonds, one 38.3 carat rock and one 131.5 carat rock, were unearthed at the Lulo project, in north-eastern Angola. The finding reinforced the potential of Angola as an emerging diamond market. De Beers has also recently shown renewed confidence in the country’s diamond potential, announcing in January 2013 that they had found profitable deposits in a concession in Lunda North province.
Angola has an outstanding agricultural potential with 58 million hectares of potentially arable land, a favourable climate and rich water resources. The agriculture sector which accounts for more than 69.2% of total employment saw its contribution to GDP increase significantly from 8.0% in 2007 to 10.1% in 2011, following government investment to improve infrastructure and promote locally produced goods. In 2012, the sector’s total production grew by an estimated 13.9% up from 9.2% in 2011. This was mainly driven by strong output (maize, cassava, sugar cane, cotton, sisal, bananas and wood) which reached 27 million tons in 2012, an 8% growth rate over the previous year. Despite this, the country remains heavily dependent on food imports and agricultural output and prices are often affected by droughts.
The manufacturing sector contribution to GDP experienced a slight growth from 5.4% in 2011 to 6.7% in 2012. According to the survey conducted by the National Institute of Statistics (INE), manufacturing firms attribute this slow performance to constraints in access to water and electricity, lack of qualified staff, unavailability of specific raw materials in the local market and difficulties in access to credit. Despite these challenges, there are immediate potential gains for sector growth which include the development of agricultural processing activities (such as beverages and packaging) and provision of raw materials (in particular timber) for the booming construction sector, which grew to 6.8% in 2011 and 7.7% in 2012.
The service sector also continues to exhibit strong growth, expanding at an estimated rate of 12.3% in 2012 up from 8.7% in 2011. New legislation requiring oil companies to use local banks, being phased in over 12 months from October 2012, will greatly increase liquidity in the banking system. The measure has the potential to increase and expand the range of financial products available but it will also lead to a substantial increase in bank balance sheets, which needs to be carefully managed. The tourism and hospitality sector is constrained by immigration controls and high prices but it has nevertheless shown strong growth over the years by catering mostly to business travellers.
Under the 2009-12 IMF SBA programme, the government made significant efforts to tighten fiscal policy and strengthen public financial management. The rationalisation of current expenditure yielded a fiscal surplus of 8.8% of GDP in 2012 and allowed the authorities to repay domestic arrears of USD 7.5 billion which had been incurred since 2009. Angola’s debt outlook appears manageable and the ratio of external public sector debt to GDP declined from 19.7% in 2011 to 19.5% in 2012. However, it is expected to rise slightly to 20.4% in 2013 due to the signing of new lines of credit to finance the country’s infrastructure rehabilitation programme. In contrast, the ratio of domestic public sector debt to GDP has declined from 11.8% in 2011 to less than 9% in 2012, due to rationalisation of the sources of expenditure financing. The government’s fiscal rule based on the accumulation of a large amount of international reserves insulated the economy from the volatility of oil prices and external shocks. The establishment of the SWF in October 2012 is also seen as a first step towards mitigating the impact of oil price volatility on investment spending and ensuring sustainability in the management of oil revenues.
The government is pressing ahead with the Executive Program for Tax Reform (Programa Executivo para a Reforma Tributária, PERT) by broadening the tax base and increasing collection, thus helping to ease the current burden of taxation on the petroleum sector. Overall, fiscal revenue (including grants) as percentage of GDP increased from 43.5% in 2010 to 48.8% in 2012 owing to the strong performance of oil revenues. Despite this, the overarching fiscal objective of reducing the non-oil fiscal deficit as percentage of GDP, from 21.9% in 2011 to 20.9% in 2012 was not achieved as the deficit remains above 24.7% of the GDP. In the medium term, Angola’s improved fiscal and macroeconomic management is expected to continue, although the primary budget balance will tend to decline to 5.9% in 2013 before falling slightly to 4.7% in 2014, as the government scales-up the public sector investment programme.
