RICARDO VIEGAS D’ABREU

Angola 2022 | TRANSPORT | VIP INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Ricardo Viegas D'Abreu, Minister of Transport of Angola, about recent trends in the sector, the Port of Luanda, and an overview of 2022 objectives.

In these three years at the helm of the Ministry of Transport, how has the sector evolved, and what proposals have been put in place to boost its activities?

When we were appointed in 2018 with a new government on board and a new set of programs and projects to move forward, we also had to engage in the reform agenda for Angola. It addressed not only the legal and regulatory framework of the Ministry of Transport, but also the whole transport sector, as well as its institutional and organizational parts. We defined a methodology to step forward, assessing and evaluating the quality and the robustness of the system, including ports, airports, railways, and logistics platforms, all of them under our responsibility. One of the main concerns we faced was that we needed a stronger and much more effective regulatory and supervisory bodies. In that regard, we recently approved a new law for the National Civil Aviation Authority (ANAC). It will be the second independent administrative entity in the country after the Central Bank. In parallel, we are doing exactly the same thing with the maritime and ports authority and the terrestrial transportation authority. The main idea is to have the state move towards a more regulatory and supervisory role, instead of being involved directly in the different business activities on the ground. The second-most important action that we took was putting together the transport and road infrastructure master plan, a 20-year plan for the Angolan transport sector. The main objectives of the plan, in terms of the future of the country, are continuous investments and upgrades in infrastructure in the transport sector and logistic services and in terms of road infrastructure.

What are the ministry's plans to improve Angola's logistic platforms and trade logistics?

There were two main issues. The first is moving Angola up the ladder of compliance in terms of international standards and procedures. That will raise the awareness of the Angolan transport sector infrastructure and the quality of services. The second was determining what the future of the country will be and how we see Angola moving forward, so we can also benefit from the interest of international investors and business community to support the strategy. We are facing the challenge of extending our program in two ways, of which one is putting together a number of tenders for concessions. We are convincing the international community and the global big players to come in and operate the Angolan infrastructure. We are doing this in ports, but also in other sub-sectors like the tender for the Lobito corridor railway infrastructure. We did that in Luanda, and the next steps are Cabinda and Soyo. We need investments to improve the quality of service, efficiency, operational readiness, security and safety levels. In Luanda, we have were able to attract one of the main terminal operators in the world: DP World, which will join APTM as operators of the two main terminals in Luanda Port. For the Lobito Port, multipurpose terminal tender, we have seven contenders, and all of them are among the top 10 global terminal managers. The second way is to privatize some of our strategic and critical companies in those sub-sectors. In the civil aviation sector, for instance, we decided to split our former airports management company and navigation company ENANA into two companies. One is a public entity that is now responsible for air traffic control and navigation – ENNA, EP, and the other is responsible for airport infrastructure and management, SGA, SA.

The modernization of Port of Luanda is expected to ease Angola's international goods exchange. Can you provide further insight into this project?

The concession program entails the improvement of the quality of operation, efficiency, reliability, safety, and security, moving the standards and procedures to international compliance levels in Angola. At the DP Worlds terminal, the standards today in Luanda are exactly the same as can be found elsewhere. That means we are achieving the objective. One of the challenges is education and training human capital to better understand the standards and use it as a normal procedure. Regarding diversification, most of the cargo movement at our ports' terminals up until 2019-2020 used to serve the Angolan domestic economy. The plan is to reverse that situation such that we can transform Angolan ports into logistic hubs, just as other ports in West Africa like Lomé in Togo. The idea is to have cargo moving to Angola and then reshipped or transshipped to other countries and transport this cargo to the neighboring landlocked countries, by road or railway.

The new Luanda International Airport will revolutionize air travel in Angola. What can this project bring to the aviation sector and other linked industries?

Angola has the biggest airport network in the region or even in sub-Saharan Africa, with airports in all of our provinces. Therefore, the new Luanda International Airport is one of our strategic projects. The government decided to finalize the project as soon as possible, placing a huge investment to achieve it. Fortunately, the overall project and execution have progressed as planned, and we expect construction of the airport to be finalized by the end of 2022. Then, the certification process will take another year to 18 months at most. The opportunity for Angola here is to combine all the sub-sectors and raise the standards and capacity. If we have civil aviation in Angola growing with the proper infrastructure and standards, and with international awareness of our quality, we can finally become an important player. On the eastern side of the continent, there are already important hubs: Ethiopia, Dar es Salaam, and Kigali, which is also trying to move toward becoming an aviation hub. In the west side, there is not really a strong hub for civil aviation, and one of our objectives is to become that hub. The number of airlines currently flying to Luanda is already an indicator of this. Unfortunately, COVID-19 delayed many plans and actions that we were preparing, but we are working to get back on track and accelerate the transformation process.

In a nutshell, what are your objectives for 2022?

First, we need to conclude our reform agenda with the specific purpose of raising our standards and recommended practices, allowing the perception of the Angolan transport sector internationally to grow in terms of awareness, the quality of its institutions, its legal framework, and efficiency. Second, we are focused on improving the quality of urban mobility by introducing a set of measures, not only to increase the fleet of urban public transportation but also changing the way that people move. The third and last objective is to improve the professional quality of our operations in the various sub-sectors. Underlying this objectives are two important pillars, sustainability of our transport and logistics solutions, and digital transition and innovation.