U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has just wrapped up a two-day visit to the Angolan capital, Luanda, the last stop on his tour of several African countries, including Ethiopia, South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Kerry’s delegation included the U.S. Assistant Secretary for African Affairs, Linda Thomas Greenfield, the U.S. Special Envoy to the Great Lakes Region and the DRC, Russell Feingold, the Special Envoy to Sudan and South Sudan, Donald Boothbem, and Catherine Russell, U.S. Ambassador-At-Large For Women’s Issues.
The United States and Angola signed a strategic agreement in 2009, and while diplomacy was on Kerry’s agenda, so was business. Kerry announced that the U.S. and Angola would begin an “energy dialogue” and discuss increasing economic cooperation in the areas of energy, technology, infrastructure and agriculture.
Appearing at a General Electric facility, Kerry was accompanied by representatives of U.S. energy companies that are already operating in Angola: Chevron, ConocoPhilips and ExxonMobil – known locally as Esso.
With a representative from the U.S.-Angola Chamber of Commerce by his side, Kerry noted that, through U.S. Export Import Bank, Washington recently provided a nearly $600 million loan guarantee to help the country purchase a Boeing 777, and another $300 million “of additional economic investment.” Kerry called the country, “a place of enormous economic activity with great promise for future economic growth and development.”
The reason for his optimism is obvious: Angola is one of the world’s fastest growing economies and sub-Saharan Africa’s second-largest oil producer, second only to Nigeria. From 2002 to 2008, the country experienced an oil boom as production started at several deepwater fields, a development that propelled it into membership in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).
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In 2013, total U.S.-Angola bilateral trade was valued at $10.2 billion, while U.S. imports from Angola were valued at $8.7 billion, all but $25 million of that mineral fuel and oil.
After meeting with Angolan President Jose dos Santos on May 5, Kerry said, “Angola is a very important partner in the region, and the relations between Angola and the United States are, in fact, moving on an upward trajectory and getting stronger with each meeting that we have.”
Kerry said he and dos Santos talked “about specific ways in which the United States and Angola can grow the relationship and, in particular, we talked about increased possibilities of cooperation in agriculture, in technology, in energy diversity, and also in infrastructure.”
While in Luanda, Kerry met with American energy company executives whom he said “informed me about the numbers of Angolans that they are hiring and training and providing new opportunities to, and we think that is a critical component of any relationship.”
The United States is in the relatively early stages of its relationship with Angola, but other countries are already far down the road. China has been integrally involved with the country for almost a decade; Angola has been China’s second biggest oil supplier since 2005, at times even surpassing top supplier Saudi Arabia.
Just days after Kerry’s African tour wrapped, Chinese Premier Li Kegiang embarked on his own multi-nation Africa trip that will also take him to Angola. China has been Africa's biggest trading partner for the past five years. In 2013, Sino-African trade reached $210 billion.
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The continent is so important economically to Beijing that President Xi Jinping’s first post-election trip in March, 2013 included stops in Tanzania, South Africa and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
President dos Santos has also found an eager economic partner in France, which he visited last month.
Angola’s state-owned Sonangol EP parastatal announced on April 14 that France’s Total S.A. was the leading contender to develop Angola’s $16 billion Kaombo offshore field. Kaombo is scheduled to come online in 2017 with a daily production capacity of 230,000 barrels. Kaombo will produce not only oil, but also Angola’s first significant volumes of natural gas for export.
The United States may be late to the game in Angola, but it isn’t wasting any time catching up; Kerry announced that the U.S. Commerce Department plans to open a commercial service office in Luanda “soon.”
By John Daly of Oilprice.com