Angola faces considerable challenges as its economy evolves, but the focus must be on diversifying its economy, especially as it boasts “excellent investment opportunities in different sectors”, a panel of speakers agreed during a seminar hosted by law firm Webber Wentzel on Tuesday.
Webber Wentzel partner Robert Appelbaum, who led the panel discussion, said Angola, which boasts an abundance of natural resources, would need to find the right leadership to realise its potential.
Long-term investment projects and initiatives in the country, outside of the oil and gas sector, were expected to yield “great returns” as Angola’s current government was “notably engaged with improving the business environment” through adopting better and more transparent governance practices in order to achieve greater economic growth and development, while earning the trust of foreign investors.
However, Angola is still faced with considerable challenges, exacerbated by poor economic indicators, which may lead to instability and generate anxiety about the country, in addition to challenges around foreign exchange and the instability of external payment.
Despite this, the panel believes that Angola is experiencing a “decisive moment” in its history, with “everyone committed to making things work better”, with a focus on developing a diversified economy.
In mapping Angola’s political and economic landscape, African investment firm Arise investment director Hugo Azevedo said the situation in Angola was not new, and that the issues were intensified by the country not having used its excess natural resources as a windfall in the past.
Additionally, he told delegates on Tuesday that “not enough diversification took place”, and that “a big hole is being dug” because of “leadership, corruption and [the country’s] liquidity challenges”.
With Angola’s new regime focusing on removing corruption, he added that there was also “a new openness” to foreign investors and the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF’s) involvement in the country, which was now moving towards action and implementation.
As part of this change in Angola, law firm Linklaters corporate counsel and head of real estate Diogo Plantier Santos highlighted that the country’s privatisation programme, launched in May, allows for State-owned companies to be privatised.
This change, he added, was driven by the IMF, and was currently being implemented in Angola.
“We see it as a set of opportunities for foreign investors, as well as [an opportunity for] the economy to diversify,” he said, adding that “the time has come to implement the programme”, after much State intervention in the economy in prior years.
The success of the programme, however, hinges on its implementation, especially as concern remains about the government’s involvement in the restructuring of its State-owned entities (SOEs).
In this respect, he advised interested investors to review the list of companies that were scheduled for inclusion in the programme, and “to do their research” about both the programme and Angola, before making final decisions on doing business in the country.
Investors have various opportunities in various sectors, including the likes of banking, construction, energy, agriculture and oil and gas, said Azevedo, warning that good service would be key to long-term success and sustainability.
Law firm MG Advogados partner Leniza Sampaio shared Azevedo’s sentiment, but said the biggest opportunities lie in providing services, such as education, owing to a skills shortage in the country following the civil war.
Additionally, transport, tourism and telecommunications were also highlighted as good sectors to invest in as Angola was a “country that needs everything”.