The original report was published in The Independent on Friday, July 1, 2011
‘The field of opportunities is wide’
Angola and the United Kingdom have seen their bilateral relations steadily improve, with trade and investment between the two countries growing significantly in recent years
Richard Wildash, the UK Ambassador in Angola, here outlines one of Africa’s fastest growing economies as a market with significant opportunities for UK companies.
How do you view Angola’s growth prospects during 2011-12?
I’m very optimistic. Angola is succeeding in attracting foreign investment flows; macro-economic management is sound; efforts are being made to tackle barriers to business; and the Government is energetically pursuing a policy of diversifying the economy to avoid over-reliance on the oil and gas sector.
What is your outlook for the evolution of bilateral relations to date?
Over the last year or so we have seen a huge expansion in the pace and scale of cooperation and the range of issues on which we conduct a dialogue. We are clear, on both sides, that we are important partners for each other. We talk about global issues such as human rights and climate change. Our experts collaborate on them in international fora. We are establishing a momentum of regular high-level meetings that define the framework. We are providing targeted training and capacity-building in priority areas, such as foreign policy and defence. We are making good progress in developing relationships between key democratic institutions – the British and Angolan Parliaments being a salient current example. We are developing our links with Angolan civil society and supporting a number of projects which we think will make a difference – relatively small, but key.
Where would you like to see further collaboration between the two countries?
We hope to see more cooperation in defence, where we have made a promising start (a British warship is currently visiting Luanda). We are keen to find ways to support the Government’s efforts to improve governance and, in particular, public sector finance accountability and transparency. I think a close dialogue on trade policy, including the advantages of free trade areas, would be positive.
In which sectors of the Angolan economy would you encourage UK-based investors to investigate further?
The field of possibilities is wide, given the rate of growth, and there are probably opportunities almost everywhere in a country in which a devastating three decades of war ended only nine years ago: the reconstruction challenge is massive. I would encourage investors to talk to the Angolan Government and try to work with them, supporting their identified priorities. There is an ambitious power sector development plan, for example, and the Government is keen to develop Angola as a regional export hub. Projects which emphasise partnership and have a strong local content, including transfer of technology and training, will be well received.
What message would you give people considering doing business here?
Above all, to take Angola seriously. It is sub-Saharan Africa’s third-largest economy and the UK’s third-biggest visible export market in that region (with the value of exports increasing dramatically year-on-year: over 60% for some periods in recent months).
It is a country with serious regional and international ambitions, economic and political, which is still defining its foreign policy. It is open to a range of different partnerships, eager to innovate and impatient to move forward quickly. It is true there are some daunting challenges for British investors here – language, legal and accounting systems, start-up costs... But many major British companies have already decided to invest and are doing good business here. The political relationship is highly favourable; both Governments are working hard to deal with practical issues like visa services. The Angolan Government and private sector have made clear their wish to see more interest on the UK side. I hope we can meet that expectation. The Embassy will do all it can to support British companies which, having weighed up the evidence, decide to investigate further. From there, reaching the stage of doing business may be tough going at times, but is likely to lead to substantial rewards. It’s not hard to understand why some are deterred, but I earnestly encourage potential investors to look long and hard at this unusual country and the huge opportunities it offers.
ANGOLA PROJECT TEAM:
Regional Director Saturnino Izquierdo, Project Director Gemma Gutierrez, Editorials Pablo Mazarrasa
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