We are hoping to see Serbian tourists and to become a new tourist hotspot!
Angola and Serbia were friends from the Angolan independence in 1975, and Angola stood with Serbia in bad times in the 1990s. Now, we are preparing new developments, in agriculture, economy, tourism, sports, to open the door of this rich country.
Yugoslavia and Angola were extremely friendly since the independence of Angola in 1975, and these excellent relations have been transferred to Serbia. How do you rate the relations between us?
The bilateral relation between Serbia and Angola is historic and solid. It has been built under the leadership of the former president of Yugoslavia Josip Broz Tito and the former president of Angola, Antonio Agostinho Neto. As you probably know, Yugoslavia was one of the first European countries that recognized Angola’s independence. The Republic of Serbia, as the sucessor of Yugoslavia, has always been supportive by forming strong ties between our respective governments. Angola has reciprocal support and is the only Sub-Saharan country represented in Belgrade by an Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary. Our ties are solid so much so that the Angolan embassy kept all its staff in Belgrade during the NATO bombing in 1999. To show our commitment and support to the Serbian government, Angola also supports Serbia on the sensitive issue of Kosovo, and both governments agreed to mutually support any diplomatic initiatives that are considered important and strategic for both. Today, the ongoing steps taken on developing the bilateral cooperation are commendable, namely, the visit to Serbia of some important Angolan ministers within the last three months and the preparation of some important agreements that will certainly enhance our diplomatic and economic relations. Finally, I am confident that Serbia and Angola are aware of the need to expedite and farther strengthen our bilateral relationship and adapt our bilateral policies to the changing circumstances of the world today.
Angola is one of the leading oil producers in the world and especially in Africa. Our companies collaborate with the Angolan ones. What more our economic cooperation may offer?
Like the entire world, the Angolan economy has been negatively impacted by the pandemic crisis. The government has been implementing all the necessary measures to restore macroeconomic stability thus lying the foundation for renewed real economic growth and development. Angola is expecting real economic growth to achieve 3.1% this year and is implementing the required measures to accommodate its fiscal and monetary policies in the context of a challenging period. Under its national development programme for 2018-2022, supported by an extended financial facility from the IMF, Angola is experiencing growing macroeconomic stability and sound structural reforms. International reserves have been restored to around 15 billion US dollars in the first half of 2021 and the government’ macroeconomic programme is sought to stabilize the economy through a combination of fiscal consolidation and orderly exchange rate adjustment backed by a tight monetary policy and other measures to safeguard the financial sector. Angola is also implementing important structural reforms with the aim of restoring market confidence and promoting direct foreign investments. It is against this backdrop that I am considering that there is room for improvement on the bilateral economic relation between Angola and Serbia. As of today, around 80% of the contractual agreements between our two countries are on the field of the Defence Industry and Security. In this respect, many Serbian public and private entities are working in Angola, including your reputable oil company NIS-Naftagas through is main partner Gazprom.
“We were friends right from the start, in 1975, and we remain friends”
Angola and Serbia are also working together to conclude some important bilateral agreements that will regenerate our economic cooperation, especially the important bilateral agreement on the reciprocal suppression of visas for diplomatic and service passports which will allow the free circulation of people and the political dialogue between the two ministries of Foreign Affairs. In addition, a third agreement will shortly be concluded to avoid double taxation for the investors. We have also managed to promote and protect investments made by public and private entities in Angola. These will be important legal instruments that will lay the foundation for investment in other important sectors such as agriculture, industry, transport, infrastructures, education, etc… Let’s be prepared for a mutual win win approach in terms of investment.
And the prices of oil are rising, it is good for the Angolan economy, right?
We are optimistic about these forecasts. The World Bank estimates that our real economic growth in 2021 will be higher than 3%. Based on a long period of recession that we have been through since 2019, these are good expectations. We also have some important news in terms of our fiscal policy performance. The implementation of a value added tax in 2020 and the decision to better improve the quality of public expenditures are steps in the right direction. In addition, our national development programme continues to show resilience and some good results are coming on stream. Oil prices are also on the rise and it will be a good sign in terms of increased public revenues that will allow bigger public expenditure in terms of investments in social programs.
