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ANGOLA - INTRODUCTION 
Leading Angola into a bright new future


Angola’s President, José Eduardo dos Santos meets with George Bush to dicuss bilateral trade initiatives

Angola’s turbulent recent past has given way to a country with real democratic principles, with the first elections since 1992 due in September. Underpinned by oil and diamond production, the southern African country is becoming an international center for investment

Angola is becoming internationally recognized as one of Africa’s major centers of foreign investment, economic growth, and social development. The country’s current sunny outlook was, however, unimaginable at the dawn of the 21st century. For decades, Angola’s resources and potential were obscured by the fog of a long-running civil war that dashed the hopes of its people after independence from Portugal in 1975. But when peace accords were signed in 2002 and the rival parties finally agreed to lay down their arms, international investors quickly found the New Angola to be a rising star for the oil, gas, diamond, infrastructure and agricultural sectors.

The rapid progress of the Angolan economy has been nothing short of astonishing. GDP has more than quintupled since 2000, reaching $53.5 billion in 2007. Over the same seven-year period, GDP growth averaged 11.8 percent per year, and Angola registered 24.4 percent growth in 2007 — the highest growth rate in Africa, and one of the highest in the world. Oil exports have fueled this increase, making up well over half of Angola’s GDP most years. Production shot up from 750,000 barrels per day in 2000 to close to two million barrels per day in 2007. Strong exports have helped stabilize the Angolan currency – the kwanza – and brought inflation under control.

Oil, gas and diamonds are making Angola’s reputation abroad, but its other resources represent untapped and unheralded opportunities. The country’s diverse landscapes can support a wide array of crops, from bananas to coffee, and its coastal waters are teeming with fish. Angola has some of the heaviest rainfall in Africa, which feeds huge rivers and expansive forests – bringing major potential for forestry and hydroelectric development – in the more tropical northern reaches of the country and its Congo Delta exclave of Cabinda. To exploit these resources, international and domestic banks are entering a growing market for financial services, and investors are rebuilding the country’s electricity grid, road network, ports, and railways.

Virgílio De Fontes Pereira
Virgílio De Fontes Pereira, Minister of Territorial Administration

In addition to jobs and investment, peace is bringing greater freedom to Angola’s people. Legislative elections, the first since 1992, will be held on September 5th and 6th. Dr. Virgílio De Fontes Pereira, the Minister of Territorial Administration, has one of the more challenging jobs in the country – to oversee the organization of an election among a wary and isolated population. “We faced a huge challenge of civic education, which we met with support from churches, traditional leaders, and NGOs. The results of the electoral registration process demonstrated that our work was a success. People said they were hopeful that they could vote.”

U.S. Ambassador Dan Mozena is another believer in the potential of the New Angola. A Foreign Service officer who has spent most of his thirty-year career representing the U.S. in southern Africa, he recognizes how a hard-won peace is a precious and valuable thing for everyday Angolans. “The math is simple: 41 years of continuous conflict; that’s two generations of people. What I am most impressed by is that they have not forgotten the past. They have not forgotten the civil war that raged from 1975 to 2002, but they have left it behind them. The leaders of this country and their former adversaries on the battlefield are now working together. Peace is not taken for granted in Angola.”

Accelerating demand for oil, gas, and diamonds mean that Angola’s most important resources are coveted by the world’s growing markets. Countries like China and India aren’t just consumers of Angolan resources; they’re joining familiar American and European firms in investing in projects to mine, transport, and process them. Looking to the future, Dr. Fontes Pereira has an assured and positive outlook on his country’s economic prospects in the coming decades. “By 2025, Angola will be the leading country of the region as concerns economic development. We have what it takes — a good climate, rich seas, enormous potential in oil and gas, and other riches that have yet to be explored. I think I’ll be alive to witness an African El Dorado.”