Angola is dependent on oil extraction for economic growth and dos Santos said that one of the major challenges for the country is to channel this through to other sectors of the economy, an issue he says the fund also aims to address.
“Obviously the main industry that is creating revenues now is the oil industry. But it’s still very extractive-based, it doesn’t bring products up the value chain. Just now a new refinery has been approved, but there is potential to develop also [a] petrochemical industry to make products such as plastics and fertilisers and so forth. So we see the potential really in stimulating the creation of this value chain in this region and also we have been looking very closely at the hospitality industry because we believe it has a high potential not only for employment but for the improvement in terms of the services provided in the region as a whole. That’s one sector that we believe is essential, especially for FDI in this region.”
Dos Santos said that, in the long run, the fund will reduce poverty. However, a quick Google of ‘Angola’s sovereign wealth fund’ will reveal that some critics are less convinced. Transparency International ranked Angola 157th out of 176 countries in its 2012 corruption index, which is actually an 11-point improvement up the ranking from the previous year. I asked dos Santos what he would like to say in response to this suspicion.
“I would say that our accounts would be audited annually by an independent firm – probably one of the big four – and we will very likely, in terms of investment, follow the policy and guidelines set by the government which will also be public,” he said. “So we are aiming to be very transparent about that and adhering to these Santiago Principles, which aim to deal with issues such as this in particular.”
The Santiago Principles, proposed in 2008 by the IMF and the International Forum of Sovereign Wealth Funds, are a set of 24 voluntary guidelines that assign best practices for the operations of sovereign wealth funds. The FSDEA governance structure contains an autonomous board of directors, according to dos Santos.
“It’s a three member board that has the mandate to implement an investment policy that has the guidelines for investment set by the government,” said dos Santos. “We also interact with the government again through an advisory board for local investments more to accommodate any impact that our investments could have in the local economy, because there is a fiscal programme and monetary programming that could be affected by large investments as a whole, or even FDI.”
His other two fellow board members consist of board chairman, Armando Manuel, who is also president José Eduardo dos Santos’ secretary for economic affairs, and Hugo Gonçalves who is apparently a relative of a former government economy minister.
Some have questioned dos Santos’ involvement with the fund. Not only is he the son of the country’s president, but he is also business partners with Jean-Claude Bastos de Morais who is the founder and advisory board chairman of the fund’s asset manager, Quantum Global Group.
“I’ve always worked in the financial industry, this is what I’ve always done,” he said in response to my question on this criticism. “I’ve been in insurance, in banking and in trading, now I’m an investment entity of the state and I will continue to do my job, as I have always done. Obviously following up the mandate that was given which is to invest in the growth of the country and improving the lives of the people of the country. So I hope to be audited on that and not on the fact that I am the son of the president.”