VICENTE FRANCISCO SOARES

Angola 2022 | ECONOMY | VIP INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Vicente Francisco Soares, President of The Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Angola (CCIA), about strategy, diversification of the Angolan economy, and aims for 2022.

CCIA promotes the social and economic development of Angola by increasing commercial relationships with the rest of the world. What strategies are you currently carrying out in order to achieve those objectives?

The strategy is to promote our local companies by intensifying our relationships with our colleagues in different countries. We have strong ties with different chambers across the world, and through these chambers and business associations we promote our local companies abroad, especially in the fishery, industry, commerce, and agriculture sectors.

COVID-19 has had a huge impact on the economy of Angola and its different sectors. What initiatives has CCIA developed in order to support its members?

Although we had developed our own national plan, we received support from the International Organization of Employers with specific plans designed for Angola. We published a guide and were able to support, assist, and help our companies deal with COVID-19. It was launched in 2020, and we are following up on how the companies are implementing this guide.

What is being done by the public sector to fine-tune its services to the needs of the imminent economic growth?

Infrastructure is a key tool to develop the country. We have a lack of infrastructure in terms of roads, power, and water, and it means we are unable to move forward. Through dialogue with the government, we try to find ways to overcome this situation. There are some questions that are not related to the private sector. We do not have the capacity to build roads, as it is a government duty. We negotiate with public entities to ask them how they will overcome those constraints. As companies, what we can do is improve our processes of production to make them efficient and be more productive. We have seen improvements to the infrastructure, water supply, education, and health system before the economic financial crisis in 2014. From 2014 to date, there has been a lack of improvement because we are heavily oil dependent. Then, oil prices fell dramatically, and all government projects stopped.

Angola's economy heavily depends on crude oil exports. What can be done to diversify the economy to be less dependent on the oil and gas sector?

On the one hand, we have a country rich in natural resources: minerals, water, forests, and a fertile land. We have everything we could desire to improve and develop the country. On the other hand, we lack the basics to improve the country, namely infrastructure and the human resources. That is why CCIA is focused on training programs to improve the capability of entrepreneurs and labor in order to improve production.

Can you tell us more about your programs for entrepreneurs?

We have signed MoUs with local entities, business associations, academic centers, and foreign institutions. We are dealing with certain Brazilian institutions and have an MoU with Afrochamber. We also have a Portuguese organization as well as some others worldwide. We are asking them to help us with training programs so that we can improve our entrepreneurial and labor capacity, especially for the agro industry, for it will be a key sector to start the development the country needs.

Nevertheless, productivity in the agriculture sector is still low. What initiatives can be deployed to increase efficiency in this sector?

The productivity of agriculture is still low because in order to improve productivity you need well-trained labor. We have limited knowledge in that field because we were in a war for 30 years, and people moved from rural areas to cities, losing their skills to work on the land. We have to reteach them, though we need people with such knowledge first. We must partner with foreign investors like what we are strongly doing now. We have partnerships with Brazilian companies because they have expertise in similar cases to Angola, though we are also looking for investors from all over the world.

Is CCIA developing projects in order to help small businesses in the agriculture sector to become stronger and gain some capability?

Yes, that is why we signed an MoU with different institutions. We will start a program to move people from the informal sector to the formal sector. We help small, medium, and micro entrepreneurs, as some of them are selling products on the streets without any structure or planning, so we want to move them to small houses. It is a big project supported by the government, so we will work together and share some experience. We had another initiative, which included big companies working here, mainly in oil fields, to start collaborating with local companies. This had the objective of leading foreign companies to work hand to hand with local SMEs, although the project has since halted.

What are the main objectives for 2022?

We will mainly focus on public-private sector dialogue. We were elected last week as a focal point for the private sector forum on ACP countries. This means we need to improve dialogue and contribute to prepare the private sector to deal with public institutions but also between Angolan companies and ACP enterprises. Another focus will be training programs for labor and entrepreneurs, promoting our companies, and attracting foreign investment into Angola, finding partners for local companies that do not have the financial capacity to start their businesses. Therefore, we are looking for financial institutions to come to Angola and support local companies that do not have the funds, although they do have successful projects.