United States and Angola Are Natural Business Partners
(U.S. Ambassador to Angola Dan Mozena talks about doing business in Angola)
By Charles W. Corey
Washington — Investors, entrepreneurs and business executives from the United States and Angola are “finding each other” and finding out that they are “natural partners in business,” U.S. Ambassador to Angola Dan Mozena told America.gov September 29.
Mozena made those comments at the conclusion of an opening session of the Seventh Biennial U.S.-Africa Business Summit, which focused on doing business in Angola.
Surveying the packed room at a downtown Washington hotel, Mozena said, “This conference is overwhelming; look at this room full of people who are trying to develop business relationships with the United States — I have to first say I am absolutely overwhelmed by the turnout.
“This conference is important because I think America and Angola are finding each other. We are natural partners in business. Angolan importers need American products. American exporters are eager to export, and the [U.S.] Export-Import Bank is providing the financing to make it possible,” he said.
To help develop that relationship further, Mozena said, he is working to secure representation from the U.S. Department of Commerce in Luanda “to marry American exports with Angolan importers.” Mozena confidently predicted, “We are going to do business in a big way.”
Asked where Americans should invest, Mozena said agriculture. “I come from a dairy farm in [the U.S. Midwestern state of] Iowa. I love agriculture, and let me tell you, you have 35 million hectares — that is 65 million acres — of empty, arable land waiting to be cultivated in Angola.” Additionally, he said, “there is great potential in agricultural processing for juices and fruits and things of that nature. It just goes on and on.”
Other areas for investment, Mozena said, include farm equipment, where American farm equipment manufacturers are finding demand; fisheries, where “we should be selling fishing boats and helping the fishing and processing industry”; and lumber, especially tropical woods, because the country has huge resources in tropical woods.
“The market will grow as the economy revives,” he confidently predicted.
Asked about the present state of U.S.-Angolan trade, Mozena said: “Last year the United States spent about $18 billion, mainly in the importation of oil and some diamonds. We exported to Angola, about $2 billion. That is a difference of about $16 billion — that means somebody else is scooping up $16 billion of our petrodollars, and I am fighting back; I want to bring more of those petrodollars back to America.”
The “Doing Business in Angola” session featured presentations by Connie Hamilton, the deputy assistant U.S. Trade Representative for Africa, and Tiago Gomes, secretary-general of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Angola. Maria Luisa Abrantes, Angola’s trade representative to the United States, also addressed the group.
In her comments, Hamilton focused on two positive points in the U.S.-Angola trade relationship: the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), for which Angola became eligible in 2003, and the U.S.-Angola Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA).
AGOA has been an important step, she said, in line with the Angolan government’s goal of diversifying the nation’s economy away from just oil and gas. “Last year, Angola was the United States’ second-largest trading partner in sub-Saharan Africa and our 31st largest trading partner overall,” she told her audience, “with oil and gas contributing to the vast majority of that trade.”
While U.S.-Angolan trade is “on the rise,” she said, Angola has not yet “found its niche” within AGOA, “partly because we are still discovering potential within each other’s markets.”
There are, however, things that Angola can do right now to take better advantage of AGOA, she said, such as implementing a national AGOA strategy to determine the country’s comparative advantage outside oil and gas. Angola, she said, has some of the most fertile land in the world but is only cultivating 5 percent of that land. “If this situation was addressed, Angola could supply all of its own food needs and much of the subregion as well.” She also suggested that Angola move to produce more “value-added” or finished products — particularly in the agricultural sector.
Other African countries are exporting automobiles, iron and steel products, nuts, insecticides, citrus fruit, wine, fish, cut flowers and other products to the United States. “Angolans know what best they can produce,” and once those products are identified, she said, Angolans should seek out U.S. business partners who know best how to import such products into the United States.
The U.S. Southern Africa Global Competiveness trade hub in Gaborone, Botswana, would be of great assistance in this effort, she said.
In the World Bank’s recently published Doing Business 2010 report, Hamilton said, Angola ranked 169 in 183 countries for ease of doing business. “This is not good,” she told her audience. Improving such ranking will signal investors that the government of Angola is serious about improving its business climate, she said.
Angola is now competing with reform leaders like Mauritius, Botswana, Ghana and Rwanda, which was deemed the top reformer worldwide by Doing Business 2010. “Angolans can do the same,” she told the group.
Turning to the TIFA, she said the document, which was signed May 19, 2009, provides for a formal process on a range of issues regarding trade relations. She called the TIFA signing “just the beginning.” She reminded everyone that much hard work lies ahead, with the first TIFA meeting to be held in Luanda in 2010.
Speaking for the Angolans, Tiago Gomes of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Angola said more than 50 Angolan business people have traveled to the summit in search of business deals. The size of such a delegation, he said in Portuguese, stands as a true sign of Angola’s commitment to doing business with the United States.
The Angolan government is seeking to build 1 million new homes in Angola, which could represent a major investment opportunity for U.S. business, he said. The Angolan government is also creating new economic zones to spur development, he added, and wants to increase industrial output by some 40 percent.
Summing up, he told his audience: “This is the moment to visit Angola.”
The summit, which runs September 29–October 1, is sponsored by the Corporate Council on Africa.
(This is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://www.america.gov)