Georges Rebelo Pinto Chikoti discusses peace, national unity, and development in Angola as it celebrates forty years of independence.
HULTMAN: I too will say welcome to today’s Council on Foreign Relations meeting, which is on the record tonight. We have with us the honorable George Rebelo Pinto Chokoti, who is a longtime political activist, initially against Portuguese colonial rule. He’s also a former university professor and a former adviser to Canada’s International Development Agency.
Since 1992 he has served in foreign affairs for the government of Angola and is now the minister of External Relations. He holds advanced degrees from Ivorian and French universities and studied international relations at the University of Ottawa. Those of you in the room have a much fuller biography and know that he’s represented Angola at many international conferences and summits, including consultative commissions between Angola and the United States.
It’s easy for the rest of us to forget that it was not much more than a dozen years ago that a brutal war finally ended in Angola after huge losses of life and vast destruction of infrastructure. Angola led the world in amputees due to land mines. The country was a ruin, basically. By 2012, however, the World Bank classified Angola as an upper-middle-income country, and it’s been included among the fastest-growing economies in the world but still has some of the world’s worst poverty rates, so challenges remain.
Mr. Chikoti has expressed his willingness to discuss all aspects of Angola—(laughter)—what critics say as well as what the government is celebrating in this month of the 40th anniversary of independence.
Thank you for being here, Mr. Minister. We look forward to hearing you first. And then after your remarks I will engage you in a few questions. And then we will open it up to the audience.
CHIKOTI: Thank you. Thank you very much. And let me thank everybody for being here with us tonight. And I just wanted to thank the Council on Foreign Relations for inviting us here tonight, the Angolan ambassador, Angola-United States Chamber of Commerce, Madam Jeannine, who has been with us for the last few days. And I think that this gives us an occasion to discuss a little bit about Angola on the 40th anniversary of independence. Indeed, I came to Washington to spend a little bit of my time with the Angolan Embassy and also to attend to the program that was presented to me during these few days.
As we all know, Angola has gone through one of the most difficult periods, and indeed it’s also important for us to mention that because even after 1992, after we held the elections in Angola, we then were recognized by the United States in 1993, 19th of May. And from that time on I have been among the Angolan diplomats and also the foreign affairs of Angola who have been coming to the United States to keep this dialogue between Angola and the United States.
And today, 13 years after 2002, I believe that we’ve all seen the progress that Angola has made. And I think it is the only few years that Angola has been at peace. So when we look at the 40 years of independence, we have only lived in Angola at peace for 13 years. That is from 2002 to 2015. All other years were years of conflict. First, at the beginning of independence, as you may all know, it was during the Cold War era and the political parties that fought for independence were divided.
President Neto proclaimed the independence—President Agostinho Neto proclaimed the independence of Angola in an environment of conflict the 11th of November, 1975. However, we have survived as a nation, and I think among many other issues is that we have lived through all, but our war has contributed as well to a number of important values in our region.
First, it is the implementation of the Resolution 435 for the independence of Namibia, and I think it’s undeniable that that went through Angola, and as well the end of apartheid in South Africa. And I think that all those battles were waged particularly in Angola, and naturally all our partners today—maybe the United States, Cuba at that time but also South Africa, and Russia—met to discuss the end of the conflict in Southern Africa, particularly in Angola, and the beginning of a new era, which then brought elections in Angola in 1992.
From that time on we lived, in a period of 10 years, among Angolans ourselves to confront peace, and particularly to make sure that we could have a process whereby we have peace among ourselves and a democratic system. It did not work for 10 years, so we had a period of war and peace. Sometimes we were at war; sometimes we were at peace.
But I think one major issue emerges as important at this particular time. It is the will of the Angolan government, and particularly President dos Santos, who felt that, even if we are opposed by UNITA, it was important to keep the perspective of allowing those in UNITA who wanted to be part of the democratic process to continue. So from 2002 we still have a parliament that has those members of UNITA who felt that they should take the opportunity of living in a democratic environment, and then those who wanted to continue to wage the war did so.
But this came to an end as Mr. Sivimbi died in 2002. And I think that what was also very important immediately after that, I recall that 30 minutes after Mr. Sivimbi died, President dos Santos declared the end of the war. He was opposed by most of the people, who felt, no, their way is no, the war is not over; I think we should finish the other way. But he said, no, we should make peace.
And immediately there was a military commission of the Angolan government, which discussed the details of signing the agreement that led to the end of the war and the integration of all troops of UNITA into the Angolan National Army, bringing out all those people who were in the bushes and then start a new period of peace and reconciliation from the 4th of April, 2002.
And from that day we started an era of rebuilding of political and democratic system, but also a period of reconstruction of Angola. And so if we look at these past 15 years, we have consolidated the political and democratic institutions of our country, but also have invested largely in the growth of our economy.
We have rebuilt all the infrastructure. We have rebuilt all the roads that the Portuguese left, plus another 5,000 kilometers of roads. We have rebuilt all the railroad lines. We have rebuilt about 250 schools for children. We have taken—I think we have taken—nearly all the children were out of school at that time, and from 2002 to today I think we’ve brought in 6 million kids into schools at all levels. We have rebuilt more hospitals than ever before.