Expenditures in social sectors increased from 32.9% of total expenditures in 2011 to 33.1% in 2012 and are projected to reach 33.5% in 2013 as the government continues with its programme to improve social welfare and alleviate poverty. This is in line with the National Development Strategy, 2013-17 and the IMF SBA programme. Public administration will also have its budget increased from 20.5% of GDP in 2012 to 23.6% in 2013, in an effort to improve the quality of service delivery, in particular in education and health. The 2013 budget preparation was set to include a first ever medium-term (2013-17) macro-fiscal scenario and adopts a benchmark oil price of USD 96 per barrel which is substantially higher than the assumed USD 77 per barrel price used in 2012. This assumption is more closely in line with international analysts (e.g. the Economic Intelligence Unit (EIU) currently forecasts a price of USD 103.8 per barrel for 2013). However, a risk to Angola’s fiscal health remains the fuel subsidies (about 7.8% of GDP), which are used to keep inflation rates stable.
In 2012, the country performed well on the three main programmatic objectives of monetary policy for the year, namely: increasing gross international reserves by at least USD 3.4 billion; gradually adjusting the value of the domestic currency, the kwanza (AOA) in line with market fundamentals; and bringing inflation to levels below 10%. Gross international reserves reached USD 33 billion (12.1% above the initial target). The kwanza maintained a smooth depreciation trend of only 1.66% against the USD, with the exchange rate standing at USD 1: AOA 95.8 while the spread on the parallel market remained at 5%. Year-on-year inflation declined from 11.4% in 2011 to 9.02% in 2012, helped by a stable exchange rate and fuel price subsidies, and reached unprecedented single-digit values for the first time in a decade. The National Central Bank (BNA) is expected to hit its target inflation rate of 9% in 2013 and inflation is projected to fall further to 8.3% in 2014.
The monetary policy committee (MPC), which was inaugurated in October 2011, lowered the benchmark interest rate by 25 basis points to 10.25% in January 2012. Market interest rates decreased significantly, with the 181 days to 1 year maturity lending interest rate falling from 21% in September 2012 to less than 17.16% by December 2012. As a result, the credit to the economy expanded by 22% on an annual basis, driving the loans-to-deposits ratio up from 63.7% in September 2012 to 65.3% by end-December 2012. Nonetheless, there is still room for commercial banks to lend more to the private sector given the prevailing level of non-performing loans (about 2.5%). The authorities have indicated that monetary policy in 2013 will be conducted to accommodate the budget execution (which foresees a fiscal deficit of 3.4% of GDP) and ensure price stability. To this effect a subsequent cut by 25 basis points in the benchmark interest rate was implemented in January 2013 in an effort to stimulate greater access to credit to the economy.
The Foreign Exchange Law, adopted by Parliament on November 2011, required domestic banks to hold a minimum of 80% of their capital in kwanzas by the end of 2012. The law supports the BNA’s efforts to reduce the level of dollarisation in the economy and improve the effectiveness of monetary policy. In addition, the passage of a new Foreign Exchange Law for the oil sector in 2012 requires international oil companies to shift a large share of their financial transactions from offshore to domestic banks. The measure will help to boost liquidity, although the changes will be phased in over 12 months to October 2013. The IMF has underscored the need to manage the risks associated with the new law carefully, including by taking timely steps to strengthen the Central Bank’s supervisory capacity.
Economic Cooperation, Regional Integration & Trade
Angola held the one-year rotational presidency of the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) until August 2012. During its term, the authorities contributed to the approval of the regional infrastructure plan and to the preliminary list of regional priority projects. It is also worth noting that Angola joined the SADC Trade Protocol in 2003 which envisaged the launch of a free trade area in 2008. However, Angola has since failed to submit a tariff-dismantling offer. As a result, the country is a member of the SADC but is not yet part of its free trade area. The government of Angola launched a strategy to enhance integrated infrastructure linkages within the SADC region. Two main railway corridors are envisaged as part of this strategy, namely: Moçâmedes-Cunene (with prospective link with Namibia in the south), and Lobito-Zambia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Angola’s external position remains favourable, though the balance of payments is vulnerable to external shocks. The country’s current account (without grants) improved significantly from a deficit of 9.9% of GDP in 2009, to a surplus of 8.2% in 2012, mostly due to increased oil and gas exports. However, it is likely to drop to 7.6% of GDP in 2014, owing to a rising import bill on capital goods. The balance of payments has followed a similar trajectory, improving from a deficit of 8.6% of GDP in 2009 to a surplus of 6.1% in 2012. The IMF projects a positive balance of 1.7% of GDP for 2013 bolstered by favourable terms of trade. The trade balance almost doubled from 24.2% in 2009 to 40.3% in 2012 but is set to decline to 37.8% in 2014 owing to rising imports needed in the public infrastructure rehabilitation.
