1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment
Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment
Although the GRA demonstrated political will to significantly increase foreign direct investment (FDI), Angola remains a difficult operating environment for investment to thrive. FDI remains low, volatile, and largely concentrated in the extractives sector. The GRA continues to pursue an ambitious plan to reform the business and investment environment. The Private Investment Law (“PIL”) introduced in 2018 has proven to be slow to promote FDI and retain investment. At the end of May 2020, the Economic Committee of the Council of Ministers gathered to discuss some changes to the PIL, with a particular focus on attracting foreign investment through a mechanism to negotiate benefits and special conditions depending on the specific project. There have been, however, no legislative changes related to foreign direct investment since the enactment of the 2018 PIL and the Competition Law of 2018.
President João Lourenço implemented economic reform policies that provide a level playing field for domestic and foreign investors and leveraged efforts to combat and deter corruption and money laundering. Foreign investors were also encouraged to participate in the ongoing Privatization Program designed to privatize over 195 State-Owned Enterprises (SOES) by 2022. AIPEX, the country’s Private Investment and Export Promotion Agency is billed as the investors ‘one stop shop’ for business establishment. AIPEX is tasked with facilitating investment and is also supposed to manage the state’s investment portfolio to ensure the equitable implementation of the PIL and distribution of private investment, especially foreign investment. Theoretically the country prioritizes investment retention, but it does not appear to have institutional capacity to pursue and advocate for investment retention.
Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment
The 2018 PIL establishes the general principles and basis of private investment in Angola, determining the benefits and concessions that the GRA grants private investors and the criteria for accessing them, as well as establishing rights, duties and guarantees of private investors. The PIL is applied to private investments of any value, whether it is carried out by domestic or foreign investors, although waivers may exist under a bilateral agreement framework. Companies incorporated in conformity with the Angolan law, even with capital from abroad are, for all legal purposes, subject to the existing Angolan legislation. After the completion of a private investment project, foreign investors have the right, after approval by the GRA and settlement of taxes, to transfer abroad:
- Values corresponding to dividends;
- Values corresponding to the proceeds of the liquidation of their enterprises;
- Values corresponding to due compensations;
- Values corresponding to royalties or other earnings of remuneration from indirect investments, associated with the transfer of technology.
These processes are very bureaucratic and tedious. Foreign investors and companies with majority foreign ownership are only eligible for domestic credit after having fully implemented their respective investment projects.
On October 20, 2020 Presidential Decree No. 271/20, revoking Order No. 127/03, of 25 November 2003, was published, approving the new Legal Framework on Local Content in the Oil Sector. The statute aims to promote economic diversification, the participation of local businesses in the oil sector, the increase of domestic production and reduction of imports of goods for the sector, as well as the creation of employment and increased training of Angolans in the oil industry workforce. The statute establishes new rules on ‘Angolanization’ and procurement of goods and services for the sector, which will have a significant impact on company activities. For example, priority will be given to procurement of nationally produced goods and services, especially the obligation to contract Angolan companies included in the database approved by the National Oil, Gas and Biofuels Agency (ANPG). In addition, all companies operating in any segment of the petroleum-sector value chain will be required to present an annual local content plan to the ANPG. Failure to comply with the rules established in the new statute will result in fines in local currency to the equivalent of between USD 50,000 and USD 300,000. Additional penalties may also be applied, such as barring companies from entering new contracts or operating altogether.
Although the GRA eliminated the 35 percent local content requirement in foreign investment and encourages foreign companies to invest in the domestic economy, some FDI screening processes continue. Foreign ownership remains limited to 49 percent in the oil and gas sector, 50 percent in insurance, and 10 percent in the banking and telecommunications sectors, though there have been some exceptions recently in which the foreign investment goes beyond the limit. There are several objectives that the GRA seeks to accomplish through its FDI screening processes: 1) create jobs for Angolans or transfer expertise to Angolan companies as part of an “Angolanization” plan; 2) protect sensitive industries such as defense and finance; 3) prevent capital flight or other behavior that could threaten the stability of the Angolan economy; and 4) diversify the economy and increase competitiveness of local industries.
Other Investment Policy Reviews
Angola has been a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) since 1996. The WTO performed a policy review of Angola in September 2015. At the government’s request, the last Investment Policy Review (IPR) of Angola’s business and economic environments was completed on September 30, 2019 by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD of Angola’s The IPR was part of a broader EU funded technical assistance project aimed to assist Angola in attracting and benefitting from FDI beyond the extractives industry and to support the GRA’s objective of increasing economic diversification and sustainable development. The full report and policy recommendations are accessible at: https://unctad.org/en/PublicationsLibrary/diaepcb2019d4_en.pdf
The review identified remaining policy gaps and bottlenecks, including the complex system for FDI entry and establishment, burdensome operational regulations, the persistence of restrictive business practices and a lack of institutional capacity and coordination. These affect the country’s ability to fully take advantage of its strategic location, abundant natural resources, and preferential access to external markets.
