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U.S. Must Strengthen Ties with Angola to Protect Strategic Energy and Security Interests

Related Bios: Vincent A. Mai, AEA Investors LLC, Frank G. Wisner, External Affairs, AIG Inc., and Major General William L. Nash, U.S. Army (Ret.)
May 7, 2007
Council on Foreign Relations


This release and full text of the report are also available in Portuguese.

“Few African countries are more important to U.S. interests than Angola. The second-largest oil producer in Africa, Angola’s success or failure in transitioning from nearly thirty years of war toward peace and democracy has implications for the stability of the U.S. oil supply as well as the stability of central and southern Africa,” finds a Council-sponsored Independent Commission in a report produced by the Center for Preventive Action.

Although the resource-rich country has made progress in rebuilding itself in the five years since its bloody civil war ended, the Commission, led by Vincent A. Mai, chairman of AEA Investors LLC and the Council’s Africa Policy Studies Advisory Board, and Frank G. Wisner, vice chairman of external affairs at American International Group, Inc. and former senior deputy assistant secretary for African affairs at the State Department, has concluded that sustained U.S. attention at this critical juncture is necessary to solidify economic and democratic gains.

“Angola has a tragic past—a harrowing colonial heritage and an even more traumatic decolonization experience. Nearly five centuries of colonial rule, two decades of struggle for independence, and three decades of civil war took a toll on Angola, scarring the nation with massive loss of life and physical destruction.” Up to 1.5 million people may have perished, approximately 100,000 Angolans were maimed by land mines, an estimated 500,000 Angolans fled into neighboring countries, and over four million were internally displaced from 1975 to 2002.

Despite this past, “Angola has reached a crossroad. This moment represents a rare opportunity for Luanda to consolidate its peace and gain international standing.…Angola has one of the fastest-growing economies in the world, enabling the government to invest in equitable development should it choose to do so,” says the report, Toward an Angola Strategy: Prioritizing U.S.-Angola Relations.

Recent spikes in the price of oil and U.S. oil dependency have refocused America’s attention toward relationships with energy-producing states. “U.S. strategic interests in energy and security in the Gulf of Guinea would be served by strengthening the ties between the United States and Angola as part of a broad energy policy and a strategic approach toward Africa,” say the Commissioners.

Despite a recent surge in government revenues—thanks to high oil prices and Chinese loans—Angola faces extensive reconstruction, governance, and development challenges before it can become a stable country. Angola is ranked 161 of 177 countries on the UN Development Programme’s 2006 Human Development Index, and the Commission expresses concern about the development of democratic governance, protection of human rights, and adherence to the rule of law. Angola is also among the most difficult places in the world to do business: “Cronyism and the labyrinthine bureaucracy that businesses must navigate to turn a profit frighten away all but the most courageous investors.”

In addition to recommending the United States foster multilateral partnerships with international and regional organizations—such as the African Union—in support of Angolan and regional security, stability, and development, the report outlines steps the Angolan government should take to provide a stronger foundation on which to build and deepen bilateral relations between the United States and Angola. These include:

  • “Setting a specific date to hold elections and starting to put in place the necessary structures to ensure that the election is free and fair.” Angola’s Council of the Republic, the political consultative body of the office of the president, has recommended that parliamentary and presidential elections be held mid-2008 and mid-2009, respectively.
  • “Fully participat[ing] in the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative” and simplifying the approval process for foreign investments in Angola.
  • Clarifying Angola’s business dealings with China. Angola is now the number one supplier of oil to China, but “there is a lack of transparency about Chinese operations [there].”

Based in part on a fact-finding trip to the country, the Commission finds that “the United States’ relationship with Angola should receive significant diplomatic consideration and resources in recognition of its rising importance. U.S. interests in both a secure energy supply and stability in the Gulf of Guinea region require no less.”

Commission on Angola

Vincent A. Mai, AEA Investors LLC (chair)

Frank G. Wisner, American International Group Inc. (chair)

William L. Nash, Council on Foreign Relations (project director)

Kofi Appenteng, Thacher Proffitt & Wood LLP

Peter W. Baird, Encore Holdings

Pauline H. Baker, The Fund for Peace

Malik M. Chaka, Millennium Challenge Corporation

Herman J. Cohen, The Johns Hopkins University

Julius E. Coles, Africare

Chester A. Crocker, Georgetown University

Frank E. Ferrari, ProVentures, Inc.

David L. Goldwyn, Goldwyn International Strategies

Paul J. Hare, U.S.-Angola Chamber of Commerce

Patrick Hayford, United Nations

Edward V. K. Jaycox, Emerging Markets Partnership

Princeton N. Lyman, Council on Foreign Relations

Callisto Madavo, Georgetown University

Mora L. McLean, Africa-America Institute

M. Peter McPherson, National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges

Arthur Mark Rubin, Morgan Stanley

Marian L. Tupy, The Cato Institute

Nancy J. Walker, AfricaNet

Steven D. Winch, Ripplewood Holdings LLC

James D. Zirin, Sidley Austin LLP

CFR Communications: 212-434-9888;

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