Angola: take a closer look at a country ripe for growth
Renata Valenti of PLMJ provides a guide to the Angolan initiatives in infrastructure and the financing of projects as the state embraces its development potential
Angola has significant potential for infrastructure development, particularly in sectors such as transport, energy, and telecommunications.
The country's extensive coastline and natural resources provide opportunities for port expansion and maritime infrastructure. Investment in road, rail, and airport projects is planned in order to improve connectivity and trade. Furthermore, the energy sector is benefiting from investments in renewable energy sources and power generation to meet the growing demand. Enhancing telecommunications networks will also promote digital connectivity and economic growth.
However, challenges such as funding, regulatory frameworks, and a demographic that continues to grow must be taken into consideration when designing infrastructure projects in Angola.
Regardless of their size, infrastructures have an immediate impact on the country’s economic and social development and on Angola's regional and global affirmation.
In the past ten years, we have witnessed the massive social impact of large-scale projects such as the construction of ‘centralities’, also known as urban development centres, which involve the construction of planned residential areas with various amenities and services. These centrality projects are part of the Angolan government’s efforts to address the challenges of urbanisation through affordable housing and the provision of basic infrastructures. By way of example, the Kilamba Kiaxi centrality can be highlighted, which has been built 30 km from Luanda, with around 700 residential buildings and 30 schools, among other public services.
We have also seen the expansion of regional airports, the rehabilitation and constant maintenance of roads, the rehabilitation of railways, and the strengthening of port facilities.
The Lobito Corridor
With regard to the transport sector, the Angolan government and a private consortium recently signed a 30-year concession agreement for the rehabilitation and operation of the Lobito Corridor.
The Lobito Corridor is a major infrastructure of more than 1,500 km of railway running from the coastal city of Lobito to the Angolan border with the Democratic Republic of Congo, crossing the mining Congolese province of Kolwezi. Provision is made for an extension of the railway to Zambia and the east coast of Tanzania, allowing the connection and trade of goods between the south-west and east African coasts.
The project involves the rehabilitation and expansion of railways, roads, and other transport infrastructure along the corridor. It seeks to improve the efficiency of transporting goods between the port and landlocked countries such as Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
By providing better connectivity, the Lobito Corridor project has the potential to stimulate economic growth, trade, and regional development.
The Lobito Corridor project is a very clear sign of the interest in transferring to the private sector activities that, to date, have been developed by the government and, of course, financed by the government.
In fact, financing is a key factor in the development and improvement of infrastructure. Thus, designing adequate financing models is the starting point when planning and prioritising projects.
If in the past many projects were developed with exclusive recourse to public funds, it is no longer expected that the government will support public service projects from their financing and conception to their operation.
Particularly in Angola, important projects are being implemented with different funding sources, such as:
Multilateral development banks – institutions such as the African Development Bank, the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund have been providing loans, grants, and technical assistance for infrastructure development across the region.
Bilateral aid – different countries offer aid packages to support infrastructure projects, which can include financial assistance, technical expertise, and capacity-building programmes.
Foreign direct investment – private investors, both domestic and international, are invited to invest directly in infrastructure projects through a simpler and straightforward legal regime and procedures to register an investment project, and, when applicable, benefit from tax incentives.
The Angolan sovereign wealth fund – designed to manage the country’s oil revenues and invest in long-term projects, such as those in infrastructure and agriculture.
International loans – taken out by the government or by private entities with financial institutions seated outside Angola.
Export credit agencies (ECAs) – ECA-backed deals are commonly used in different sectors. Significant agreements have been signed in 2023 for renewable energy projects, the construction of hospitals, local production of food, and water infrastructure.
Focusing on what may be an opportunity for private investors and less burdensome to the government, important private-public partnerships (PPPs) currently under discussion are causing a buzz. These collaborative arrangements tend to be a good solution for the financing and developing of essential infrastructure projects whose cost cannot be exclusively borne by the government.
The legal framework dates to 2019 and in 2020 an Operational Plan for Structuring Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) was approved. Beyond the Lobito Corridor, the initial list includes other major projects, such as the Luanda surface metro, projects in the water and energy sector, and waste recovery units.
Although there is still little experience in setting up PPPs in Angola when compared to other markets, with the institutional support of the World Bank and international consultancy firms, solid steps are being taken so as to reduce the state’s intervention in strategic economic sectors. In this regard, adding to the creation of a regulatory framework, there are constant efforts to develop the public sector’s expertise and strengthen transparency and accountability in the process of project selection, procurement, and decision making.
As part of the push to decrease the state’s intervention in the economy, the Angolan government launched an ongoing privatisation programme in 2019. This transfer of ownership, control, and management of state-owned assets or companies to the private sector is intended to achieve economic efficiency, competition, and an increase in tax revenues. Additionally, transferring assets to the private sector also attracts foreign direct investment, which typically brings not only capital but also new technology and expertise. At a different level, the privatisation of public companies is expected to contribute to better corporate governance and management practices.
The initial list of public companies to be restructured included 195 entities, from the financial sector to industrial units, spread across the country. In 2023, the privatisation programme was extended until 2026 and adjusted with the inclusion of another 28 companies. This attractive programme includes companies operating in a wide range of sectors, such as:
Oil and mineral resources;
Finance (banks and insurance);
According to the privatisation legal framework, the sale of public companies and assets can be executed through public tender, an initial public offering, or an auction at the stock exchange.
Whether through PPPs or the sale of public assets, the open invitation from the Angolan government to private investors and the good range of opportunities in many sectors are crystal clear. Focusing on foreign direct investment, the reforms implemented to simplify the regulations and procedures to set up a business in Angola can be highlighted.
The fact that the current private investment framework does not limit the participation of foreign investors in the Angolan economy cannot be overstated. On the contrary, the Private Investment Law in force since 2018 guarantees several rights for private investors, regardless of nationality or origin. These include rights to access tax incentives and investment aid, and no imposed amount for initial investment. Particularly for foreign investors, capital repatriation is protected by law and ensures that foreign investors have the right to transfer and repatriate dividends or other income from a direct investment.
The African Continental Free Trade Area
Finally, Angola is a party to the Agreement Establishing the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), which will significantly change the trade landscape between the countries of the African continent. The African Continental Free Trade Area is the worlds’ largest free trade area, with a continuous population growth representing billions of consumers. It is creating a new paradigm in the business relationship between entrepreneurs of African countries that is expected to replace old commercial trades from the continent to Europe or the Americas.
With regard to Angola, following the ongoing diversification policy and the increase in production capacity, there is, and will be, an Angola that has an abundance of opportunities to sell goods produced domestically and to export to any of the other 54 countries that signed the AfCFTA.