The Review also devoted special attention to investment in agribusiness and its contribution to sustainable development. It calls for measures to foster responsible investment and promote inclusive modes of production in agriculture. The recommendations emphasize the need to strike a policy balance between food security and export development objectives, improve access to land and infrastructure, and promote entrepreneurship and skills development.
The World Bank Doing Business 2020 report ranked Angola 177 out of 190 countries and recorded an improvement in Angola’s monitoring and regulation of power outages, and in facilitating trade through the implementation of an automated customs data management system, ASYCUDA (Automated System for Customs Data) World, and by upgrading its port community system to allow for electronic information exchange between different parties involved in the import/export process. To commence a business, investors typically register with the General Tax Administration (AGT) Social Security Institute (INSS), National Press, and a local bank Launching a business typically requires 36 days, compared with a regional average of 27 days, with Angola ranked 146 out of the 190 economies evaluated.
The Covid-19 pandemic highlighted the urgency of trade facilitation reform to improve competitiveness in non-oil business sectors. With this, export procedures in the country cost USD 240 and take 98 hours, compared to an average of USD 173 and 72 hours for sub-Saharan Africa. Many of the reforms necessary to improve conditions for Angolan businesses, such as automating customs procedures or creating a single window, are addressed by the World Trade Organization’s Trade Facilitation Agreement, which Angola ratified in April 2019. To facilitate opening, changing, or closing a company, the Guiche Único de Empresas one stop shop for investors (GUE) was folded into the Private Investment and Export Promotion Agency (AIPEX) in 2019. It combines the main public services for constitution of companies, GUE and AIPEX, allowing the investor to open and register companies and be able to access the tax benefits and other incentives resulting from the Private Investment Law.
On October 19, 2020, to facilitate the establishment of businesses and as a COVID-19 imposed biosafety measure, the GRA simplified procedures by creating an online registration portal for companies (www.gue.gov.ao). The online portal will allow for faster registry of companies (taking only 30-60 minutes) and replace the publication of the company registry in the Gazette (Diário da República), a procedure that took more than five days. There is still the option to set up a company in person, which is estimated to also take as little as 30 minutes to an hour. The cost to establish a sole proprietorship is USD 16 dollars and USD 54 for partnerships, corporations, and other entities. Payments are also made electronically.
In April 2020, to simplify bureaucracy and in anticipation of the economic slowdown eventually caused by COVID-19, the GRA proposed revoking the procedure for issuing business licenses for all economic activities and requiring companies to carry out statistical registration in the act of incorporation. With the abolition of the Company License Document (a commercial permit) and Statistical Registration, to begin business activities, companies need to register their activity with the local administration office. The office will issue an electronic operating license. Some exclusions from this regime are foreseen, such as those related to the trade in foodstuffs, live plant species, animals, birds and fisheries, medicines, car sales, lubricants and chemicals. For these sectors, a physical license is still required as they are considered high risk economic activities which may affect human, animal, environmental and state safety.
The state-run private investment and export promotion agency’s website is http://www.aipex.gov.ao/PortalAIPEX/#!/ . Contact Information: Departamento de Promoção e Captação do Investimento; Agencia de Investimento Privado e Promoção de Investimentos e Exportações de Angola (AIPEX). Rua Kwamme Nkrumah No.8, Maianga, Luanda, Angola Tel: (+244) 995 28 95 92| 222 33 12 52 Fax: (+244) 222 39 33 81.
The Angolan Government does not promote or incentivize outward investment, nor does it restrict Angolans from investing abroad. Investors are free to invest in any foreign jurisdiction. According to data from the BNA, in 2018, the government did not invest abroad but received returns on previous investments abroad.
Domestic investors prefer to invest in Portuguese-speaking countries, with few investing in neighboring countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. The bulk of investment is in real estate, fashion, fashion accessories, and domestic goods. Due to foreign exchange constraints, there has been very little or no investment abroad by domestic investors. Although investing in real estate is cheaper abroad, a few invest in real estate domestically. The average Angolan invests in affordable investments with quick returns.
