Angola’s business environment showing signs of improvement

Although Angola is still an “ultra challenging” market, the country’s recently upgraded infrastructure and a government with a new focus on transparency is likely to make it easier to do business.

So said Roger Ballard-Tremeer, Chief Executive of the South Africa – Angola Chamber of Commerce, in his presentation yesterday at the 5th Africa Economic Forum in Cape Town.

“When the Chinese came into Angola in more or less 2003 and negotiated for access to the Angolan oil, one of the things they offered as a sweetener to conclude the deal, was making available a huge credit line [of] billions and billions of dollars. That credit line was used in these last years by the Angolans to rehabilitate the infrastructure of the country,” he explained.

He said that many of the main roads linking the country’s 18 provinces have been upgraded. “Today you can go anywhere inter-provincially in a third of the time it might have taken you to do that previously. Secondary and tertiary roads perhaps still need some attention [but] getting around Angola is a much easier situation now than it used to be.”

He added that crossing the border into the Democratic Republic of Congo or Zambia has become less demanding, although some problems are still being experienced at the Santa Clara border post with Namibia. Handling and clearance times at Angola’s ports have also improved.

According to Ballard-Tremeer, Angolan President José Eduardo dos Santos has undergone a transformation along the road and is currently committed to transparent governance and stamping out corruption. “The main components of [Angola’s] paradigm as we look forward might include good and transparent governance . . . [which] is being driven extremely strongly at the present time.”

He said the fact that over 100 corrupt members of the unit that deals with visa and work permits were recently arrested, is confirmation of the government’s “zero corruption” stance.

“The post-2002 Angolans that I know, are talking accountability, sustainability, avoidance of conflicts of interest [and] avoidance of insider trading,” Ballard-Tremeer noted. “Honesty, prudence, better institutional capacity, deepening democracy and so on, are what we can expect into the future.”

He also said that although Angola is still very expensive for foreign business people, a drop has recently been seen in the costs of some services, such as hotel rooms and rental vehicles.