Angolan exports remain concentrated on oil and petroleum products, mainly directed to China, USA, India, and Chinese Taipei, while imports are mostly dominated by transport materials, vehicles and metal equipment from Portugal, China, Brazil, USA, and France. Angola’s export competitiveness and labour productivity remain low since the lack of access to water, energy and transport services constitutes the major bottleneck for private sector competitiveness. Foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows stood at USD 9.9 billion in 2012 and were mostly channelled to pre-salt oil field investments. China recently surpassed the USA as Angola’s largest trading partner and its official co-operation with Angola is dominated by concessional loans to finance infrastructure development programmes. The China Petroleum and Chemical Corporation (Sinopec), which acquired its first stake in an Angolan oil block in 2004, has recently been granted minority stakes in two new oil exploration blocks awarded to Cobalt and BP. Many other countries notably Brazil, Portugal, Germany and the USA have made credit lines available to facilitate and promote their own-country exports to Angola.
Angola’s total public debt stood at USD 32.1 billion in 2012, slightly lower than the USD 32.8 billion recorded in 2011. Domestic public debt also declined from USD 12.3 billion in 2011 to USD 10.2 billion as a result of the cessation of the Central Bank’s financing operations to the treasury. In contrast, the country’s external debt increased from USD 20.5 billion in 2011 to USD 22 billion in 2012, with most of it being channelled to infrastructure investment in ports, railways and roads. About USD 13.3 billion of the current total public external debt is owed to commercial banks; USD 8.3 billion to official creditors and USD 1.3 billion to the IMF. The state-owned oil company, Sonangol, has already a total of USD 10.2 billion in external debt to fund its investment expansion programme that includes the LNG refinery and the upgrade of its FPSO facilities.
In 2012 the IMF Debt Sustainability Analysis (DSA) showed that Angola’s debt position is sustainable. The external public debt-to-GDP ratio decreased marginally from 19.7% in 2011 to 19.5% in 2012 but it is expected to increase gradually to 20.4% of GDP in 2013. However, this analysis is based solely on public sector external debt as the government does not yet have private sector debt statistics. Sonangol, the national oil company, is a large external borrower. The overall public debt-to-GDP ratio declined from 31.5% of GDP in 2010 to 28.5% in 2011 but it is expected to increase to 30.6% of GDP in 2013. Domestic debt of state-owned enterprises (SOEs) is not currently captured by the debt statistics.
The main risk to both external and domestic debt is a current account shock caused by a decline in oil exports or a decrease in oil prices. Uncontrolled debt acquisition by SOEs represents a further risk. Lastly, there is a need to expand debt statistics to include external private debt and SOEs’ domestic debt in order to derive a more informed analysis and risk assessment. Meanwhile, the three major international credit agencies Moody’s, S&P and Fitch revised and upgraded Angola’s credit rating in 2011 to Ba3, BB‑, and BB‑ respectively. In 2012, both Moody’s and Fitch revised their outlook to positive from stable, citing a promising growth outlook, rising oil output, a better understanding of the commodity price cycle and more prudent monetary and fiscal policy making. In 2012 Angola placed a USD 1 billion 7‑year bond issue through Russia’s second largest bank, VTB Capital. In addition, it has been reported that the Angolan government plans to raise a further USD 2 billion in financing through VTB in 2013.
Economic & Political Governance
Angola’s business environment is challenging with access to water, energy, infrastructure, credit and high logistical costs among the top bottlenecks to private sector development.2 Nonetheless, Angola improved two places in the World Bank report, Doing Business 2013 from 174th to 172nd out of 185 economies surveyed but is still below the regional average (137) for sub-Saharan Africa. Angola scored a dismal 183 in the “enforcing contracts” category which measures the efficiency of the judicial system in resolving a commercial dispute before local courts. In the 2013 rankings Angola declined 13 places in “dealing with construction permits”, which now takes 27 days longer to complete than in 2012. On a positive note, Angola improved 32 places in “getting electricity” owing to a reduction in charges for external inspections by the state-owned energy distribution company, EDEL.
In 2012, USD 700 million were attributed to the Programa de Fomento Empresarial (PFE), aiming to simplify the process of creation of companies and improve access to credit. Other areas with on-going reforms include contract enforcement, property transfer and the regulatory framework for labour markets and customs. A reform programme has been initiated to address weaknesses in the judicial system and the expansion of the court system. In an effort to promote business creation, the Ministry of Economy also launched a fund for operationalisation of Assets’ Venture Capital in Angola (FACRA). The Fund is targeted to micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) and stands to provide stable funding for long-term financing to start up and expand MSMEs. It also aims to enhance capacities for entrepreneurship and stimulate business projects with high growth potential while helping to leverage MSME funding through trade credit with lower risk profiles, thus reducing borrowing costs.
