African business, politics and lifestyle
Angola broadens its reach
Nigerian, Kenyan and South African banks have been making forays into the rest of the continent in search of growth so it was interesting to see Angola’s biggest bank opening an office in Johannesburg this month.
Banco Africano de Investimentos, Angola’s biggest bank by deposits, sees the office as a launchpad for ventures further afield in the southern African region as well as in business between Angola and South Africa.
Angola’s banking sector has enjoyed huge growth since the country emerged from a three-decade long civil war in 2002 as one of the world’s fastest growing economies thanks to booming oil production and high oil prices.
And as Angola’s economy has grown, so has the OPEC member’s influence as a power within southern Africa, within Africa’s other former Portuguese colonies and within the Gulf of Guinea region that produces most of Africa’s oil.
The interest in BAI’s opening in Johannesburg was itself a sign of how keen companies are to seek deals and investments and establish a presence there.
“You wouldn’t have this sort of crowd if it was a bank from elsewhere in Africa opening up,” commented one foreign financier at the event.
But while Angola expands abroad, it isn’t always as easy for those trying to get a share of Angola’s growth.
Investors complain of frustrating officialdom, corruption, a lack of transparency and astronomical operating costs as well as the difficulties of finding businesses or instruments to invest in despite the money flowing to Angola as a result of the oil.
Angola ranked 169 out of 183 on the World Bank’s 2010 ease of doing business survey – scoring particularly badly on enforcing contracts, registering property, employing workers and starting a business – although it was up one place on the previous year.
That may well mean more opportunities for institutions serving as a bridge between Angola and businesses outside, but it could also suggest that as Angola expands its influence overseas, more work may be needed at home.