Direct Qatar Airways flights to Angola and a tourist visa waiver are expected to boost tourism and attract increased Qatari investments into the country, Angola’s envoy to Doha said.
Angola’s ambassador to Doha said while relations have evolved and expanded within various fields throughout recent years, there is “plenty of space” for progress between the two countries.
In an exclusive interview with Doha News, Ambassador António Coelho Ramos da Cruz said highlighted a range of milestone moments between Angola and Qatar since diplomatic relations were established in 2006.
The diplomat said Angolan President João Manuel Gonçalves Lourenço’s 2019 visit to the Qatari capital marked a monumental moment that served as a catalyst for an expansion in cooperation, with a number of agreements signed to venture beyond energy, including tourism, infrastructure, and a range of diverse other sectors.
The agreements provided “a favourable environment for investment and business,” he said.
“Although the level of diplomatic relations has evolved positively with a focus on the energy sector, the potential for cooperation between the two countries has not yet reached the levels of development that we want, but there is plenty of space for progress,” Ramos da Cruz added.
The diplomat outlined that the priority now is to facilitate the implementation of the agreements and cooperation protocols that have been signed and, at the same time, create conditions to strengthen cooperation between the two countries “as well as promote greater awareness of Angola and the countless opportunities it offers the world among investors, businessmen and Qatari society in general”.
Most importantly, the official highlighted the facilitation of signed agreements and the impending establishment of the Bilateral Commission as clear priorities for his country.
The two nations are also gearing up to set in motion the implementation of eight other cooperation agreements and protocols that have already been inked between them, with active plans in the works to engage in further negotiations between the two nations, the official added without providing more information.
However, Angola is now keen on working towards implementing its recent decision to provide tourist visa exemption for Qataris, as well as 97 other countries, in a bid to boost tourism prospects.
“This came at a good time for our country, which also has tourism as a pillar of cooperation with Qatar,” the official said, noting the move is one of the country’s strategic focus on tourism as a cornerstone of collaboration with the Gulf nation.
Ramos da Cruz said the unveiling of the Dr. António Agostinho Neto International Airport, with pays homage to the nation’s first ever president, promises to be a catalyst for tourism in Angola.
Meanwhile, direct flights by Qatar Airways, coupled with the visa exemption, are anticipated to not only boost tourism but also create a fertile ground for heightened Qatari investments in the sector.
Fertile soil for investment
During Angolan president’s visit to Doha in September 2019, Qatar’s Amir Sheikh Tamim urged Qatari businessmen to explore diverse sectors within the Angolan economy, Ramos da Cruz told Doha News.
In a bid to attract international investors, Angola unilaterally waived visa requirements for citizens in Qatar and this Visa Waiver Agreement for Diplomatic and Special Passports was signed during the presidential visit to the Gulf country.
Angola has strategically outlined priority sectors for foreign investment, offering areas worth tapping into for global investors. These sectors encompass a broad spectrum, covering oil, gas, diamonds, tourism, infrastructural development (road, rail, port, and airport), telecommunications, energy, water, agriculture, manufacturing, mining, fisheries, forestry, healthcare, and education.
To sweeten the deal for investors, the central African country has rolled out an array of incentives, dependent on the investment zone.
Investors can expect a 15-year tax exemption and other related benefits, the ambassador detailed. The exemptions range from five to 15 years, contingent on the zone of investment – A, B, or C, with perks such as exemptions from capital investment tax, SISA tax on land and real estate purchases, and reduced duties on imported goods and equipment, including heavy vehicles and technology.
- Zone A: 8-year exemption for the provinces of Luanda, and the seat municipalities of the provinces of Benguela, Huila and Cabinda, as well as the municipality of Lobito.
- Zone B: 12-year exemption for the provinces of Kwanza Norte, Kwanza Sul, Bengo, Uíje, Lundas and the inland municipalities of Benguela, Cabinda and Huíla.
- Zone C: 15-year exemption for the provinces of Huambo, Bié, Moxico, Cuando Cubango, Cunene, Namibe, Malange and Zaire.
Adding to the incentives, there is also a five-year exemption from customs duties on goods used in the production process, excluding capital goods and raw materials produced domestically.
Investments from $50,000 to $250,000 receive reduced customs duties, encouraging investments in sectors like farming, manufacturing, fisheries, infrastructure, telecommunications, among others, Ramos da Cruz added.
Angola’s private investment policy ensures a level playing field for both national and foreign investors, along with security, compliance with international agreements, and freedom in choosing investment zones, except in areas defined as state reserves by law, he added.
This move Angola aims to not only lure international investors but also position the country as a hub for diverse economic activities.
Fields of cooperation between Angola and Qatar
In the realm of economic, commercial, and technical cooperation, Angola and Qatar have forged a diverse landscape of agreements and partnerships. These areas involve an agreement on Mutual Promotion and Protection of Investments aimed at fostering sustainable economic development for both countries.
In a more broad endeavour, the collaboration spans an array of sectors including industry, mining, energy, agriculture, communications, transport, construction, labour, and tourism.
Delving into the maritime domain, a Memorandum of Understanding has been established between the Qatar Ports Management Company (Mwani) and the Maritime Port Institute of Angola (IMPA) that works towards managing port and maritime systems in Angola.
