Angola plans to revive its agricultural sector

In the most expensive city in the world, Angola’s capital Luanda, everything is expensive but time. Even with pre-scheduled meetings, people can leave you waiting for more than an hour and then apologise for it with just a smile; a smile that I will come to understand over the course of my assignment in the country and that translates simply into: “Sorry, traffic.”

Navigating the streets of the capital is an onerous task, and it can take two to three hours to move between districts, a clear indicator that Luanda’s infrastructure is not catching up with the city’s exponential and visible growth.

Construction projects that are springing up across Luanda’s skyline to meet the growing demand for office and living space, as well as the changing spending habits of a non-negligible proportion of the population are testament to the country’s growth. Mercedes and other upscale car dealerships, and expensive restaurants, have no trouble finding a local clientele. Unfortunately, the vast majority of Angolans can’t count themselves among that clientele, just yet.

After its ill-remembered civil war, Angola stumbled upon a wealth of natural resources, including oil, gas and diamonds. However, revenues from these resources are taking a considerable amount of time (hindered by bureaucracy among other things) to be transformed into enough projects to generate employment for the local youth and to create a welcoming economy for foreign investors.

Aware of the current predicament, Angola’s government has set up strategies to revive and diversify the country’s economy. One of the sectors of central importance to Angola’s economic future is agriculture. After gaining independence in 1975, Angola became self-sufficient, and a top exporter of various food crops, including bananas and coffee. Fast forward to 2013: the country imports the majority of its food needs and has almost no industrial capacities to process what it produces into agricultural consumer goods.

In various interviews given to Infomineo by top government officials, big farmers and heads of industrial companies, the key messages highlighted a few simple ideas that can hopefully develop the local agricultural sector.

First, more focus should be placed on small-scale farmers who are responsible for 90% of the agricultural production in Angola, by improving their yields and training them in basic sales and marketing. Second, the cost of local production, which is still high compared to neighbouring economies, should be brought down and, most importantly, incentives to ease investments in the food processing industry to substitute the country’s heavy reliance on imports should be offered. If this is done, the rest is simple: Angola is already endowed with high quality soil and water resources. Thus, there is no reason why the country shouldn’t fulfil its agricultural potential and find its way back to self-sufficiency and, eventually, rejoin of the podium of top food exporters.

Mohamed Zin El Abidine is a senior analyst at Infomineo.

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