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Working on an agenda for peace in Angola

Interview - August 13, 2014
Georges Rebelo Chikoti, Minister Ministry of Foreign Affairs, talks about Angola’s role as a regional as a peacekeeper, the country’s the National Development Plan, and relations with the Unites States.
Following the events that recently occurred in the Great Lakes Region, there have been a lot of issues regarding bringing and keeping peace to this part of the World. Can you please share your view on the main role Angola is playing now as a peacekeeper and how this role has evolved in Angola?

Together with President Dos Santos we are working on an agenda for peace in Angola and across Angola. President Dos Santos believes that if there is no peace in our neighborhood, we cannot be at peace ourselves. As you might be aware of, we have had a very long conflict, which spread to almost all of our neighbors. This means that our neighbors supplied our enemies.

Now that we are at peace, we really treasure this stability very much, and we want to make sure that we are committed to peace. President Dos Santos is committed to peace, and one of his challenges is to make sure that the DRC, particularly its Eastern part, becomes and remains peaceful. As soon as he assumed the Presidency of the Great Lakes Region, he has defined that it would be important to build peace in the DRC. Most of the actions that were taken by President Dos Santos have been in this direction. Firstly, to make sure even though the war is over between DRC and the rebels with a clear victory of the Government of the DRC, President Dos Santos feels it is still important to build peace with all the neighbors in the region. Secondly, once peace is consolidated, we’ll solve all the pending issues related to all forms of rebel groups and start achieving economic development. Cooperation is therefore of the interest of those countries who will win from both actions, most certainly in a region rich in natural resources.

There are great signs that show the situation will evolve in the right direction. The commitment and the efforts of President Dos Santos, first, have helped facilitating the relations with our peers from the other Governments from the Great Lakes Region. Moreover, with the agreements that have been signed on DRC, the commitment that we have seen from all other governments, there is hope that we will implement the agreement that we jointly signed. Then, I believe that with the signing of the amnesty law by President Kabila and the commitment of the region, the UN and the rebels themselves, we will start with the implementation of a very important process within the containing of peace. So, there are good and positive signs that with peace we can all achieve further development.

Can you tell us about the National Development Plan and what is coined as an ‘economic renaissance’ that Angola is going through at the moment?

It is said that the indicator of hope and of achieving and succeeding in Angola is very high. Everybody believes that they can overcome all the difficulties and live better. I believe this is an important indicator in a country that has gone through a very difficult period of war with many people who died. Now that the war is behind, many believe that we have the possibility of doing better, we can implement our National Development Plan until 2025, including a program until 2017 with as main priorities: human development, rebuilding of main infrastructures and creating jobs in both urban and rural areas. Once these priorities are achieved, it is also important to make sure that wealth is redistributed from top to bottom.

As is commonly believed, Angola is known for producing oil only and making money out of this business, and that we don’t prioritize the development across the country. As a matter of fact, one of the challenges of President Dos Santos is to better distribute wealth. So, our development plan must integrate this across the country and include all those who are in remote places. Having a close look at our plan, one notices that it intends to develop the interior of the country and to make sure that all towns and provinces will participate. The population census this year and the subsequent local elections to consolidate regions and all these plans intend to take wealth better and across the country. You may have noticed that, today, provinces like Kwando Kubango or Moxico, for instance, are accessible either by train, by roads or by plane. This is a sign that life is gradually improving at all levels.

During the war, the Government guaranteed its services to the people with difficulties and mostly humanitarian aid reached the people living in remote towns and regions. There are still many people living in rural and other isolated areas but today, they have the possibility to grow and produce commodities in their lands. Hence, we value peacekeeping and the dividends of such a development plan, and we believe this battle will be gained in the shortest period of time.

Angola has been achieving tremendous economic development, especially since 2002. High growth rates each year, BB- as internationally recognized credibility, the implementation of the Sovereign Fund, responsible resources management, responsible policy making by the Central Bank are only a few of the numerous economic successes. In today’s world, capital knows no border and is at the heart of the race for investments. What makes Angola such an important choice for capital investment?

Angola’s attractiveness is mainly based on four aspects. Firstly, we have a very important law on private investments, which allows people to invest very easily. Investors can be individuals or enter partnerships, and the returns on investments made in Angola as well as the benefits from the investments are ensured.

Besides, it is still challenging to find highly qualified people in Angola although it is easy to find people willing to work. With high needs and a high rate of consumption, our country represents a very attractive place to invest in, particularly in commodities, in manufacture goods, and other particular jobs.

Our oil policy has also attracted many foreign companies, which in turn have allowed for the development of other services and goods activities. With the expansion of our refining activities in the oil sector, we develop more and more specialized activities and the related human capital.

Then, we also have an open policy to deal with other countries as equal partners, entitling them to work and live in Angola. People complain about the costs involved, but the prices have gone down such as prices for housing. Traffic is also something that people complain about. As we develop more and more the activities in the interior as well, we will make sure such issues like traffic and cost of life will be minimized. Other cities than Luanda are always better places to live in. We have a lot of potential for investment while enjoying good living conditions, which will allow for more and rapid growth of the Angolan economy.
All this with the government being open makes Angola a priority destination for investments, and not only in the oil sector.

The USA and Angola have had a strong relationship for more than 20 years now, particularly based on trust. Many success stories have happened, most recently with the credit line allowed by Ex-Im Bank, and Power Africa, for example. How do you view this relation between both countries? How has it been evolving over the years?

With greater openness today, we are happy to be working with a very active Chamber of Commerce linking both countries. I have met with the American Chamber of Commerce last year, and more meetings will happen again in the near future. We have been working together to make sure that the American investors community is aware of the opportunities that Angola has to offer, in the oil and the non-oil activities. With the signing of a general agreement for the protection of investments, we also make sure all the investors and their capital are safe. Political and social stability, along with the growing confidence in President Dos Santos, help raising the American interest.

Angola being linked to the heart of Africa has much to offer to international investors. This is obvious when we think of historic partners, such as General Electrics. But we keep making efforts to give the good signs that other investors require to come and start doing business and making money here.

It is very important to the right investors and potential partners and to provide them with what they need before they come and start doing business. What is it that Angola is looking for in a partnership?

Firstly, we want others to respect us as much as we respect them. Secondly, the field is open.

We have set laws regarding foreign investments, specific areas into which they can go and we have defined how they can go there and what they are going to find. With these two aspects such as respect and openness, we can start doing business. We already do business this way with many partners, like the USA, China, India, Brazil, Argentina, etc.

What is more is that we are very open to acknowledge and discuss our weaknesses. In order to grow, we know that we have to overcome our main difficulties and the many challenges we still have. Therefore, on top of all the efforts done by our Government, we leave the door open to investors to help us achieve higher standards in education and in agriculture, for instance. While progressively minimizing the main challenges we still face, both Angola and the investors benefit from the dividends of such opportunities.

With an experience at international level, you are the witness of many changes in Angola and in Africa. What would your message be regarding the position of Angola and Africa at the moment to the people of the USA?

The USA, being a superpower of the World, have achieved many economic successes and are present everywhere in the World. What is important for the USA is to learn from what has been done in Angola, and how we have done it. Our commitment as a country that was devastated by the Civil War to build peace is also an important aspect they should be aware of. President Dos Santos has been the only one to work into this sense, bringing together people from different areas and perspectives. His idea was to create an Angola where everyone should have a chance and be free to work.

Our history has brought us together and, although we still face some challenges, we all want a better and a stronger Angola. Angola is, to this end, open to the USA and the people of the USA are welcome.