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Progress ‘breathtakingly rapid and broad’

Article - November 3, 2011
Bilateral relations between Angola and the United Kingdom have been steadily on the up recently, with trade and investment between the two countries growing significantly
Here the UK’s Ambassador in Angola, Richard Wildash, highlights one of Africa’s fastest growing economies as a market with substantial opportunities for UK companies.

How would you assess the outlook for Angola’s growth prospects during 2011-12?

I very much share the optimistic assessment of the Government of Angola.  Diversifying the economy is clearly a priority. Much progress has been made here already since the long war years, with an obvious and welcome sense of entrepreneurism and enthusiasm. But of course much more needs to be done – relaunching the agricultural sector, developing training and building capacity, strengthening the financial services sector, establishing a broader manufacturing base. All of this will help avoid dependency on the oil sector – which will always remain important for Angola, but which cannot on its own allow Angola to realise its full potential, not least because it creates relatively little new employment. It is to the credit of the Angolan leadership that a clear lead is being given in the direction of diversification.

In which sectors of the Angolan economy would you encourage UK-based investors to investigate further?

Angola is perhaps unusual in the sense that almost every sector is at an early stage of development, because of the country’s history. So almost every area offers opportunity for British investors. You will hear different advocates argue for different priorities. My own view is that those companies that work with the Government and its own development strategy will make the most rapid progress.

In terms of sectors, this might mean for example the energy sector – there is a very ambitious power generation and transmission plan and the Government has made it clear that it would welcome the participation of British companies as the plan is implemented.

In terms of the strategic approach, it might mean supporting Angola’s wish to become a regional exporting hub.

What is your outlook for the evolution of bilateral relations to date?

I have seen a huge change over the last few years. Change in the UK, where there is much greater awareness of the potential of Angola and openness to tackle issues that have hampered progress in the past. Change in Angola too, as we see an expansion in the range of issues on which our two Governments, as well as private sector organisations in our two countries, collaborate.

Our relations are good, strong, honest and dynamic. We are talking about important areas of policy beyond trade – climate change and human rights are two notable examples – and we are seeing the establishment of important links between partner institutions, such as the two Parliaments. We are getting to know each other better and building trust on both sides.

Which aspects of the bilateral relationship present some of the greatest challenges and opportunities?

The UK believes that good governance, transparency and accountability are essential for sustainable economic and social development. These are challenging areas for Angola, but we strongly support the ‘Zero Tolerance’ policy of President dos Santos on corruption and welcome the efforts that are being made to improve the quality and reliability of public administration.

Another important area of opportunity has to do with Angola’s position in the South African sub-region and the international system. This is work in progress. Angolan foreign policy is still being defined, but the aspirations are clear and strong.

What message would you give to people considering business with Angola?

Doing business here demands effort; it is a challenging environment by any standards. But it is a highly exhilarating place in which to operate too: a place where making progress is tough, but once achieved progress can be breathtakingly rapid and broad. Several FTSE-100 companies are finding this, as well as smaller companies operating in often surprisingly specialised niches. It is a place where there is a huge need for creativity and imagination.

Much of our experience in Britain can be useful here. Our inputs are valued, respected and welcomed here. It has to be for individual companies to make their business decisions about the opportunities in Angola, as anywhere else. But investors should be confident of the sound political relationship that underpins all Britain’s dealings with Angola.