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Angola is truly unrecognizable to the Angola of 12 years ago, says Governor

Interview - October 7, 2014
Governor of the Province of Lunda Sul Candida Narciso spoke to United World about development in Angola since the end of the civil war in 2003, efforts to advance the agriculture sector and progress in Lunda Sul itself. She also touched on the diamond industry and U.S.-Angola relations.
I would like to start the interview speaking about Angola, which today has a very high growth rate (even higher than China), with the GDP increasing from $11 billion to $15 billion. What do you think was behind this progress?

First of all, I would say it was possible by having a leader with a visionary strategy, intelligence and a resilience put towards service towards the nation, which has led us to these accomplishments. This very leader mobilized all possible means (people inside and outside the country, financiers, etc.) in order for the country to turn around in such a short time, even after all the vicissitudes of the war through which the country lived. It’s to the extent that Angola may be truly unrecognizable for those who haven’t been here in 12 years.

How is the country doing in terms of economic diversification?

We are making significant steps in the agricultural domain, which can be complemented with attractive tarriffs which already privilege domestic products over imports, and with this we are already beginning to try to live off of that which we produce.

Another point of diversification has to do with the construction and reconstruction of infrastructure in the entire country. The father of the nation, Dr. António Agostinho Neto, said that agriculture had to be the base and industry the deciding factor in the economic development of Angola. Today, besides the already familiar petroleum and diamonds, we have been able to have other types of production that support the national economy. The business class is bigger; there were created conditions from a legal point of view that facilitate growth and the appearance of new businesses. Angola Invest was created in order to strengthen the national business community. These complementary actions of the state will permit a larger economic diversification.

What are the programs that are being developed so that Lunda Sul can move from subsistence agriculture to a more lucrative agriculture?

This is the objective. Before, with the roads in poor condition, it was impossible for trucks with merchandise and products to get around. Now, with these incentives that the state is promoting, we think it will be possible to have agriculture on the level we want. Here in the province we have around 35 agricultural products, each of which will receive around $500,000 in investment. Consequently, the living conditions of the population will increase.

How is the government of Lunda Sul working to promote public-private partnerships that are becoming an important element of this agricultural development and large commercial expansion that are planned for the province?

With the support of INAPEM we are beginning to give some financial education and mobilization in terms of incentives towards entrepreneurship, incentivizing people to look into the possibilities that the state and the bank have made available in Lunda Sul. We already have some people, but we will continue with our campaign so that more people can apply as a form of combating poverty.

In relation to everything, our priority is really education because it’s the essential instrument for personal and social development; for us this is a primordial sector. If you journalists already had a chance to go around the province, you could see that we have a large school construction program precisely to give opportunities to children and citizens that before couldn’t study at school. The elementary education (so that children enter school at the right age) and adult education (to help fight illiteracy) are our focus. Our Law 13 considers the first six years of school to be mandatory, and we are trying to turn this law into a reality in Lunda Sul.

We are taking solar kits to unified villages for schools, health centers, community areas, water sources, police stations, multiuse camps, the chief’s house, etc., in order to have light at night. Fortunately, the city of Saurimo does not lack energy; we have a plant that provides the mining society of Catoca and the city of Saurimo with approximately 16 megawatts. We also have a thermoelectric plant that produces 5 megawatts. Recently we received two more generators that will help augment to 10 MW for the city of Saurimo and its peripheral neighborhoods.

At water level, we have a central catchment but it’s already showing itself to be insufficient, given the huge growth in Saurimo. We are rehabilitating the water distribution systems at the municipal level as one of the focuses of the National Development Program 2013-2017.

Upon arriving at the airport, the changes were very visible: a new airport, new roads, streetlights with solar panels, etc. What should be the next achievements of the province?

We are going to continue to increase coverage in terms of access to water and energy, access to education and health, and improvements in secondary and tertiary roads, including the rehabilitation of the National Road [Estrada Nacional], EN 180, and the rehabilitation of EN 230, which connects Malange to Luanda Sul.

Diamonds have been placed at the disposition of the province for the improvement of living conditions, but the largest wealth continues to be our people, thus we value the improvement of their living conditions because we understand that the support of all is important in order to develop our province.

After more than 100 years since the first mining of diamonds in Angola, how has the evolution of diamond mining occurred, and how has its distribution been at the national level?

Angola as a unitary state, where there is the beginning of financial deconcentration, adds up all the receipts of its resources in order to contribute to the State General Budget, and it’s on that level that the most adequate possible redistribution is done to all the provinces. Naturally, being in this region, we have some specific benefits. The Catoca Mining Society employs a large population and, with this, we improve the degree of employability, the economy of the province and the well-being of families.

There are clearly other minerals under our soil that still are not being mined, and thus we need to promote these minerals and introduce these minerals to capable and knowledgeable investors who can come to Lunda Sul. On our side, we have a legal and incentive package to permit a relationship with reciprocal benefits.

What does it mean for Angola to be the Vice Chair of the Kimberley Process? 

It has great importance because there is often the tendency for political expediency on the part of other countries saying that the human rights of people are ignored when the truth is totally the opposite. You all are here and can testify that the people are living normally. Of course, any country has to regulate itself by the norms and the laws which must be obeyed by all. Overall, thanks to this chairmanship, Angola can truly show the real face of what happens here with respect to diamonds and give its contribution to diamond politics.

Currently Angola has been more than reputable and mature in terms of the politics of socioeconomic development. How would you describe the role of Angola on a regional and global level?

Once more we are able to take a leadership role, thanks to the important role of the nation’s leader who was able to find the best ways to end the war. As to our political experience, I think it was unprecedented in the world because we had mediators, MONUA, and UNAVEN 1 and 2 all here and nothing came of it at all. We came to the conclusion that the problem was ours and that we had to solve it ourselves, and we did. Today many African countries come to learn from this experience. We have influenced many countries that have come to drink from our experience, so to speak. Today, we also have the presidency of the Gulf of Guinea and all this has to do with the suitability demonstrated up until now.

The 20th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Angola and the US has passed. Now there are US companies in sectors other than oil and banking. How do you see the development of these relations?

They have evolved positively. Thanks to this peace we were able to have the ambassadors from the US visit us here in Saurimo, which was unthinkable before. We hope that with your help US companies can feel incentivized to invest in our province which has many mineral resources, many water resources, much arable land and all the conditions to promote agriculture and its subsequent industrialization and exportation to the US.