The partnership also extends its reach into the realm of oil and natural gas, with state-run QatarEnergy investing in Angola’s oil sector since 2020. This venture includes a stake in Block 48, a consortium involving Total Operator (40%), Sonangol Pesquisa e Produção (30%), and Qatar Petroleum (30%).
The collaboration not only marks a major investment in oil but is also a concession to manage terminals at various ports in Angola. This aims to facilitate the transportation of liquefied natural gas (LNG) from Angola’s Soyo-based Angola LNG plant, primarily facilitated by Qatari vessels.
In transportation, a bilateral cooperation agreement has established thrice-weekly air connections between Doha and Luanda via Qatar Airways. The cooperation also extends into the aviation industry, with collaboration between Gulf Helicopters, a Qatari offshore service provider for oil platforms, and Sonair, an aviation entity under the Angolan oil company, Sonangol.
Aside from service provisions, the collaboration includes initiatives for training Angolan technicians and executives, the envoy informed Doha News.
Angola currently produces approximately eight million cubic feet of gas, processed at its Soyo natural gas plant. As additional natural gas fields are developed, the plant’s capacity of one billion cubic feet of liquefied natural gas will be reached, allowing for a return on investment and the exploration of new gas utilisation avenues.
“Qatar is well known for its level of development and the ability it has had to turn oil and, above all, gas revenues into the driving force behind its development and also, as a result, the ability to intervene in markets outside its territory,” the official said.
“Angola sees the State of Qatar as a major economic partner, trying to take advantage of its strengths, but also offering unique opportunities that Qatar and its companies will need in other areas outside of oil and gas,” he added.
“Our country’s potential in various fields is attractive to a country like Qatar, which has the financial resources and some technical capacity to intervene through its shareholdings.”
The envoy further detailed that various tourism initiatives are led by a range of agents, including Infotur, an Angolan state-owned company dedicated to promoting cultural events.
“The commercial capacity of our tourism promoters is also linked to investments and it is in this regard that we can count on Qatar’s wealth of experience,” Ramos da Cruz noted.
The official said Angola is an integral part of the Okavango/Zambeze project, an expansive cross-border endeavour encompassing five countries and spanning 278,000 square kilometres, with Angola contributing 87,000 square kilometres.
“The Okavango/Zambeze project is one of the largest and most ambitious tourism projects in the world. It is an initiative with multiple objectives that includes part of the territory of five southern African countries, namely Angola, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe,” he highlighted.
It aims to share “the benefits of biodiversity resources, through best management practices, conservation, tourism and expanded livelihood opportunities for the populations of the project areas,” the diplomat added.
Given Qatar’s extensive expertise in the tourism industry, evidenced by its organisation of the 2022 FIFA World Cup and prowess in building tourism-related infrastructure, the envoy said, its “participation in the approximately 87,000 square kilometres of the Okavango Project is not to be overlooked.”
Relations on the political front
Meanwhile, Angola, although not physically connected to the Great Lakes Region, plays a significant role within it, Envoy Ramos da Cruz told Doha News.
With an Angolan citizen as the Secretary General of the Great Lakes organisation, Angola’s engagement in managing the region’s conflicts occurs through mandates from the African Union (AU) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC), which Angola currently chairs, he said.
Collaborations and engagements between Angola and Qatar in conflict resolution are conducted under the auspices of the AU, in which Angola’s president serves as a mediator.
Both countries have taken on a role in easing tensions between Rwanda and DRC amid heightened tensions between the two countries.
In January, Qatar attempted to host peace talks between the conflicting sides in an attempt to bring together representatives from Angola, Kenya and the African Union.
However, reports at the time claimed that the meeting was cancelled due to a no show by DRC’s leader Felix Tshisekedi.
Speaking on its position as a mediator earlier this year, Qatar’s foreign ministry spokesman, Dr Majed Al Ansari said :“What we are doing right now, one of the main issues we are working on right now, is the DRC and Rwanda.
“You know there has been a lot of animosity there on the border areas and we are working with both sides in coordination with the Americans to make sure we can reach some kind of an agreement over there,” he explained.
Ramos da Cruz said his country is “interacting with Qatar within the framework of the AU and in our view our cooperation is healthy and is in no way at an impasse, not least because we are close to elections in the DRC.”
The diplomat said the two nations have also ratified a protocol for establishing political consultation mechanisms to align their stances on various issues at bilateral, regional, continental, and global levels.
Angola spearheads initiatives advocating dialogue and inclusive political processes to resolve conflicts in various African regions, including the eastern DRC, the Central African Republic, Sudan, and other parts of the continent, in turn cementing its role as a central figure in sub-Saharan and Southern African politics.
Similarly, the envoy said, Qatar is a pivotal player in regional and global diplomacy.
“Qatar is also a hub of regional and global politics and diplomacy underpinned by one of the main pillars of its foreign policy principles, which is based on mutual respect, opening up prospects for cooperation with all states, enshrining the principle of resorting to peaceful conflict resolution and good neighbourliness, non-interference in internal affairs, contributing to international efforts to achieve development, security, stability and peace, counter-terrorism, preventive diplomacy and humanitarian development and assistance,” said Ramos da Cruz.