RICARDO SANTOS

Angola 2022 | ECONOMY | VIP INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Ricardo Santos, Country Senior Partner of PwC, about local talent, digitalization, and planning for 2022.

What has been the evolution of PwC in Angola?

PwC has been in Angola for over four decades, and over the years we have built local teams by recruiting people from university, which we complement with a few resident expatriates and experienced overseas staff with knowledge in specific areas. We work closely with Angolan universities and institutes to identify talent, which is one of the challenges that companies face. We have internship programs that help students get exposed to the work environment, and we also take in many young graduates who will continue to grow in our development and training program throughout their careers.

PwC provides solutions through a wide range of services, specifically designed for a variety of industries. Who are the clients that PwC works with in Angola, and what main services do they require?

Historically, audit and tax advice have been the main services required by clients. We work with clients across different industries, and we have a major focus on energy which continues to be Angolan's economy main driver. We also work with the financial services, manufacturing, retail, and public sectors and, most recently, agriculture. With the economic downturn, many companies have had to rethink their operating model in Angola and the way they do business, evaluate efficiency processes, upscaling staff, and so on. We are seeing an increased demand for those business consulting services. With the pandemic, audits and assurance have been negatively impacted, though we have had additional requests come in from business owners or managers who had to monitor and manage their businesses remotely for long periods and for whom having assurance on financial reports and their accounts from an independent party has become even more important. Over the last few years, we have also been working with the government and public institutions, such as during the establishment of the petroleum agency, and most recently during the Government's privatization process.

With the onset of the pandemic, digitalization processes to deal with clients have improved significantly. What has this process been like internally and externally for PwC?

COVID-19 presented challenges to most companies. Although we already had the technology, flexible work systems, and the necessary platforms in place, many of our clients were not as prepared. Therefore, we faced many challenges in terms of our interactions with clients and delivering certain specific services. Many companies started to adapt to this new reality, and in many cases the pandemic was an accelerator of transformation. Companies and people are now realizing the potential benefits of a new way to approach working and the market. Flexible work will definitely continue to be a significant part of our business model moving forward.

How would you assess the tax reform recently implemented by the government?

There has been a significant number of changes to the tax laws in recent years that continue to impact companies. Several outdated laws have been replaced with new ones that are much more aligned with modern international tax practices. The tax authorities have been making an effort to reduce taxes for companies in general as well as the uncertainty associated with the tax law and regimes, which had been pointed out in the past as a disincentive to investment in the country. There are new taxes in place such as VAT, which also allows the government to diversify their sources of revenue and be less dependent on the petroleum sector.. In addition, VAT will also allow tax authorities to capture a significant portion of revenue which currently runs through the informal economy. In general, there have been positive steps toward more effective and fair taxes with less uncertainty, which will benefit investors going forward.

How can public entities encourage the private sector to diversify and increase its scope in other sectors besides oil and gas?

Historically, Angola's economy was driven by the public sector, so it was sometimes challenging for private entities to operate because there was a great deal of intervention from the public sector; however, the government has taken steps to remove some of the influence from the public sector, which is what the market and investors were looking for. They want greater clarity and rules on what to expect and how to comply with them, and they want to be able to make their own decisions from an economic perspective. In this case, less intervention is better for the country. Investors look to the government for support in terms of infrastructure, because they cannot operate if there are no roads, electricity, running water, or a qualified workforce.

Can the objectives of Angola for 2050 be achieved through local leadership? How can young people be trained in order to achieve this?

Personally, I believe it cannot be achieved any other way; success has to be driven by Angolans. Given its background and history, at the moment Angola does not have the full capacity to source all the qualified workforce it needs, so inevitably it will need to bring in people to help with the rapid growth which is expected to happen in the next decades and also to help training and developing people locally. However, this does not replace the need for the government to invest in education, health systems, and so forth. This is the way forward.

What are the specific goals for PwC for 2022?

We are seeing big trends worldwide like the technological revolution, climate change, fractured geopolitics with COVID-19 only accelerating those trends. We are hearing more questions about the role of governments and corporations in addressing these issues and in serving society we're seeing different groups impacted disproportionately in relation to access to healthcare and job security, and we're seeing societal norms transformed in terms of ways of working. As a result, we have developed our strategy based on two fundamental concepts: the need to build trust across a broader range of stakeholders in society and the need to deliver sustainable outcomes.On the short term, we that with oil prices being relatively stable Angola's performance will improve in 2022 and we hope we are able to return to personal interactions with our clients, because in many cases that is highly appreciated, and they benefit significantly from those interactions. In order to develop a sustainable local practice, we will continue investing in people and technology to deliver sustainable solutions and hopefully continue to grow our business.