Augusto da Silva Tomás, Angola’s Minister of Transport, talked to Worldfolio about the country’s plans to update and connect its transportation network, linking road and rail connections with airports and seaports. This, he says, will help diversify the economy and turn Angola into a transport hub for the continent.
Angola is set to enjoy some of the highest growth rates in the world during coming 10 years, as it has for the previous decade. What have been, in your view, the main factors that helped achieve this economic situation?
The great opportunities we have come from the political stability of our country. This is the sine qua non for economic and later, social stability. Only once these conditions were reached, could we start speaking about the reconstruction of our country.
There are, however, a number of contradictory situations in Angola’s past and recent history: on one side, infrastructure that has to be built or rebuilt, and the unbeatable will of the people to make things happen; and on the other side, the lack of qualified human capital, of financial resources, of materials to face all the necessities.
Currently, 95% of international trade and imports enter Angola through its ports. What have been the major changes in infrastructure, particularly ports, in recent years?
Our main objective is to create a transportation network that would articulate the whole country, from north to south, from the sea to the east. Moreover, we’d like to get the value of its geostrategic situation in central Africa, in southern Africa, and in Africa in general. We will reach our objectives with a number of actions, projects and programs in the short, medium and long terms. The target sectors are the airways, the railways, the maritime sector and the ports, and the roads.
Sector by sector, I would like to go into details, beginning with the roads. It is necessary to put back the facilities for the transportation of persons and of goods throughout the whole country. This includes, without limitation, main highways, secondary roads, between cities and villages, production areas and consumption areas, etc.
In the aviation sector, as is known, (the national airline) TAAG was blacklisted five years ago and forbidden to fly to Europe. Our national aviation sector needed to be restructured with different types of intervention. Firstly, we reformulated the whole legislative and regulatory framework of the sector, with more than 3,500 pages of agreements reached with the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the European Union, the International Air Transport Association (IATA), and all other signatories of the Conventions of Chicago, Tokyo, Beijing and Montreal.
Secondly, we modernized our infrastructures with the rehabilitation, modernization and equipment of the airports in Cabinda, Soyo and in Luanda. It was also the case of other domestic airports, like Ndalatando in Kwanza Norte, the one in Malanje, the one in Saurimo in Lunda Sul, the terminal in Dundo in Lunda Norte, and the airports of Carumbela, Benguela, Lubango, Ondjiva in Cunene, Huambo, and Kuito Kuanavale in Cuando Cubango.
The new international airport in Luanda will be among the largest ones in Africa and the largest one in Central Africa, representing a regional hub with a total capacity of 15 million passengers a year, 31 air shuttles for domestic and international connections, besides the other international airports of Catumbela and of Lubango.
We also started with ‘Turnaround’, the program of the rebuilding of TAAG. With TAAG, one can now fly everywhere on board of new generation aircrafts. During the years of economic downturn, we successfully negotiated with Boeing and were offered a discount of around 51%, cutting the price of an airplane by half.
Moving on with the maritime sector and our ports, it is necessary to mention the four fundamental harbours, which are the Port of Cabinda, the Port of Luanda, the Port of Lobito and the Port of Namibe, where we just completed a first phase of rehabilitation and modernization. We have smaller ports, like in Soyo and Amboim, and three projects of new ports: the deep water port of Cabinda, the port of the Barra do Dande close to the Province of Luanda, and the Port of Lobito that has recently been modernized with a terminal for minerals, a terminal for containers and a dry harbour.
We achieved great successes with our railroads. The Caminho-de-ferro de Luanda operates now on a network of around 475 km passing by Luanda, Bengo, Kwanza Norte and Malanje since the end of 2010. The Caminho-de-ferro of Moçâmedes operates on a network of about 975 km. And the Caminho-de-ferro of Benguela, linking Lobito, Huambo, Bié and Moxico, runs on a network of close to 1.375 km. We bought new locomotives and cars to transport persons and freight.
Given these advances in each sector, it is important to note that the four main ports are linked with national and international airports, themselves linked with railways. Three main corridors are under development: the Corridor for the Development of Luanda that links the port, the airport and the Caminho-de-ferro of Luanda; the Corridor for the Development of Lobito that links the port of Lobito, the airport of Catumbela and the Caminho-de-ferro of Benguela; and the Corridor for the Development of Namibe that links the regional airport, the port and the Caminho-de-ferro of Moçâmedes. We hope to achieve such a corridor for Cabinda and Namibe by the sea, which would then be our fourth corridor for transversal development.
By investing in this infrastructure, the government is making it possible for the economy to diversify. Linking ports, airports, railways and fundamental road networks will help projects to develop in areas such as in meteorology, energy, water, agriculture, fishing, mining and so on. The next step is to link this enhanced production platform of goods and services to neighbouring countries, like Congo, Zambia and Namibia, through air, maritime, roads and railways agreements.
We are working to make Angola a reference not only in Central Africa but also in the rest of the continent and in the world. We want to benefit from our privileged geostrategic location to become a transit platform for passengers and merchandise to the rest of Africa, Central America, South America and Asia.
What is the importance of the ports in Angola to its geostrategic position?
With deep waters, the best roads and railways network of the region, Angola represents a privileged geostrategic place, with more advantages than landlocked countries like Zambia or Zimbabwe. With all the rehabilitation and investment plans, we enhance the production not only in Angola, but also in the whole region. We will serve as a basis for neighbouring countries to export themselves and to import.
Supporting the construction and maintenance of the entire transportation infrastructure requires a lot of financial resources. Does Angola benefit from any form of the public-private partnerships to finance its transportation sector?
The greatest challenge we face is the lack of human capital, financial resources and equipment and technology. We finance our projects with our own funds and foreign capital through foreign investments. However, we use different forms of project financing such as PPPs and BOT (Build-Operate-Transfer) to finance the launching of the Port of Cabinda, of the Port of Barra do Dande and of the Port of Amboim.
What would be the PPP opportunities for investors in the transportation sector?
Our country is open to investors and has no boundaries. Anyone willing to contribute to our economic and social development, within the strategy of the State, abiding by our legislation and regulation, will always be welcome.