The New Angola: Forging a Strategic Partnership
Since the conclusion of major hostilities in 2002, the government of Angola has sought to rebuild the vital socioeconomic institutions that were crippled by the country's debilitating 27-year civil war. In addition to the legislative elections of 2008 that saw the ruling MPLA claim a commanding majority in the nation's parliament, economic development has accompanied political progress as a priority on the agenda of reconstruction efforts. On Tuesday, November 17, 2009, the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars together with the US Department of State and the Embassy of Angola hosted a day-long conference on the renewed diplomatic relationship between the U.S. and Angola and the African nation's economic plans and prospects. After welcoming remarks from the President and Director of the Wilson Center, Lee H. Hamilton, Senator Richard Lugar (R-Indiana), Assistant Secretary of State for Africa Johnnie Carson, and the Angolan Vice Minister of Energy, João Baptista Borges, opened the day's conference with a plenary session talking about the future of US-Angolan relations and the potential for this burgeoning bi-lateral relationship.
The first major topic upon which the conference focused was Angola's agricultural sector. The country's crops and livestock constitute an essential element of the national economy; they not only serve as one of the largest sources of revenue, standing only behind energy resources and mining, but a large portion of the population depends on them for sustenance and employment. Angola's Deputy Minister of Agriculture and State Secretary for Rural Development, Filomena Delgado, centered his presentation on this key sector. Emphasizing the advantages that the country possesses with regard to agricultural development, Delgado cited the national government's emphasis on private investment and substantial quantities of arable land and water resources as the country's primary assets. Improving this industry would, in turn, facilitate the development of rural areas, establish a network of family and commercial farms, and upgrade and bolster the capability for agricultural research.
The energy sector, Angola's principal source of revenue, was the next topic on the event's agenda. As sub-Saharan Africa's top oil producing state, there is considerable potential to be found in the continued development of petroleum extraction and refinement. However, according to the vice ministers of Energy and Petroleum, João Baptista Borges and Anibal Teixeira Silva, respectively, despite Angola's vast oil wealth, energy diversification is a priority. The government and its sponsored projects will focus on developing further the country's sizeable reserves of natural gas for both domestic consumption and export. In addition, the power sector plans to renovate and expand upon the existing hydroelectricity generating facilities in order to capitalize on Angola's large network of rivers.
The conference's final panel emphasized the importance of developing the country's infrastructure in order to facilitate economic growth. Jose Joao Kuzingwa and Jose Joanes Andre, Angola's deputy ministers of transports and public works, asserted that the civil war was particularly devastating to the nation's infrastructure and that it would require a massive amount of attention in order to be restored. The government has planned ambitious projects to renovate Angola's road, rail, and telecommunications networks in addition to the modernization of its port and aviation facilities. Such improvements would not only increase connectivity and exchange within the country, but also throughout the southern African region and continent as a whole.
The future prosperity of Angola relies on the willingness of foreign governments and private investors to contribute to the development of its major industries. Though the country possesses enviable quantities of natural resources and significant economic potential, it lacks the necessary capital to take advantage of these assets. Now that the traumatic civil war that took hold of Angola for decades has concluded, among the nation's top priorities are its relationships with members of the international community that could help fuel its drive to rehabilitated national industries and infrastructure. Only through strong strategic partnerships with countries such as the United States can Angola truly achieve the prosperity of which it knows it is capable.