Angola’s financial system faces vulnerabilities due to capacity constraints in banking supervision, inadequate banking corporate governance, high dollarisation, and liquidity shifts linked to large oil sector transactions. The system is composed of 23 institutions, divided between commercial, regional, and development banks. The country’s banking coverage expanded from 22.1% in 2010 now reaching 51% of the country’s area, with 22% of population having access to banking services as compared to 13.5% in 2011. The authorities have continued to step up banking supervision and improve the enforcement of prudential standards and credit risk rules. As a result, the level of non-performing loans declined from 9.0% in 2003 to less than 2.5% in 2012, while the levels of capital to risk-weighted assets remains stable at 14.8% in 2012, down from 16.0% in 2008.
The penetration rate of microfinance institutions remains low and the services remain moderately inefficient with more than 30 000 active clients. The insurance market, although leveraged, still lacks diversification and accounts for only 0.24% of GDP. High interest rate spreads, which stood at 12.6% in 2011 before declining to 8.0% in 2012, still contribute to a moderately low ratio of private sector credit to GDP which is currently at 22.0%, down from 30.3% in 2011. The high lending rates and banking spreads, in part reflect elevated credit risks and prevailing banking sector inefficiencies.
In 2012, the Central Bank undertook major reforms to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of Angola’s financial system, namely: i) the operationalisation of the new monetary policy framework which introduced the concept of “Reference Interest Rate” (RIR) used to signal policy orientation of the BNA; ii) the adoption of lender of last resort facilities which include: the rediscount facility of first level, targeting financial institutions facing cash flow imbalances; and the rediscount facility of second level, for financial institutions facing restructuring needs. The BNA is also actively pursuing de-dollarisation by implementing the new Foreign Exchange Law within the oil sector, and prudential regulations for short-term credit denominated in foreign currency, particularly for consumer credit. New bank notes will be rolled-out starting in March 2013 with the innovative introduction of lower-denominated currency coins and a higher-value bank note of 5 000 kwanzas (equivalent to USD 50). This is expected to improve transactions and contribute for fair pricing and inflation stability.
Public Sector Management, Institutions & Reform
The Ministry of Finance has progressively improved its financial management tools and has several programmes in place to enhance transparency and control over expenses. The government has made significant strides towards greater transparency by publishing financial information and preventing extra-budgetary expenditures. Angola now publishes online the annual state budget proposal as well as a monthly block-by-block accounting of oil production and revenues. Since 2010, the national accounts are audited regularly by Ernst & Young, which is also supporting the government in various ways, on both the expenditure and the revenue side, to improve the levels of effort and transparency in relation to the management of the public finances.
However, despite the overarching role in co-ordinating multilateral and bilateral relations, the Ministry of Planning still lacks technical and institutional capacity. In response, the African Development Bank (AfDB), through the Institutional Capacity Building for Public Investment Programs, is supporting initiatives aimed at improving the capacity for preparation and management of the Public Investment Programs (PIP). These include the design of an integrated economic diversification strategy and the monitoring and evaluation of results and impact. The Ministry of Finance and the Central Bank (which are in charge of debt management policies) have made significant strides towards improving human resource capacities. The External Audit Court and the Inspectorate General of Finance (units under supervision of the Ministry of Finance) are functional but still lack technical and institutional capacity needed to improve efficiency in their procedures. Nonetheless, the implementation of the AfDB’s Financial Management Support Project (PAGEF) is expected to improve institutional capacity through modernisation of procedures and staff training.
Despite recognition of the protection of intellectual property rights, Angola’s judicial system remains inefficient. For example, registering property takes up to six months on average. However, there has been an improvement with the reduction of registration fees from 11.5% of property value in 2011 to less than 3.1% in 2013. This yielded an improvement in the country’s ranking from 132nd position in 2012 to 131st in 2013, according to the World Bank report, Doing Business 2013. Corruption is considered a significant bottleneck by firms in Angola, particularly large firms, and close to 40% of them view corruption as a major constraint. The government has made significant strides to curb corruption and conflict of interest in public and private sector through the adoption of the “zero tolerance approach”. The Audit Law requires audits for all public enterprises but only the public electricity company (EDEL) saw its financial accounts approved while 14 out of 60 companies had their financial statements approved but with reservations. The lack of qualified staff and a professional accounting oversight body has impeded the enforcement of audit laws.