3. Legal Regime
Transparency of the Regulatory System
Angola’s regulatory system is complex, vague, and inconsistently enforced. In many sectors, no effective regulatory system exists due to a lack of institutional and human capacity. The banking system is slowly beginning to adhere to International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS). SOEs are still far from practicing IFRS. The public does not participate in draft bills or regulations formulation, nor does a public online location exist where the public can access this information for comment or hold government representatives accountable for their actions. The Angolan Communications Institute (INACOM) sets prices for telecommunications services and is the regulatory authority for the telecommunications sector. Revised energy-sector licensing regulations have permitted some purchase power agreements (PPA) participation.
Overall, Angola’s national regulatory system does not conform to other international regulatory systems. However, Angola is part of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), the Community of Portuguese Speaking Countries (CPLP), and the SADC, among other organizations. Angola has yet to join the SADC Free Trade Zone of Africa as a full member. On March 21, 2018 together with 44 African countries, Angola joined the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), an agreement aimed at paving the way for a liberalized market for goods and services across Africa. Angola is also a member of the Port Management Association of Eastern and Southern Africa (PMAESA), which seeks to maintain relations with other national port authorities or associations, regional and international organizations and governments of the region to hold discussions on matters of common interest.
Angola became a member of the WTO on November 23, 1996. However, it is not party to the Plurilateral Agreements on Government Procurement, the Trade in Civil Aircraft Agreement and has not yet notified the WTO of its state-trading enterprises within the meaning of Article XVII of the GATT. A government procurement management framework introduced in late 2010 stipulates a preference for goods produced in Angola and/or services provided by Angolan or Angola-based suppliers. Technical Barriers to Trade regimes are not coordinated. There have been no investment policy reviews for Angola from either the OECD or UNCTAD in the last four years. Angola conducts several bilateral negotiations with Portuguese Speaking countries (PALOPS), Cuba and Russia and extends trade preferences to China due to credit facilitation terms, while attempting to encourage and protect local content.
Regulatory reviews are based on scientific, or data driven assessments or baseline surveys. Evaluations are based on data, but not made available for public comment.
The National Assembly is Angola’s main legislative body with the power to approve laws on all matters (except those reserved by the constitution to the government) by simple majority (except if otherwise provided in the constitution). Each legislature comprises four legislative sessions of twelve months starting annually on October 15. National Assembly members, parliamentary groups, and the government hold the power to put forward all draft-legislation. However, no single entity can present draft laws that involve an increase in the expenditure or decrease in the State revenue established in the annual budget.
The president promulgates laws approved by the assembly and signs government decrees for enforcement. The state reserves the right to have the final say in all regulatory matters and relies on sectorial regulatory bodies for supervision of institutional regulatory matters concerning investment. The Economic Commission of the Council of Ministers oversees investment regulations that affect the country’s economy including the ministries in charge. Other major regulatory bodies responsible for getting deals through include:
- The National Gas and Biofuels Agency (ANPG) is the government regulatory and oversight body responsible for regulating oil exploration and production activities. On February 6, 2019, the parastatal oil company Sonangol launched the National Gas and Biofuels Agency (ANPG) through the Presidential decree 49/19. The ANPG is the national concessionaire of hydrocarbons in Angola, authorized to conduct, execute and ensure oil, gas and biofuel operations run smoothly, a role previously held by Sonangol. The ANPG must also ensure adherence to international standards and establish relationships with other international agencies and sector relevant organizations.
- The Regulatory Institute of Electricity and Water Services (IRSEA) is the regulatory authority for renewable energies and enforcing powers of the electricity regulatory authority.
- The Angolan Communications Institute (INACOM): The institute sets prices for telecommunications services and is the regulatory authority for the telecommunications sector. Revised energy-sector licensing regulations have improved legal protection for investors to attract more private investment in electrical infrastructure, such as dams and hydro distribution stations.
- As of October 1, 2019, a 14 percent VAT regime came into force, replacing the existing 10 percent Consumption Tax. The General Tax Administration (AGT) is the office that oversees tax operations and ensures taxpayer compliance. The new VAT tax regime aims to boost domestic production and consumption and reduce the incidence of compound tax created for businesses unable to recover consumption tax incurred. VAT may be reclaimed on purchases and imports made by taxpayers, making it neutral for business.
Angola acceded to the New York Convention on August 24, 2016, paving the way for effective recognition and enforcement in Angola of awards rendered outside of Angola and subject to reciprocity. Angola participates in the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), which includes a peer review mechanism on good governance and transparency. Enforcement and protection of investors is under development in terms of regulatory, supervisory, and sanctioning powers. Investor protection mechanisms are weak or almost non-existent.
