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.