Anna Rosenberg, a senior analyst for sub-Saharan Africa at Frontier Strategy Group, is currently on a research trip to South Africa and Angola, meeting international and local companies. Here she discusses some observations on Angola.
Angola is a sea of opportunities but an ocean of difficulties. I have already discovered this on my first day of touching ground in Luanda.
Even though I knew Angola’s capital is famously the most expensive city in the world, prices are even beyond one’s wildest imagination. A pretty average hotel room that already costs US$450 a night when I booked it three weeks ago has just been increased to $490. A small bottle of water costs $7 and pasta with tomato sauce $50.
Cultural notions of time and reliability are different and as a result it is a challenge to schedule meetings. Calls are by far the preferred method of communication as people like the human interaction. On the upside, time is fluid and people are generally flexible. If they are late, they smile – no need for an excuse. But overall, this attitude makes it a challenge to commit to a time and date though, let alone keep a tight schedule.
But the Western business traveller (myself included) needs patience. After all, the country only emerged from a traumatic civil war a decade ago. Today, this is most obvious in the labour force where an entire generation did not receive the most basic schooling. This of course, presents various obstacles in everyday life.
But Angola’s pace of change is nothing less than remarkable. The city is bustling with commercial activity. Everywhere you look there are huge construction sites and office towers are rising into the sky. Local bank branches are on every other corner. The roads are packed at most times of day with a considerable number of expensive cars. There are business people of all colours and races, with a definitive majority of Portuguese, Brazilian and Chinese. People are very friendly and approachable. They like to enjoy life, to celebrate. And so I was warned before coming to Luanda that I would get little sleep because at nighttime, “that’s when the real business deals are struck”.
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