There are no informal regulatory processes managed by nongovernmental organizations or private sector associations, and the government does not allow the public to engage in the formulation of legislation or to comment on draft bills. Procurement laws and regulations are unclear, little publicized, and not consistently enforced. Oversight mechanisms are weak, and no audits are required or performed to ensure internal controls are in place or administrative procedures are followed. Inefficient bureaucracy and possible corruption frequently lead to payment delays for goods delivered, resulting in an increase in the price the government must pay.
No regulatory reform enforcement mechanisms have been implemented since the last ICS report, in particular those relevant to foreign investors. The Diário da República (the Federal Register equivalent), is a legal document where key regulatory actions are officially published.
International Regulatory Considerations
On September 14, 2020 the GRA officially announced its intention to join the 54 countries that already apply the Standard Initiative for Extractive Industries Transparency (EITI).
In a letter to the Chairman of the EITI Board, dated September 14, 2020, the Minister of Mineral, Oil and Gas Resources, Diamantino Pedro Azevedo, described the steps already taken for the implementation of the EITI. These include the signing of Presidential Decree 117/20, appointing the Minister as chair of the National EITI Coordinating Committee, and a public statement announcing the government’s commitment to join the EITI initiative.
Angola’s overall national regulatory system does not conform to other international regulatory systems and is overseen by its constitution. Angola is not a full member of the International Standards Organization (ISO), but has been a corresponding member since 2002. The Angolan Institute for Standardization and Quality (IANORQ) within the Ministry of Industry & Commerce coordinates the country’s establishment and implementation of standards. Angola is an affiliate country of the International Electro-technical Commission that publishes consensus-based International Standards and manages conformity assessment systems for electric and electronic products, systems and services.
A government procurement management framework introduced in late 2010 stipulates a preference for goods produced in Angola and/or services provided by Angolan or Angola-based suppliers. Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) regimes are not coordinated. Angola acceded to the Kyoto Convention on February 23, 2017.
Legal System and Judicial Independence
Angola’s legal system is primarily based on the Portuguese legal system and can be considered civil law based, with legislation as the primary source of law. Courts base their judgments on legislation and there is no binding precedent as understood in common law systems. The constitution is considered the supreme law of Angola (article 6(1)) and all laws and conduct are valid only if they conform to the constitution (article 6(3.))
The Angolan justice system is slow, arduous, and often partial. Legal fees are high, and most businesses avoid taking commercial disputes to court in the country. The World Bank’s Doing Business 2020 survey ranks Angola 186 out of 190 countries on contract enforcement, and estimates that commercial contract enforcement, measured by time elapsed between filing a complaint and receiving restitution, takes an average of 1,296 days, at an average cost of 44.4 percent of the claim.
Angola has commercial legislation that governs all contracts and commercial activities but no specialized court. On August 5, 2020, the Economic Council of Ministers approved the opening of the Court for Litigation on Commercial, Intellectual, and Industrial Property Matters, at the Luanda First Instance Court. With the introduction of this commercial court, the GRA hopes the business environment and trust in public institutions will improve. Prior to this arrangement, trade disputes were resolved by judges in the Courts of Common Pleas. The commercial legislation provides that before going to court, investors can challenge the decision under the terms of the administrative procedural rules, either through a complaint (to the entity responsible for the decision) or through an appeal (to the next level above the entity responsible for the decision). In the new system, investors will be able, in general, to appeal to civil and administrative courts. Both administrative procedures and lawsuits are extremely bureaucratic and time-consuming. Investors exercising their right to appeal should expect decisions to take months, or even years, in the case of court decisions. In 2008, the Angolan attorney general ruled that Angola’s specialized tax courts were unconstitutional. The ruling effectively left businesses with no legal recourse to dispute taxes levied by the Ministry of Finance, as the general courts consistently rule that they have no authority to hear tax dispute cases and refer all cases back to the Ministry of Finance for resolution. Angola’s Law 22/14, of December 5, 2014, which approved the Tax Procedure Code (TPC), sets forth in its Article 5 that the courts with tax and customs jurisdiction are the Tax and Customs Sections of the Provincial Courts and the Civil, Administrative, Tax and Customs Chamber of the Supreme Court. Article 5.3 of the law specifically states that tax cases pending with other courts must be sent to the Tax and Customs Section of the relevant court, except if the discovery phase (i.e., the production of proof) has already begun.
In 2008, the Angolan attorney general ruled that Angola’s specialized tax courts were unconstitutional. The ruling effectively left businesses with no legal recourse to dispute taxes levied by the Ministry of Finance, as the general courts consistently rule that they have no authority to hear tax dispute cases and refer all cases back to the Ministry of Finance for resolution. Angola’s Law 22/14, of December 5, 2014, which approved the Tax Procedure Code (TPC), sets forth in its Article 5 that the courts with tax and customs jurisdiction are the Tax and Customs Sections of the Provincial Courts and the Civil, Administrative, Tax and Customs Chamber of the Supreme Court. Article 5.3 of the law specifically states that tax cases pending with other courts must be sent to the Tax and Customs Section of the relevant court, except if the discovery phase (i.e., the production of proof) has already begun.
