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Presidente de Angola: Três dias a negociar em Pequim

José Eduardo dos Santos iniciou ontem uma visita oficial de três dias à China para tratar de questões do relacionamento bilateral. A agenda de negociações do presidente angolano é vasta e inclui vários temas de natureza estratégica. Angola tem, obviamente, o seu ponto de vista próprio sobre a realidade desta visita que, também obviamente, não será coincidente com o da China ou com o de um observador interessado como os Estados Unidos. Como é que um observador americano informado e avisado vê e analisa esta visita de “Zedu” a Pequim? Esta a pergunta que há dias fazíamos aqui na redacção do “Inteligência Económica”… Estávamos nós a debater ainda a questão, ontem ao jantar, quando a equipa de George Friedman nos fez chegar a resposta. Afinal, as nossas equipas estavam, sem o ter combinado, a pensar o mesmo assunto… “Sob pressão económica, Angola volta-se para China”, é como a Stratfor enquadra a visita. Veja a percepção que têm do facto e a análise que fazem.

Under Economic Duress, Angola Turns to China

June 8, 2015 | 20:52 GMT

Chinese Prime minister Li Kequiang (L) is received by Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos (R) in Luanda during an official visit in 2014. (ESTELLE MAUSSION/AFP/Getty Images)


Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos began a three-day official visit to China on June 8. It is the Angolan president’s fourth visit to China since taking power in 1979, though seven years have passed since his last formal trip. Dos Santos’ agenda will be driven primarily by Luanda’s strained economic position, resulting from the global decline in oil prices. While in Beijing, the Angolan president will likely have three main tasks: First, dos Santos will negotiate lending terms to help Angola manage the challenges to its budget, which is deeply dependent on the price of oil. Second, the president will seek continued Chinese cooperation in Angola’s infrastructure projects. And third, he will push for oil and natural gas lines of credit and development agreements with Chinese energy companies.


Dos Santos rarely travels abroad, and when he does it is usually for medical purposes or to court Angola’s strategic allies. In addition to China, Angola’s most important bilateral partners for commercial trade purposes are Brazil, Portugal and Spain — a legacy of Portuguese colonization in Angola. To a lesser extent, Luanda also looks to Russia for security and intelligence training purposes, to South Africa for commercial and multilateral coordination efforts, and to the United States for investment and as a market for Angolan energy.

Chinese involvement in Angola has steadily risen over the past two decades. Beijing is now a leading contributor to the African country’s infrastructure development, and Angola is China’s second-largest supplier of oil, behind Saudi Arabia. Had it not been for Chinese investment and engineering assistance, a large-scale program to rehabilitate, construct and upgrade the bulk of Angola’s rail, port, road and airport infrastructure over the past several years would have been impossible.

Dos Santos’ fourth visit to China breaks the 10-year interval pattern set by his previous trips, taken in 1988, 1998 and 2008. By visiting China now, the Angolan government is signaling that it cannot wait an additional three years for support, especially if China is in a position today to resolve Luanda’s financial problems. The Angolan government adopted an austere national budget based on a crude oil benchmark of $40 per barrel, down significantly from the projected $81 oil benchmark budget planners had expected in late 2014 and the $98 benchmark set earlier last year.

To reconcile its budget around a $40 benchmark, the ruling Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola party had to reduce public infrastructure spending and freeze expansion of the public service. Angola is also planning to borrow $25 billion this year to finance its budget gap.

To make up for the loss of infrastructure spending, Luanda is leaning on the Chinese. In December, the government negotiated a $2 billion credit line with the China Development Bank. More recently, Angolan leaders met with Chinese officials to press for continued Chinese investment in Angola’s commercial and economic sectors. While in Beijing, dos Santos is likely to ink fresh commercial and economic ventures.


Possible Concessions

In exchange for renewed Chinese infrastructure investment, Angola could offer private concessions on oil and natural gas blocks that have yet to be made publicly available. However, Angola has to walk a fine line when it comes to balancing Chinese interests with those of Western oil companies. Luanda cannot afford to look like it is playing sides and risk alienating potential allies. Angola has been open to Western investment for more than a decade, and to go outside of the regular bidding process could harm the relations it has built, not to mention the credibility that comes with doing business with a Western partner.

The Angolan government wants to expand crude oil production to upward of two million barrels per day, in turn raising government revenues. But reaching that target from the roughly 1.8 million barrels per day currently produced will be difficult.

There are technical challenges inherent to the deep-water production facilities that have received the bulk of recent investment from Western oil majors. Stratfor observers report that Angola is prioritizing onshore concessions and exploratory blocks located in central Angolan waters, as opposed to the waters off the northwestern coast where foreign energy activity has been concentrated. Angola’s national oil company, Sonangol, has yet to publish any details about its intentions, but given the extremely close patronage relationship between the Angolan president and the company, it would be quick work for the Chinese and Angolan leaders to reach terms on a new oil and natural gas investment package.

Angola has managed austere financial conditions before, particularly during its 27-year-long civil war that ended in 2002. And though the country has been governed by the same political party since independence in 1975, the current administration is not ignoring the country’s contemporary economic challenges and has so far chosen not to prioritize operating the country as a security state.

The Angolan government is striving to ensure a measure of socio-economic gain to its citizens amid a vast disparity between the wealth the country generates and the poverty most Angolans endure. While there is no immediate threat to the Angolan government from the country’s impoverished majority, the administration is nonetheless hoping that a leading benefactor — in this case, China — can provide a means of softening the economic downturn.

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