Angola’s new strategic partners and Portugal’s position

 In Angola, In Focus, News

Angola’s new strategic partners: Spain and Turkey


Two recent intense diplomatic exchanges at the highest level point to the emergence of new strategic partnerships for Angola. In a previous report, we warned of realignments in Angola’s foreign policy. Now, what happens is that this realignment continues, and at an intense pace. The President of the Republic João Lourenço is clearly giving a new dynamic to Angola’s foreign affairs, which is not seen to be affected by some internal unrest on the way to the 2022 electoral process.

The most recent examples of the President’s diplomatic activity are Spain and Turkey. The important thing in relations with these countries, is not whether or not there is a visit at the highest level, it is about having an intensity of visits by both parties and clear objectives designed. It can be said that from a mutual perspective, Spain and Turkey are becoming Angola’s strategic partners.
Let’s start with Spain. Last April, the prime minister of Spain, Pedro Sanchez, who barely left the country during the Covid-19 pandemic, visited Angola. The visit was seen as marking a new era in bilateral cooperation between the two countries and led to the signing of four memoranda on Agriculture and Fisheries, Transport, Industry and Trade. The agreement regarding the development of agribusiness was particularly relevant, in order to build an industry that transforms raw material into finished product in the future, relying on the experience of Spanish businessmen. As is well known, agriculture is one of the Angolan government’s areas of investment in relaunching and diversifying the economy. Therefore, this agreement is dedicated to a fundamental vector of Angolan economic policy.

Priority country

More recently, at the end of September 2021, the President of the Republic of Angola visited Spain where he was received by the King and the Prime Minister. On that visit, João Lourenço clearly stated that he was in Spain in search of a “strategic partnership” that went beyond the merely economic and business sphere. In turn, the Spanish authorities consider Angola as a “priority country”.
Now it will be seen how these broad intentions will materialise in practice, but what is certain is that both countries are clearly betting on an increase in both economic and political relations and their declarations and goals seem to have a direction and meaning.
The same kind of intensified relationship is being established with Turkey. Last July, João Lourenço visited Turkey, where he was extremely well received. From then on, it was agreed that Turkish Airlines would fly twice a week from Turkey to Luanda. It was also announced that Turkey has opened a credit line on its Exxim Bank to boost bilateral economic relationship. This means that the Turkish financial system will finance Turkish businessmen to invest in Angola. As early as October 2021, Turkish President Erdogan visited Angola. This visit was surrounded by all the pomp and circumstance and expressed an excellent relationship between the two countries. Like Spain, Turkey has an aggressive strategy for Africa, where it wants to gain space for its economy and political influence. The agreements signed by Erdogan and João Lourenço were seven, namely, an agreement on mutual assistance in customs matters; a cooperation agreement in the field of agriculture; an agreement for cooperation in the field of industry; a joint declaration for the establishment of the joint economic and trade commission; a memorandum of understanding in the field of tourism and a cooperation protocol between the National Radio of Angola and the Radio and Television Corporation of Turkey.
The approach with Turkey, like that of Spain, has as an immediate and structuring objective “that [the Turks] bring above all know-how that allows us to quickly and efficiently diversify and increase our internal production of goods and services”, using the words of João Lourenço.
In these two challenges by João Lourenço there is an obvious determination, or rather two.

First, seek new sources of investment that support the fundamental diversification of the Angolan economy. This is extremely important, and the Turkish and Spanish economies are properly diverse to be able to correspond to the model intended by Angola.
The second aspect refers to the need Lourenço feels to detach Angola from an excessive relationship with China and Russia, without harassing them, but looking for new partners. The geopolitical weight of the Cold War and the subsequent implementation of the Chinese model in Africa, with which Angola is identified, weigh heavily in the evaluations of foreign ministries and investors. Thus, Angola is looking for new openings and a “detachment” from that previous brand, not least because Russia does not have the financial muscle to make large investments in Angola, and China is in the middle of an economic turmoil. As we already know, “the Chinese economy grew 4.9% in the third quarter of this year, the lowest rate in a year, reflecting not only the problems it is facing with the indebtedness of the real estate sector, but also the effects of the energy crisis.” This means that China needs a lot of Angolan oil, but it will not have financial resources for large investments in Angola.
In fact, the relations between China and Angola and the need for a reassessment of the same, especially in terms of oil supply and the opacity of the arrangements, will have to be a theme for an autonomous report that we will produce in the near future.

Portugal’s position

Having established that the importance of the intensification of Angola’s relations with Spain and Turkey is established, an obvious question arises: and Portugal? Portugal has tried to be Angola’s partner par excellence, and for this it has accommodated itself, in the past, to the several impulses of Angolan governance.
However, Portugal’s position vis-à-vis Angola is obviously in relative decline, contrary to what we anticipated in a previous analysis. This does not mean that a bad relationship or a structural crisis between the two countries is in sight, but it does mean that the country’s relevance in the conduct of Angolan policy is decreasing. Naturally, Portugal has three ties that are felt every day; historical ties, cultural ties, especially linguistic ties, and emotional ties. If these ties produce comfort and an indelible link in the relations between the two countries, they also give rise to “ghosts”. If we look at the recent controversy about Adalberto da Costa Júnior, it was about the fact that he had Portuguese nationality, and because of that, he was prevented from being President of UNITA and of the Republic. It was unthinkable to have a Portuguese as the country’s top leader. There is here, of course, the spectre of colonialism that is still very evident.
However, the question of the Portuguese situation vis-à-vis Angola, and what we qualify as the relative decline in influence, is not linked to the aforementioned ties, or even to the “ghost” of colonialism, it has very recent and concrete causes.
The first cause for some uneasiness of the current Angolan leadership towards Portugal lies in the fact that in the near past, Portugal constituted what the Financial Times of October 19 describes as the place where Angola’s rich (and corrupt) elite collected trophies in assets, a kind of playground for the sons of President José Eduardo dos Santos and other members of the oligarchy. Now, the Angolan government, apparently, looks with some suspicion at Portugal because of this, especially considering the intervention that banks, lawyers, consultants and a whole panoply of Portuguese service providers had in the laundering and concealment of assets acquired with illicitly withdrawn money of Angola. There is a danger that all these entities are making efforts to undermine the famous fight against corruption launched by João Lourenço.
This last issue is linked to the second reason for Angola’s concern with Portugal. It has been noted that many of the activities, namely communication activities of the opposition to João Lourenço and his government, are located in Portugal. In fact, the country has been serving as a platform for several attacks on the Angolan government. This situation, which has expanded in recent months, is causing some discomfort in Angola, which sees Portugal as a kind of safe haven for activities that harm the country. Gradually, conspiracies from Portuguese territory abound, such as meetings, conferences and other events.
It is precisely the two reasons mentioned above that lead us to identify some attempt at political distancing from the Angolan government and Portugal. There are no easy answers to these equations, although its enunciation has to be made for reflection by all those involved. CEDESA, 2021,  See report CEDESA, 2020,  Deutsche Welle, 2021,  Idem note 3.  Presidência da República de Angola, 2021,  Idem, note 5.  Helena Garrido, 2021,  CEDESA, 2021,  Financial Times, 2021,