The judicial system is administered by the Ministry of Justice at trial level for provincial and municipal courts and the supreme court nominates provincial court judges. In 1991, the constitution was amended to guarantee judicial independence. However, per the 2010 constitution, the president appoints supreme court judges for life upon recommendation of an association of magistrates and appoints the attorney general. Confirmation by the General Assembly is not required. Angola enacted a new Criminal Code and a new Criminal Procedure Code in November 2020 which entered into force on February 9, 2021 to better align the legal framework with internationally accepted principles and standards, with an emphasis on white-collar crimes and corruption. The system lacks resources and independence to play an effective role though the legal reforms extend criminal liability for corruption offenses and other crimes to legal entities; provide for private sector corruption offenses to face similar fines and imprisonment to the punishments applicable to the public sector and modernize and broaden the list of criminal offenses against the financial system.
There is a general right of appeal to the court of first instance against decisions from the primary courts. To enforce judgments/orders, a party must commence further proceedings called executive proceedings with the civil court. The main methods of enforcing judgments are:
- Execution orders (to pay a sum of money by selling the debtor’s assets).
- Delivery of assets; and
- Provision of information on the whereabouts of assets.
The Civil Procedure Code also provides ordinary and extraordinary appeals. Ordinary appeals consist of first appeals, review appeals, interlocutory appeals, and full court appeals, while extraordinary appeals consist of further appeals and third-party interventions. Generally, an appeal does not operate as a stay of the decision of the lower court unless expressly provided for as much in the Civil Procedure Code.
Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment
The GRA is favorable to FDI and offers freedom of establishment in all sectors with exception a few that have been traditionally been closed to FDI: military aircraft and security equipment, the activities of the Central Bank, ports, and airports. However, in 2020, the GRA encouraged foreign investors to take over management of ports and airports under the Privatization Program (PROPRIV). The acquisition of holdings is also possible. A special investment regime applies to the oil, gas, diamond, and financial sectors. Investment values exceeding USD 10m, require an investment contract with the Angolan Government and must be authorized by the Council of Ministers and finally approved by the President.
Investment values exceeding USD 10m, require an investment contract with the Angolan Government and must be authorized by the Council of Ministers and finally approved by the President.
Investors, foreigners or not, theoretically have the same right of access to incentives, even if the policy of “Angolanization” aims to promote the employment of nationals. Regarding capital repatriations, the law guarantees foreign investors the right to transfer dividends or other income from direct investment out of the country. Starting in 2020, importing capital from foreign investors willing to invest in Angolan companies is immune from licensing by the Angolan central bank.
AIPEX is the investment and export promotion regulation center tasked with promoting Angola’s export potential, legal framework, environment, and investment opportunities in the country and abroad. Housed within the Ministry of Industry & Commerce, AIPEX is also responsible for ensuring the application of the 2018 NPIL on foreign direct investments, entered into force on June 26, 2018.
Competition and Antitrust Laws
On May 17, 2018 Angola’s National Assembly approved the nation’s first anti-trust law. The law set up the creation of the Competition Regulatory Authority, which prevents and cracks down on actions of economic agents that fail to comply with the rules and principles of competition. The Competition Regulatory Authority of Angola (Autoridade Reguladora da Concorrência – ARC) was created by Presidential Decree no. 313/18, of December 21, 2018, and it succeeds the now defunct Instituto da Concorrência e Preços. It has administrative, financial, patrimonial and regulatory autonomy, and is endowed with broad supervisory and sanctioning powers, including the power to summon and question persons, request documents, carry out searches and seizures, and seal business premises.
The ARC is responsible, in particular, for the enforcement of the new Competition Act of Angola, approved by Law no. 5/18, of May 10, 2018 and subsequently implemented by Presidential Decree no. 240/18, of October 12. The Act has a wide scope of application, pertaining to both private and state-owned undertakings, and covers all economic activities with a nexus to Angola. The Competition Act prohibits agreements and anti-competitive practices, both between competitors (“horizontal” practices, the most serious example of which are cartels), as well as between companies and its suppliers or customers, within the context of “vertical” relations.