Angola went through the civil war, like Yugoslavia and Serbia, and yet it recovered. What lessons from Angola can be applied to the Balkans, in your opinion?
It is not a matter of teaching but learning. What we have learned from the past is the resilience and the need of strong political leadership to pass through all those processes. I think Serbia and Angola remain committed to the principles and values of sovereignty and multilateralism, and it is important to reaffirm our determination of maintaining mutual interest, cooperation, and respect for justice and international obligations, as well as respect for fundamental human rights and territorial integrity of all nations. These are the lessons that we have learned from the past that can be applied in Serbia too. The Civil War was, in a way, useful in terms of going through a historic learning process so we can move forward.
How Angola is coping with the pandemic of coronavirus and its economic consequences. How the vaccination rollout is going on?
Angola is dealing with this pandemic situation relatively well, although we continue to struggle to have access to affordable vaccines at moderate prices. While we should get together to fight this pandemic, we have seen, nevertheless, selfish behaviour from some wealthy countries. In Africa, the Middle East and Latin America, less than 50% of the population has normal access to vaccines. Thanks to the Covax program and the solidarity by our friends, including Serbia, Angola has been able to vaccinate more than 30% of its population as of today. According to our public data, Angola has had around 63,000 cases of COVID-19 and 1600 fatalities. Angola is thankful to all support as this pandemic shows the level of solidarity and cooperation in the world. Without solidarity and perseverance, in my opinion, it will be more difficult for all of us to overtake this pandemic.
What can we do to enhance cultural cooperation? We all know capoeira as an Angolan cultural import.
Cultural cooperation is very important for boosting bilateral cooperation. As you said, capoeira is an aspect of the Angolan tradition, and it has been transferred to the Brazilian culture through the migration of slaves. Although, today, it is considered a segment of the Brazillian culture, originally, capoeira comes from Angola. On the other hand, Belgrade is a very important European cultural hub, and it is also a place where many events, representing worldwide traditions and culture, take place. As an African, I was delighted to visit the Museum of the African Art in Belgrade and had the opportunity to showcase our rich culture and artistic programme last June. As an African ambassador in Serbia, I will do everything in my power to bring Angolan traditional and folklore groups to Belgrade to perform across Serbia, thus improving the cultural relations between our two countries.
We do not forget that Angola has wonderful coast and extreme tourist potentials. Can we do something to open the market for Serbian tourists?
This is a very important question. JAT used to fly between Luanda and Belgrade on a weekly basis and, wasn’t that long ago, was in the 1990s. Angolans and Serbians, who work and study in our respective countries, and other Angolans, students in the Balkans, used to frequently use this flight. My goal as an Angolan living in Serbia is to continue to work closely with the Serbian government to re-establish these flights between Belgrade and Luanda. This will, of course, depend a lot on how much trade between the two countries will grow, as well as on educational and financial cooperation that, in my opinion, will increase very quickly.
“Belgrade is a very important European cultural hub, and it is also a place where many events, representing worldwide traditions and culture, take place”
Angola has tremendous touristic potential, with magnificent beaches, nice hotels, a warm climate throughout the year and also wonderful mountains, rivers, savannas and wild animals that are waiting to be discovered and explored. Serbian and Balkan tourists are more than welcomed in Angola. In this regard, we have reformed the relevant legal procedures to facilitate the issuance of visas. The Angolan Consulate in Belgrade is ready to inform and administratively support all Serbian citizens interested in travelling to Angola for tourism purposes, as soon as the pandemic situation allows us to do so.
Angola is a sport superpower in Africa. What do you expect from the Olympic Games in Tokyo?
The 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo were realized under very difficult conditions, without spectators at the stadiums. These were very hard conditions even for the athletes to perform. Generally speaking, our participation was positive considering the current standards in Angolan sports. For example, our women handball team performed really well. They did not reach the finals but their participation was honorable. Angola needs to improve significantly its high-ranking sports. In the past, we have been supported by the Serbian sports institutions, sports academies and Serbian coaches to further develop our capacities so that we can achieve good results in the international competition arena. I hope that, in the near future, that cooperation would also be restored.