And I think that this has been, in fact, a very interesting period, maybe because we also ended the war at a moment when the barrel of oil was above $100, and naturally we have had this period of growth for at least the past 10 years. From there on, maybe for the last two years, we are now facing a different period. It’s a different period because we are facing the crisis. The prices of oil have gone particularly down.
And this is the first time ever we have now the challenge of readdressing our economic program in terms of diversification of our economy. So right now the challenges of the Angolan government is, on one had, to diversify its sources of income by having a policy that is more open to agriculture, industry, mining. And we think that this is going to be a challenge for the next five years to come.
But as we look to this period of instability inside Angola, we have also contributed very largely to the issues of peace and stability, you know, in the region. Angola has become chair of the Great Lakes region, but we also work with the Central African countries. And as such, we have been contributing largely to peace not only in DRC, in Burundi now, in Central African Republic, in South Sudan, and we do coordinate with the Central African countries.
With the United States we have increased our partnership. We did sign an agreement—strategic agreement, which has increased our dialogue with the United States. And I think that our recent realization of the seminar on security—maritime security and energy in Luanda has largely brought us together. And we do believe that with the involvement of more private investment of the United States, and the United States moving from the oil sector into other areas of our own economy, makes it a very good moment of cooperation between Angola and the United States.
And I was telling some of our colleagues in the State Department that I’ve been coming to the United States for the past many years and this is the—this has been the best year, where our dialogue has been, first, very frank, very open, and we’ve discussed even very difficult issues. They may be on our side, may be on the United States’ side, but I think what has even been more important is the commitment that we’ve taken of working together not only on Angola national issues but also many issues maybe globally around Africa, but also related to issues of terrorism and—as well, and the United Nations, where Angola is, for the second time, participating in the Security Council as a nonpermanent member.
What I think I wanted to emphasize in my presentation today is the fact that I believe that, number one, our dialogue with the United States has grown considerably when we look at the past—at the past, because we have this agreement, but also because we do talk more regularly, maybe on the phone, maybe at our ambassadors’ level, to exchange views. But I’ve also noticed the shift of American interests of investing in other areas of Angolan economy, and to make sure that we work, but also the increase of participation of the United States in quite all—in all programs that will certainly help Angola.
We have discussed also issues that are complex, like human rights and democracy, and I think that we do share a lot. So I believe that that’s, again, another point. And I think that our relationship for the future is certainly a very good one because on the Angolan side we are ready to go forward, and indeed our ambassadors as well are working in that direction. So I believe that we are preparing a better future for the years to come.
So I think those are some of the comments I had to make for this presentation today. I will still be open to questions.
HULTMAN: Thank you very much.
Recently a ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Benjamin Cardin, wrote to President dos Santos, commending him for working for peace in the Great Lake regions, which is a huge concern at the moment. But he also raised concerns that you’ve mentioned about free expression and several high-profile arrests, including the 14 so-called “book club” members. And he urged you to brief Secretary of State John Kerry about the status of those cases. Can you tell us whether you did discuss that and what the exchange was about?
CHIKOTI: Well, yes indeed we have discussed. I think that the challenge for a country like ours which has gone through war is, on one hand, to preserve our institutions and to make sure that we don’t go back to war. But on the other hand, as well, is to make sure that we have decided to remain a democratic society where the freedom of expression of people are respected.
And indeed, I think what has happened in what relates to the 17 young people is not necessarily that Angola has gone back in terms of democracy, but it’s because what the young people wanted was not very well explained to the international community. I think that what the—because the young men were followed for some time by the intelligence services, and their intention was to create chaos, to make revolution, a violent revolution which would affect some urban cities in Angola, not only Luanda—Benguela and all important cities. So the problem for the police was, do we let this happen or do we stop it from happening? So I think they decided to arrest them because the evidence was very strong.
Now, I think that what is important for us—I think that’s what maybe the test will be—is to see how do we try these young people through our courts, and what kind of deliberations will the court present to the public? So I think there is no doubt in our minds that the police—or we needed to stop that. I think what will then be important there is what will be the deliberations?
So we have to leave it in the hands of the courts. Let’s have the courts work with no pressure maybe from whom it may be. Let the courts work and let’s see what will be the deliberations. Then we see what will the deliberations of the court say. If we think that’s not—the decision was not right, we’re still—Angola still remains open and ready to listen what it will be. But right now we can no longer tell the judges, oh, you cannot do that, or you have to do that, because initially the detention was—said it was long, but our law says that preventive detention can go up to 120 days, so we are in the limit of the law.
Now the issue is with the courts. Now, we cannot intervene with what the courts may do, but we will see, what do the courts decide? I believe that the courts will make a fair judgment. They will either liberate them, or they will liberate some of them, or they will not charge anybody, but they will have to tell us how they will have judged the issue.