Equally prohibited is abusive conduct practiced by companies in a dominant position, such as the refusal to provide access to essential infrastructures, the unjustified rupture of commercial relations and the practice of predatory pricing, as well as the abusive exploitation, by one or more companies, of economically dependent suppliers or clients. Prohibited practices are punishable by heavy fines that range from one to ten percent of the annual turnover of the companies involved. Offending companies that collaborate with the ARC, by disclosing conduct until then unknown or producing evidence on a voluntary basis, may benefit from significant fine reductions, under a leniency program yet to be developed and implemented by the ARC. Considering the ample powers and potentially heavy sanctions at the disposal of the ARC, companies present in (or planning to enter) Angola are well advised to consider carefully the impact of the new law on their activities, in order to mitigate any risk that its market conduct may be found contrary to the Competition Act.
With the surge of the privatization agenda in 2019 and ongoing anti-corruption and asset recovery strategy and privatization of SOEs program, the Institute of Assets and State Equity (IGAPE) also emerged in providing oversight for acquisitions and mergers
Expropriation and Compensation
Under the Land Tenure Act of November 9, 2004 and the General Regulation on the Concession of Land (Decree no 58/07 of July 13, 2007), all land belongs to the state and the state reserves the right to expropriate land from any settlers. The state is only allowed to transfer ownership of urban real estate to Angolan nationals and may not grant ownership over rural land to any private entity (regardless of nationality), corporate entities or foreign entities. The state may allow for land usage through a 60-year lease to either Angolan or foreign persons (individuals or corporate), after which the state reserves legal right to take over ownership.
On January 24, 2020 Parliament approved the revised Law of Expropriations by Public Utility putting into practice the general principles contained in articles 15, no. 3 and 37, of the Angolan Constitution, which recognize the right to private property and establish that expropriations are only allowed when based on reasons of public interest and upon payment of fair and prompt compensation. The National Assembly also approved Law No. 1/21 on January 7, 2020, which approves the Expropriation Law and revokes legislation that governed this matter since before Angola’s independence. Despite the reforms, expropriation without compensation remains a common practice with idle or underdeveloped areas frequently reverting to the state with little or no compensation to the claimants who paid for the land, who in most cases allege unfair treatment.
In order to implement these fundamental principles, the Expropriation Law establishes the specific procedure that governs expropriation. The new law justifies expropriation for public utility and for other purposes such as defense and national security, the creation of new housing clusters, development of Special Economic Zones and Free Trade Zones, industrial use of mines and mineral deposits, water resources, operation of public services, operation of public transport systems, construction and assembly of power plants, substations and transmission lines integrated in the linked electrical system, as well as any other cases of public utility that may be established in special legislation.
ICSID Convention and New York Convention
Angola is not a member state to the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID Convention) but has ratified the New York Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards. On March 6, 2017, the Government of Angola deposited its instrument of accession to the Convention with the UN Secretary General. The Convention entered into force on June 4, 2017. Its ratification was endorsed domestically via resolution No. 38/2016, published in the Official Gazette of Angola on August 12, 2016.
Investor-State Dispute Settlement
The Angolan Arbitration Law (Law 16/2003 of July 25) (Voluntary Arbitration Law — VAL) provides for domestic and international arbitration. Substantially inspired by Portuguese 1986 arbitration law, it cannot be said to strictly follow the UN Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) Model Law on International Commercial Arbitration. The VAL contains no provisions on definitions, rules on interpretation, adopts the disposable rights criterion in regard to arbitration, does not address preliminary decisions or distinguish between different types of awards, and permits appeal on the merits in domestic arbitrations, unless the parties have otherwise agreed.
Angola is also a member of the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA), which can provide dispute settlement assistance as part of its political risk insurance products and eligibility for preferential trade benefits under the African Growth Opportunity Act. The United States and Angola have signed a TIFA, which seeks to promote greater trade and investment between the two nations.
There have not been any judicial proceedings or claims under the TIFA. Angola has no FTA agreement with the United States.
U.S. Embassy Luanda is aware of one ongoing formal investment dispute involving an American company since 2017. To date, the U.S. investor’s complaints against the GRA remain unsettled. The GRA denies being party to the investor dispute and advised the plaintiff to file a case in Angolan courts against its business partner. The GRA recognizes this case as being an investor-to-investor and not investor-to-state dispute.
International Commercial Arbitration and Foreign Courts
Other means of alternative dispute resolution are not mandatory by law and, therefore not commonly used in commercial disputes. Under the Public Procurement Law, in the case of a dispute related to the termination of a public works contract, before the judicial proceeding takes place it is mandatory that an extrajudicial conciliation attempt be made. The extrajudicial conciliation attempt takes place before a committee composed of one representative of each of the parties and chaired by the President of the Superior Council of Public Works or a member designated by him for this purpose, within 30 days after the written application and answer of the parties. If the attempt to conciliate is successful, the written terms and conditions must be submitted to the approval of the Minister of Public Works and are then valid as enforceable title.
