Reviving Angola’s Promising Agricultural Sector
In the most expensive city in the world: Luanda, Angola, everything is expensive but time. Even with pre-scheduled meetings, people can leave you waiting for more than an hour and just apologize for it with a common smile; a smile that I will come to understand over the course of my assignment in the country and that translates simply into “Sorry, traffic!”: Navigating the streets of the capital can take an easy two to three hours to move between districts, a clear indicator that Luanda’s infrastructure is not catching up with the city’s exponential and visible growth.
Construction projects that are springing up across Luanda’s skyline to meet the growing demand for office space and fancy apartments, as well as the changing spending habits of a non-negligible proportion of Angolans, are a testament to the country apparent growth. Mercedes and other upscale car dealerships, and ridiculously expensive restaurants have no trouble finding local clientele. Unfortunately, the vast majority of Angolans can’t count themselves among that clientele, just yet.
Right after the end of its ill-remembered civil war, Angola stumbled upon a wealth of natural resources, including oil, gas, and diamonds. Revenues from these resources, unfortunately, are taking a considerable amount of time, and bureaucracy, to be transformed into enough projects to generate employment for the local youth and to create a welcoming economy for foreign investors.
Aware of the current predicament, Angola’s government has set in place many strategies to revive and diversify the country’s economy and one of the sectors that are believed to be of central importance to Angola’s economic future is Agriculture. Upon gaining independence in 1975, Angola was self-sufficient, and a top exporter, of various food crops, including bananas and coffee; fast forward to 2013: the country imports the majority of its food needs and the country has almost no industrial capacities to process what it produces into agricultural consumer goods.
In various interviews given to Infomineo by top government officials, big farmers and heads of industrial companies, the key messages converged toward few simple ideas that can hopefully develop the local agricultural sector. First, more focus should be given to small farmers, who are responsible for 90% of the agricultural production in Angola, by improving their yields and training them in basic sales and marketing. Second, bringing down the cost of local production, which is still high compared to neighboring economies, and most importantly offer incentives to ease investments in the food processing industry, to substitute the country’s heavy reliance on imports. If this is done, the rest is simple: Angola is already endowed with excellent soil quality and water resources. Thus, there is no reason why the country shouldn’t fulfill its agricultural potential and find its way back to self-sufficiency and, eventually, re-join of the podium of top food exporters.
Mohamed ZIN EL ABIDINE, Associate, Infomineo.
 « The World’s Most Expensive Cities For Expats » 2013 Forbes’ Ranking: http://www.forbes.com/sites/andrewbender/2013/07/28/the-worlds-most-expensive-cities-for-expats/