Natural Resource Management & Environment
In the last decade Angola has developed comprehensive environmental legislation regarding water resources, petroleum, mines, and land, and increased engagement with regional and international partners. The country has also put in place a National Action Plan for Climate Change Adaptation 2013-17. There has been some progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of ensuring environmental sustainability with the reduction of CO2 emissions from 1.5 kg per USD of GDP in 2000 to less than 0.9 in 2011. Moreover, the percentage of population with improved sanitation increased from 49% in 2000 to 58% in 2011, while access to an improved water source also increased from 47% to 51% during the same period. The AfDB is supporting the government in the implementation of reforms in the environmental sector by piloting clean energy solutions, green growth development policies, climate change mitigation and construction of four pilot centres for biodiversity. Angola is a signatory of the Kyoto and Montreal protocols which regulate the substances that deplete the ozone, and is also a participant of the eighteenth Conference of the Parties (COP18). The country has put in place a national strategy for the implementation of the Kyoto protocol, under which a designated Carbon Emissions Authority was created in 2010, with five projects being selected during 2011. As a member of SADC, Angola is also implementing the guidelines for strengthening of river basin organisation, benefit-sharing and transboundary water management and development. In co-operation with the Ministry of Environment, two universities created courses on Natural Resources and Environment, and a faculty solely dedicated to the sector is being considered. Despite this progress, the country is yet to join the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), a move that is expected to contribute to greater transparency and accountability in the management of natural resources.
A long anticipated general election was held on 31 August 2012. Despite a relatively low turnout of about 60% nationally (compared to 87% in the previous legislative elections of 2008) the 2012 elections contributed to the consolidation of a democratic system of rule in the country. Official results indicated that the Movimento Popular para a Libertação de Angola (MPLA), and its leader President José Eduardo dos Santos, won with almost 72% of the votes. Although strong, the margin of victory was ten percentage points down compared with 2008 results. The main opposition party, União Nacional para a Independência Total de Angola (UNITA), took nearly 19% as against 10% in previous elections, despite the potential challenge Convergência Ampla para a Salvação de Angola – Coligação Eleitoral (CASA-CE), which, as a first-time contender, gained third place with 6%. Three opposition parties, namely: UNITA, CASA-CE and Partido de Renovação Social (PRS) challenged the verdict of the National Elections Commission (CNE) but saw their complaints dismissed by the Constitutional Court due to lack of proof. The elections have been declared free and fair by several international independent observers, including the African Union (AU) and Southern Africa Development Community (SADC).
The spectre of large-scale political violence has faded considerably since the country’s devastating 27-year civil war ended in 2002. However, political uncertainties remain. It is also worth noting that the past two years have seen the emergence of a protest movement inspired by the popular uprisings in North Africa. Although public demonstrations have been few and met with a firm response by security forces, and the government is actively seeking to address discontent with measures aimed at improving access to education and employment, it is unlikely that this restive youth movement will be easily discouraged in the immediate future. While there is little immediate prospect of an Arab Spring-style uprising in Angola, this nascent protest movement is a trend worth tracking.
Thematic analysis: Structural transformation and natural resources
Angola has rich unexploited deposits of copper, gold, iron ore, lead, lignite, manganese, mica, nickel, phosphate rock, quartz, silver, tungsten, uranium, vanadium, wolfram, and zinc. The country produces over 650 million barrels of oil per year, the second largest in Africa, after Nigeria, 10 million carats of diamonds, the fourth largest in Africa, 15 000 tons of fisheries per year, 12 000 tons of coffee and is endowed with large water reserves (184 km3/year). The petroleum sector is the backbone of the Angolan economy, accounting for 90% of exports and 47% of the country’s GDP but less than 1% of total employment. Moreover, the wealth generated from the petroleum sector has not trickled down to ordinary Angolans, mainly because of its capital intensive nature. Furthermore, the industry is operating as an enclave, with untapped upstream and downstream activities which, if exploited could create broad-based employment opportunities.
