In a sit-down interview since he was re-elected for another five-year term last August, Angola president, João Lourenço, hailed President Joseph R. Biden Jr. for hosting the U.S.-Africa Leaders’ Summit next month, asserting that it would be “an ideal moment” to chart a new path for long-lasting partnership with Africa.
The Summit, only the second of such event of its kind to be held in the United States, will be the biggest U.S.-Africa engagement in Washington D.C. since former President Barack Obama hosted African leaders in 2014.
During the sit-down interview in Luanda, the capital of Angola, on November 7, with Hariana Veras, the White House permanent correspondent for Angola, President Lourenço urged American investors to see Angola and Africa as a logical and resourceful destination for investments.
Mr. Lourenço praised President Biden for hosting the Summit, saying that it will help create a win-win partnership between the United States and Africa, accelerate industrialization, increase direct foreign investment and further cement the already good collaboration between Angola and the United States.
“The message that we will take to President Biden is that we would like to see private sector American investment in our country to help us diversify our economy,” Lourenço said, adding that the country will take their investment seriously.
According to President Lourenço, infrastructure, energy, and water investment will significantly contribute to Angola’s economic progress.
He argued that Angola and the African continent at large have witnessed stagnated industrialization, which has further curtailed economic progress, adding that the continent has the potential to become more industrialized, but will require massive investments from countries such as the United States.
The gathering in the American capital December 13-15, 2022, aims to advance shared priorities and foster stronger ties between the United States and Africa. It will also provide an opportunity to advance the Biden administration’s focus on trade and investment in Africa, highlight America’s commitment to Africa’s security, its democratic development, and its people, as well as emphasize the depth and breadth of the United States’ commitment to the African continent.
The Biden administration has said that the Summit “will demonstrate the United States’ enduring commitment to Africa, and will underscore the importance of U.S.-Africa relations and increased cooperation on shared global priorities.”
“Africa will shape the future — not just the future of the African people, but of the world. Africa will make the difference in tackling the most urgent challenges and seizing the opportunities we all face,” the administration added.
Lourenço also invited tourists to Angola, arguing that Angola is one of the most beautiful countries to visit and invests. “Our fauna is very rich and therefore come to Angola, come visit a tourist destination and it will certainly not disappoint anyone who visits Angola,” the Angolan leader said.
Under President Lourenço, Angola is undergoing massive economic and developmental transformation following many years of corruption and impunity, which have adversely affected the country’s progress.
For many in Angola, Lourenço is commended for his courage in fighting corruption and impunity. They argue that after he was elected president in 2017, he chose to rejuvenate hope among Angolans by revitalizing and revamping a new era that will see the country take a progressive path to recovery.
But the fight against corruption is far from over, President Lourenço told Ms. Veras during their sit-down interview in Luanda. He said that rather than declare victory now, there is a need to accelerate and continue the fight against corruption in the country.
“We cannot consider the fight being over, no. Corruption still exists, in a smaller scale, people are not as free to practice,” he said.
Lourenço acknowledged that the fight against corruption and impunity is enormously challenging, but hoped that he will win the war or enhance the continuity to fight impunity and corruption in the country.
Lourenço spoke about the disappointment corruption has brought to the country, especially in development. Despite being endowed with enormous resources, corruption has made the country fail to realize its full potential.
However, the recovery of money and assets, which have been the proceeds of corruption, has enabled his government to start an integration plan and important investments in municipalities, which will significantly improve welfare of the country and its people. Lourenço further emphasized that there is concrete evidence that investment in the current government will significantly impact the country’s economic growth and industrialization path. He gave examples of some clothing factories, Luanda, Dondo, and Benguela, that had created jobs for many Angolans.
With his vision to change the country, the president added that he is mostly motivated by the need to change the country and repair its image to enhance its international appeal. Although the war, which has negatively projected the country’s image, has been surpassed, more efforts are needed to continue the fight against corruption and impunity in the country.
The president spoke also about the Russian-Ukraine war and explained his position against the war. One reason was that Angola is a member of the United Nations and subscribes to its agendas. Another reason was that the country has come from a deep pit of prolonged civil war that have destabilized it for many years, and its upshots are still experienced. He understands the adverse consequences of wars, including loss of lives, human displacement, and refugees.
Therefore, he would not wish to see another country experience what Angola has faced. He hopes the two countries will resolve the conflict and prevent further loss of life, displacement, and instability. He accentuated that he would reiterate his concern for the Russian and Ukraine war in Washington, DC, during the upcoming summit. He is optimistic that resolving the war between the two countries would promote stability and help solve the energy and food crises that the conflict had triggered.
The president advised that the war should open the eyes of advanced countries to lead efforts in increasing investment in more alternative energy sources besides the traditionally used energy sources.