Angola recognizes and enforces foreign arbitration rulings against its government. However, extra-judicial cases against foreign investors are rare. Although not widely implemented, the Government of Angola and public sector companies recognize the use of arbitration to settle disputes with foreign arbitration awards issued in foreign courts.
Commercial contracts usually include arbitration clauses if foreign companies are involved. Arbitration proceedings are more flexible than litigation through the courts and less time is required to obtain a resolution. Additionally, appointed arbitrators are often experts in the matters in dispute and, as such, the decisions are of higher quality. However, arbitration proceedings are sometimes more expensive than judicial proceedings.
Angola ranks 168 out of 190 on the World Bank’s Doing Business 2020 report on resolving insolvency. Banks are bound to comply with prudential rules aimed at ensuring that they always maintain a minimum amount of funds not less than the minimal stock capital to ensure adequate levels of liquidity and solvability. The Bankruptcy Regime is summarized in the antiquated Code of Civil Procedure. The Ministry of Justice has begun to conduct studies to identify the most appropriate mechanisms for insolvency resolution, as well as to deepen its general legal and regulatory framework, taking as references the best international practices.
Banking insolvency is regulated by the Law on Financial Institutions No. 12/2015 of June 17, 2015. Based on this law, the BNA increases the social capital requirement for banks operating in the country to guard against possible damages to clients and the financial system. All monetary deposits up to 12.5 million Kwanzas (USD 27,000 equivalent) are also to be deposited into the BNA’s Deposit Guarantee Funds account (Presidential Decree 195/18 of 2018) so that clients (both local and foreign) are guaranteed a refund in case of bankruptcy by their respective bank. Article 69 of the law expressly states that it is the responsibility of the President of the Republic to create the fund, but it is silent on the rules governing its operation or the amounts guaranteed by the fund.
While Angola’s arbitration law (Arbitration Law No. 16/03) for insolvency adopted in 2013 introduced the concept of domestic and international arbitration, the practice of arbitration law is still not widely implemented. The law criminalizes bankruptcy under the following classification: condemnation in Angola or abroad for crimes of fraudulent bankruptcy, i.e., involvement of shareholders or managers in fraudulent activities that result in the bankruptcy, negligence bankruptcy, forgery, robbery, or involvement in other crimes of an economic nature. The Ministry of Finance, the BNA and the Capital Markets Commission (CMC) oversee credit monitoring and regulation.
5. Protection of Property Rights
Transparency and land property rights are critical for Angolan economic development, given that two thirds of Angolans work in agriculture and are directly dependent on land property rights. However, the Land Act (Lei de Terras de Angola) has not been revised since its approval in December 2004. While the Land Act is a crucial step toward addressing issues of land tenure, normalization of land ownership in Angola persists with problems such as difficulties in completing land claims, land grabbing, lack of reliable government records, and unresolved status of traditional land tenure. Among other provisions, the law included a formal mechanism for transforming traditional land property rights into legal land property rights (clean titles). During the civil war, a transparent system of land property rights did not exist, so it was crucial to re-establish one shortly after the end of hostilities in 2002.
According to the “Land Act,” the State may transfer or constitute, for the benefit of Angolan natural or legal persons, a multiplicity of land rights on land forming part of its private domain. Although, it is possible to transfer ownership over some categories of land, the transfer of State land almost never implies the transfer of its ownership, but only the formation of minor land rights with leasehold being the most common form in Angola. The recipient of private property rights from the State can only transfer those rights with consent of the local authority and after a period of five years of effective use of the land according to the Land Act. Weak land tenure legislation and lack of secure legal guarantees (clean titles) are the reasons given by most commercial banks for their greater than 80 percent refusal rate for loans since land is used as collateral. Foreign real-estate developers therefore seek out public-private partnership (PPP) arrangements with State actors who can provide protection against land disputes and financial risks involved in projects that require significant cash outlays to get started.
Registering parcels of land over 10,000 hectares must be approved by the Council of Ministers. Registering property takes 190 days on average, ranking 167 out of 173 according to the World Bank’s Doing Business 2020 survey, with fees averaging three percent of property value. Owners must also wait five years after purchasing before reselling land. There are no written regulations setting out guidelines defining different forms of land occupation, including commercial use, traditional communal use, leasing, and private use. Over the years, the government has given out large parcels of land to individuals in order to support the development of commercial agriculture. However, this process has largely proceeded in an unsystematic way and does not follow any formal rule change on land tenure by the State.
