António Costa (left) due to close a number of important agreements with Angolan head of State João Lourenço (right). Image: Lusa
António Costa (left) due to close a number of important agreements with Angolan head of State João Lourenço (right). Image: Lusa

Portugal’s PM visits Angola to “cement political relations with João Lourenço”

PM expected to sign various new agreements “in areas of bilateral cooperation and investment”

Officially, the PM António Costa’s two-day visit to Angola, starting tomorrow, is seen as the start of a new era in political and economic cooperation between the two countries that share a common language and long (if slightly up and down) history.

Unofficially, it is a necessity: Angola has been China’s biggest trading partner since 2007 (and relations go back much further) explain leader writers. Spain and Italy have already signed ‘deals’ with Angola; Portugal is ‘arriving late’, but with its special ‘advantage’ of close ‘family ties’.

Also unofficially, the visit coinciding with heightened political tensions at home, should see the PM experience a sense of relief to be ‘out of it’, suggests leader writer Octávio Ribeiro, but nonetheless in the media spotlight because of the promise of ‘good things to come’.

Mr Costa will be visiting a number of ‘key Angolan companies’, in various fields, including steelworks, factories producing foodstuffs, medicines, construction materials etc. He will be meeting with Portuguese businessmen in Angola, active in various sectors, particularly construction/ engineering, banking, energy, agri-foods, health and tourism. One of the highlights of the second day will be a trip to an ongoing project being undertaken by Portuguese multinational Mota-Engil.

Talking to Expresso ahead of the visit, President Lourenço stressed relations with Portugal “have never been as good as they are now (…) What we need is to increase Portuguese investment in Angola and wherever possible”.

The Angolan head of State alluded to “an increase in a credit line for investment” as an incentive for companies to act.

According to Lusa, “one of the agreements that is to be signed in Luanda during Costa’s visit is precisely the increase of an existing credit line to €2 billion from the current €1.5 billion, with this having already been negotiated at the beginning of April during a visit by Portugal’s minister of finance, Fernando Medina.

“This permanent credit line guarantees payment to a company in the event of a default by the Angolan state and makes it possible to fund certain defined projects in Angola.

According to Lourenço, this credit line “encourages Portuguese companies to move to Angola, as they feel more comfortable and with the guarantee that what they come to Angola to do is covered by that credit.”

He said that it should be used “in principle” for the construction of infrastructure, more specifically construction of the Muxima Basilica and a number of national roads.

Lourenço also noted in particular some sectors of the economy in which his government would like to see greater investment by companies from Portugal.

Where we want greater foreign private investment is, namely, in agriculture and livestock, tourism – where Portuguese investment is lower compared to investment in other countries,” he said, citing also fisheries and industries other than oil.

The Angolan government would also like to see Portuguese investors acquire more assets that are being sold as part of the current privatisation programme, he added.

“There is a large number of assets in the public sector that we want to transfer to the private sector, and Portuguese investors are invited to buy those assets,” he told Expresso.

The president also acknowledged that Angola is “in default” with some Portuguese companies in relation to unpaid loans, with around €100 million in so-called “certified debt” – recognised by the Angolan state, and yet to be paid.

In terms of “non-certified” debt, he said that this totalled around €200 million, with this still needing to be validated by the Angolan authorities.

Another important aspect of the relationship between the two countries is the fate of the stakes held by state oil company Sonangol in Portugal’s Millennium BCP and GALP Energia, as well as Efacec, in which Isabel dos Santos, daughter of Lourenço’s predecessor as president, had a major stake until she was forced to give it up due to criminal proceedings, writes Lusa.

On GALP’s decision to sell the oil blocks it held in Angola, Lourenço limited himself to saying: “it is evident that if they stayed it would be better, but they will have their reasons for withdrawing.”

Regarding the possibility of Sonangol selling its stakes in the Portuguese companies in question, Lourenço said that no decision had been made: “If some day there is interest from Sonangol, that interest will be shown; if not, everything is fine, we will continue.”

As for the fate of Efacec, which was nationalised by Portugal, Lourenço said that Portugal’s government “has not taken any step without consulting the Angolan authorities.

“Within the framework of asset recovery, the important thing is that Angola does not lose out and, in principle, we have ensured that Angola will not lose out,” he said. “I cannot … go into detail. The only guarantee is that Angola’s interests will always be safeguarded.”

From Angola, António Costa will be flying on to South Africa where he is due to join up with President Marcelo as part of the Portugal Day Commemorations (Portugal Day falling on June 10) scheduled to include the Portuguese diaspora in Pretoria and Johannesburg.

Source: LUSA/ SIC Notícias