Angola-South Africa: Efforts to rebuild economy receive a boost

JOHANNESBURG, 18 March (IRIN) - Angola's efforts at rebuilding an economy devastated by years of civil war are expected to receive a boost with the launch of the South Africa-Angola Chamber of Commerce (SA-ACC) on Tuesday.
The idea of forming the SA-ACC, which aims to smooth the way for investment opportunities between Angola and its neighbour South Africa, was born out of an unexpectedly high turnout at a trade conference in Luanda last year, and subsequent expressions of support for a body to address potential investors' needs and concerns.

Investors also needed a central point to receive information on complying with Angolan business regulations and needed help seeking out interested partners, SA-ACC interim committee member Keith Campbell told IRIN.

Since the death of rebel leader Jonas Savimbi in February 2002 and the revival of the Lusaka peace accord in April, awareness of Angola has increased regionally and internationally and with it, hopes of social and economic reconstruction.

Humanitarian organisations are working with the government in carrying out emergency programmes to help millions of people displaced by the war and to reintegrate hundreds of thousands of soldiers and their families into society.

The Angolan government has been promoting its role in regional and international bodies including the Southern African Development Community and the UN Security Council.

Entrepreneurs are exploring possibilities beyond the mainstays of diamonds and oil that peace and newly opened transport routes may offer.

"It's almost like virgin territory," said Campbell, referring to the level of rebuilding needed after decades of devastation and neglect.

"The country has huge agricultural and construction potential and they have a lot more than oil and diamonds. The economy has been liberalised over the last few years and foreign companies can repatriate earnings.

"When asked, I tell people the war is definitely over and this message is becoming accepted and the more people become involved [in Angola] the more they believe it," said Campbell, who is also the managing director of Executive Research Associates, a risk management consultancy for investment in Africa.

Besides international investors, South African names which have already invested include construction company Grinaker-LTA, Investec Bank, Securicor Gray and the large supermarket chain Shoprite.

According to South Africa's Business Day newspaper, SAB Miller, which bought a 45 percent share in Coca-Cola Bottling Luanda in 2001, is opening a brewery there. South African cellular companies Vodacom and MTN are also investigating opportunities.

However, while companies may be keen to do business in Angola, and the country would welcome the cash injections needed to fund vital social programmes and infrastructure repairs, potential and existing investors say they face frustrating bureaucratic hurdles.

Campbell said immediate frustrations included only being able to obtain single-entry visas - in spite of the need for investors to return frequently - plus the requirement of a letter of invitation to visit the country, and the bureacracy involved in registering a business.

He said it cost a staggering US $60,000 to US $250,000 to register to do business in Angola, depending on whether it was a joint venture with an Angolan partner or an individual enterprise.

The SA-ACC hopes to address these issues with government representatives who, he says, have shown much goodwill in prior informal discussions. He said the foundations for trade agreements and cooperation were already being laid at government level between the two countries.

More details:

See also IRIN's focus on the informal economy in Angola.


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