As the Russia-Ukraine war rages in Europe and its ramifications are extended to other parts of the world, including in Africa, Mr. Lourenço called for increased food production and investment in African nations, saying that the global food crisis has badly affected Africa.
Further, there is a need to increase investment in production and Africa can be the solution. Accordingly, he called for investments in agriculture in Angola as the country is endowed with abundant arable and productive lands with a good climate and sufficient water to support agriculture.
However, capital and technical know-how remain critical hindrances to enabling the government fully exploit arable lands. He opined that investment in capital, technology, and know-how has the potential to enable Angola to produce enough that will play a significant role in reducing world hunger.
He said that Angola has gained and maintained its international reserves at satisfactory levels, which allows the transfer of dividends of investors in all sectors of the country’s economy.
He called on investors to invest in the country and, besides achieving their self-interest, will help chart the country’s economic growth and prosperity path. He reassured investors that his government will support them to speed up investment. He echoed a governance approach that meets international standards. He hopes the summit will give Angola the opportunity to get lasting solutions and results that will help industrialized the country.
Currently, he said, his vision is to create jobs for the young people in Angola, while his administration continues giving special attention to education and health. He is committed, he said, to continuing to invest in education and health infrastructure with a major focus on building more schools and hospitals.
For instance, he outlined his plan to increase investment to equip hospitals with more beds. The president also hopes to build more public universities and promote university education.
The U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit comes just months after Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken unveiled the new U.S. policy for Africa in South Africa last August.
The new policy says that the United States will pursue four main objectives in Africa. The four objectives in the new strategy are fostering openness and open societies, delivering democratic and security dividends, advancing pandemic recovery and economic opportunities, and supporting conservation, climate adaptation and a just energy transition.
To realize its ‘openness and open societies’ objective, the U.S. will promote government transparency and accountability, increase the U.S. focus on the rule of law, justice, and dignity, and assist African countries to more transparently leverage their natural resources for sustainable development.
For democracy and security dividends, the U.S. will focus on “working with allies and regional partners to stem the recent tide of authoritarianism and military takeovers, backing civil society, empowering marginalized groups, centering the voices of women and youth, and defending free and fair elections, improving the capacity of African partners to advance regional stability and security and reducing the threat from terrorist groups to the U.S. Homeland, persons, and diplomatic and military facilities.”
To advance the pandemic recovery and economic opportunities for Africa, the U.S. will focus on “prioritizing policies and programs to end the acute phase of the COVID-19 pandemic and build capacities to increase preparedness for the next health threat, supporting manufacturing initiatives for vaccines and other medical countermeasures, Promoting a stronger growth trajectory and debt sustainability to support the region’s economic recovery, including through the Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment (PGII), Prosper Africa, Power Africa, Feed the Future, and a new initiative for digital transformation and partnering with African countries to rebuild human capital and food systems that were further weakened by the pandemic and Russia’s war against Ukraine.
And to advance the conversation with Africans, climate adaptation and a just energy transition, the U.S. will focus on “partnering with governments, civil society, and local communities to conserve, manage, and restore the continent’s rich natural ecosystems, supporting countries in their efforts to minimize and adapt to the impacts of a changing climate, including enhancing community, economic, and supply chain resilience, working closely with countries to accelerate their just transitions to a clean energy future, energy access, and energy security, and pursuing public-private partnerships to sustainably develop and secure the critical minerals that will supply clean energy technologies.”
The new strategy begins by acknowledging that “Sub-Saharan Africa plays a critical role in advancing global priorities to the benefit of Africans and Americans,” and that it “has one of the world’s fastest growing populations, largest free trade areas, most diverse ecosystems, and one of the largest regional voting groups in the United Nations (UN).”
It asserts that “It is impossible to meet today’s defining challenges without African contributions and leadership,” especially because “the region will factor prominently in efforts to: end the COVID-19 pandemic; tackle the climate crisis; reverse the global tide of democratic backsliding; address global food insecurity; promote gender equity and equality; strengthen an open and stable international system; shape the rules of the world on vital issues like trade, cyber, and emerging technologies; and confront the threat of terrorism, conflict, and transnational crime.”
“Building on the Biden-Harris Administration’s actions and commitments to deepen our engagement and partnerships in Africa during the past year, the strategy articulates our new vision for a 21st Century U.S.-African Partnership. It recognizes the tremendous, positive opportunities that exist to advance shared interests alongside our African partners,” it says. “At the same time, we acknowledge that Africa’s potential will continue to be challenged as long as deadly conflicts divide societies, corruption impedes economic progress, food insecurity heightens the risk of famine and malnutrition, and repression stifles human rights and democratic expression.”
The new strategy acknowledges that as President Biden noted in his address to the African Union last year, “none of this is going to be easy but the United States stands ready now to be your partner, in solidarity, support, and mutual respect.”