Before obtaining proof of title nationwide, an Angolan citizen or an Angolan legal entity must also obtain the Real or Leasing Rights (“Usufruct”) of the Land from the Institute of Planning and Urban Management of Luanda (IPGUL), an often-time-consuming procedure that can take up to a year or more. However, if a company already owns the land, it must secure a land property title deed from the Real Estate Registry in Luanda. An updated property certificate (“certidão predial”) is obtained from the relevant Real Estate Registry, with the complete description of the property including owner(s) information and any charges, liens, and/or encumbrances pending on the property. The complex administration of property laws and regulations that govern land ownership and transfer of real property as well as its tedious registration process may reduce investor appetite for real estate investments in Angola. Dispatch no. 174/11 of March 11, 2011 mandates the total fees for the “certidão predial” include stamp duty (calculated according to the Law on Stamp Duty); justice fees (calculated according to the Law on Justice Fees); fees to justice officers (according to the set contributions for the Justice budget); along with notary and other fees. The total fee is also dependent on the current value of the fiscal unit (UCF).
Intellectual Property Rights
Angola is a member of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and follows international patent classifications of patents, products, and services to identify and codify requests for patents and trademark registration. Angola is also member of the Paris Convention where each contracting state must grant the same IP protection to nationals of other contracting states and provides for the right of priority in the case of patents, trademarks and designs. It also recognizes the goods and services classes from the Nice Classification and allows for multi-class filing. The Nice Classification, established by the Nice Agreement, is an international classification for the registration of trademarks.
Trademark registration is mandatory to be granted rights over a mark. Angolan trademarks are valid for 10 years from the filing date and renewable for further periods of 10 years.
The Instituto Angolano de Propriedade Intelectual (IAPI) is the governmental body within the Ministry of Industry & Commerce charged with implementing patent and trademark law. The Ministry of Culture, Tourism & Environment oversees copyright law.
Implemented by the Presidential Decree No. 62/20 of March 4, the new official fees related to Industrial Property procedures in Angola, were published in the Official Gazette of the Angola Republic. The new fees came into force on March 20, 2020 and reflect an increase of values in all Industrial Property procedures practiced in this jurisdiction, updating rates that have remained unchanged for more than 20 years. The most significant alteration with respect to trademarks, consists of joining in a single fee, paid at the time of the registration application, the filing fees, the first and second publication fees, and the granting and registration certificate fees.
With regard to patents, additional fees are due for each claim after the 15th. Additionally, the request for the anticipation or postponement of the publication of a patent is now provided by the new applicable fees.
Angola is not listed in United States Trade Representative’s (USTR) Special 301 report nor the notorious market report.
For additional information about treaty obligations and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/ . The U.S. Embassy point of contact for IPR related issues is Logan Council ( CouncilLR@state.gov ). For legal counsel, refer to Angola’s Country Commercial Guide Local Professional Services List ( http://export.gov/ccg/angola090710.asp
10. Political and Security Environment
Angola maintains a politically stable environment. Politically motivated violence is not a high risk, and incidents are rare. The last significant incident of political violence happened in 2010 during an attack against the Togolese national soccer team by FLEC-PM (Front for the Liberation of the Enclave of Cabinda—Military Position) in the northern province of Cabinda. FLEC threatened Chinese workers in Cabinda in 2015 and claimed in 2016 that they would return to active armed struggle against the Angolan government forces. No attacks have since ensued and the FLEC has remained relatively inactive.
President Lourenco has pledged to govern for all Angolans and to combat two of the country’s major problems: corruption and mismanagement of public funds. President Lourenco’s government seeks reform of the state and national cohesion. Local elections – “Autarquias” –were anticipated to take place in 2020 but have not yet occurred due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the lack of key legislation governing the elections.
Angola is also becoming more assertive and demonstrating a more steadfast commitment to peace and stability in Africa, particularly in the Great Lakes region. In 2019 and 2020 it facilitated an agreement to end mounting tensions between the Rwanda and Uganda. Angola maintains the rotating presidency of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) and has played an important convening role on the situation in the Central African Republic.
With Angola’s economy continuing to struggle, social dissatisfaction is on the rise and is triggering reactions particularly among Angolan young adults who take to the streets occasionally to protest against overall economic hardship and unrealized political pledges. Large pockets of the population live in poverty without adequate access to basic services, and the country could benefit from more inclusive development policies. According to the 2018/2019 Expenditure and Income Survey from the National Institute of Statistics, the poverty index was at 40.6%. A social protection scheme program has been launched with a pilot cash transfer project which will benefit over 1.6 million vulnerable families until 2022 around the country.