Since 2001, the government has offered incentives to entice foreign investment in other sectors of the economy, including agriculture, fishing, transportation infrastructure, energy, water, telecommunications and tourism. The aim of these incentives is to promote the re-industrialisation of the country, diversification of the economy and increase of internal production. The government’s efforts already appear to be yielding results as the substantial proportion of the heavy investment in infrastructure development being channelled to construction, social housing and transportation links between rural areas and the cities, has led to a significant reduction of the share of oil sector contribution to GDP from 57.9% in 2008 to 47.0% in 2011. This holds out the promise that Angola’s poorest citizens will begin to benefit more from the country’s economic resurgence. The Angolan government’s goal to spread the spoils of the country’s growing prosperity among the wider population is based on the fact that the past three years have seen an unprecedented number of public protests, prompted in part by the great disparities in income distribution. Therefore, efforts aimed at stimulating the non-oil sector and generating more jobs will be essential to distribute wealth more equitably.
In the meantime, the state-owned enterprise Sonangol, established in 1976, is the national oil company and sole concessionaire for oil and gas exploration and production. Sonangol holds at least a 20% stake in each oil block and has partnered with several international oil companies, including, among others: British Petroleum (UK), Chevron (USA), Petrobras (Brazil), ExxonMobil (USA), Total (France), Pluspetrol (Argentina), GALP (Portugal/Angola), Sinopec (China), ENI (Italy), Maersk (Denmark) and Statoil (Norway). Sonangol is also involved in banking, air transport, telecommunications, catering, insurance and offshore financing with a total portfolio of non-oil interests amounting to some USD 4.2 billion. The government has conducted some auctions of deepwater offshore oil blocks in 1999 to major oil firms such as Amoco, Elf, Exxon, Marathon, and Statoil. In the diamonds sector, the mining giant De Beers left in 2001 after the breakdown of an agreement with the state-owned diamond company, Endiama, but returned in 2005 in a joint venture with Endiama once the court battles over an outstanding loan had been resolved.
From 2004 onwards, the Angolan Ministry of Finance has been publishing details on its website of oil production by oil block and the revenues accrued to the government but the data are inconsistent, unreliable and unaudited. One illustration of the challenges faced in the disclosure of natural resource revenues is given by the massive gap between the figures for oil production and exports published by the Ministry of Petroleum, the Ministry of Finance and Sonangol, the state oil company. In fact, in December 2011, the International Monetary Fund reported there was an unexplained USD 32 billion discrepancy in the Angolan government’s 2007/10 fiscal accounts linked to Sonangol – this amounts to one fourth of the country’s total GDP.
In September 2011, the government introduced a new Mining Law in an effort to stimulate exploration and extraction of natural resources (including diamonds). The law covers all mineral deposits and contains two key regulatory changes designed to encourage investment. First, exploration and extraction rights are now granted simultaneously, whereas in the past these were negotiated separately and sequentially, resulting in high degrees of uncertainty for investors. Second, the new law reduces the government of Angola’s mandatory minimum stake in mining enterprises from 50% to 10%, thereby allowing investors to capture a significantly larger share of potential profits. These changes are expected to spur interest and investment in the sector in the years ahead. However, production costs remain very high due to inadequate energy and transport infrastructure outside of major settlements. As a result, growth in the sector is likely to remain muted until these infrastructural deficits are alleviated.
A new Foreign Exchange Law for oil companies is being implemented. The volume and size of oil sector related transactions going through the domestic banking system will increase significantly, providing an impetus for financial market development. The diversification of the country’s financing sources and instruments, in particular through the development of a local currency bond market and the adoption of best practices for first-time bond issuers in international markets in terms of transparency and disclosure of information to potential creditors, is being considered by the executive.
Going forward, the strategic objective of economic diversification will require effective programmes to close the infrastructure gap, develop human capital, and lower the cost of doing business in Angola. To this effect, the Angolan government announced the creation of a Sovereign Wealth Fund that will invest profits from oil sales in business in an effort to diversify the country’s economy and spread prosperity. Focus has been put on upgrading the country’s infrastructure network and broadening the production base to better position the country in the regional markets of Central and Southern Africa. Strategies to promote entrepreneurship and small- or medium-sized entreprises (SMEs) in order to enhance economic competitiveness, job creation and incomes are among the ongoing priorities.
1. Da Rocha, Alves (2010), Desigualdades e Assimetrias Regionais em Angola – Os factores de competitividade Territorial, Universidade Católica de Angola, Centro de Estudos de Investigação Cientifica (CEIC).
2. Angola Country Profile, 2010 Enterprise Surveys, World Bank and the International Financial Corporation (IFC).