So what we are telling the international community is let the courts work and then we will see what the procedure is, because we are looking at—we are comparing with other countries. For example, the Portuguese prime minister was arrested for nine months. There was no charge. And today they say he cannot leave Portugal but he has still not yet been accused. But when I give that example, the next day in Portugal they released the prime minister—(laughter)—but they say he cannot travel.
So when we get into these issues of law and issues that are in the legislation of countries, it’s really very complex. The young man who made a threat to kill the pope is still detained in Italy. So it all depends on how serious we take things and how the police reacts, because we don’t have anything, but the police said, this is what we think and we’ve done our work. Now we leave it in the hands of the judiciary.
HULTMAN: On another issue, you mentioned the long legacy of the war in terms of the status of living.
HULTMAN: The United Nations Children’s Fund says that Angola has—I believe it’s the eighth-worst death rate of children under 5, yet still around 48 percent of Angolans are under 15 years of age and one in four people of working age are unemployed. So this is a huge challenge for the economy. And what kind of economic and political problems does all this present? And do you think Angola can, in an era of falling oil prices, achieve inclusive growth?
CHIKOTI: Well, I think yes.
You know, some of the statistics when people talk about the deaths of children and that we have the highest rate, we confronted with the minister of health. He said it was not true. Then I called the UNICEF representative. He said, well, that was something that was old and indeed it needed to be corrected. So the problem then we asked—because it was a journalist who came from New York who wrote about this article, I think, sometime early this year.
So I believe that what maybe we need is to go to Angola and see where we’ve come from. When you look at the period of war we had, where we did not have schools, we did not have hospitals, and indeed we had very high rates of death, particularly among newborns, but also among children. Today that’s no longer true. And as I was saying is that from 2002 to 2014 we had been able to bring in 6 million kids who were out of school into schools.
So those are some figures that are undeniable, and that when you travel across Angola you will realize there are still many challenges but you cannot deny that we have done quite a lot. I believe that one of the challenges we do have in terms of employment will be, just as most of Africa has, is that we have a very fast-growing population. We did not expect there will be 26 million, as we are today, so which means that we will surely be somewhere around 50 million before the year 2030.
But now the problem is, when you look at our industrial growth, our industrial capacity, we do not have the capacity to employ all these young men. So indeed it is a challenge for Angola. It’s a challenge for Africa globally. Even when you look at South Africa, indeed one of the major crises they have is how they are going to—or they will employ these young men coming out of schools. So what we are trying to do today is that—to make sure that we have got to create jobs locally in local municipalities. I think we’ll need to decentralize to give more initiative to local communities and make sure that people can get jobs very early.
Another thing is that we have sent many young people into universities and yet sometimes we don’t—we do not have local people who can be technicians or bricklayers. Imagine that, for example, we have been building schools and hospitals. Who is doing this labor? The Chinese. At one point we had maybe 200,000 Chinese builders, electricians, plumbers. All those jobs were done by them.
Today we do realize that maybe that is wrong. So we need to prepare these jobs for young Angolans, and therefore we need to take them to technical schools which can train them to take those jobs. So I think we need a shift in the minds of the Angolan people, but also as leaders we need to change to make sure that we’re doing better for our youth in Angola.
HULTMAN: I believe that as much as 80 percent, in some years, of Angola’s revenues have come from oil. In order to create those jobs, I presume you have to diversify the economy. How are you progressing towards that, or how do you see that happening?
CHIKOTI: Actually, it’s already happening. When you look at our economic plan, development plan 2012 to 2017, it has been reviewed first in terms of redaction of budget and then also in terms of priorities in terms of diversification of the economy.
So we are going—we are looking at agriculture. When we look at agriculture, agriculture has got to be a priority. We’ve got to stop importing food, but this food has got to be produced by the local people in Angola. So that’s an area where we think we are going to be able to create jobs for young people as well who may want to farm or even to make companies that will be in the countryside, in the agricultural area.
In the mining field, I think we also need to transform some of the products that we produce. For example, right now we do some diamond polishing in Luanda, whereas in the past we used to just sell the stone as it comes from the—from the ground. So I think we need to do more in all areas, even as far as industries are concerned. We need to develop those industries in which Angolans themselves will play a role. With the United States we have been talking about technology, that science and technology can be an area where we can also create a number of jobs for young Angolans.
So I think we will need to be more creative and to make sure that we are creating opportunities for young Angolans to take, yeah.
HULTMAN: We have just a couple of minutes before opening it up to questions, and I know you have spoken while here about Angola’s role in the peace process in Burundi. Can you say a little bit about what you have done in the ministry to try to address the Burundi issue, and what you think needs to happen? We just have a couple of minutes left.
CHIKOTI: Yeah. With Burundi we have been working at two levels. One is bilateral. The other one is on the Great Lakes region. Angola is president of the Great Lakes countries, and at that level we have been able to meet to take decisions. One was to make sure that there was no confrontation between Rwanda and Burundi.
Number two is to make sure that as we have all been, I think—we did not want—initially the international community, even Africa, did not want that President Nkurunziza ran for a second term. But then he came to the conclusion that he wanted to run, so he did run. So we said, fine, you have run the elections but you need to make a government whereby all other people participate, so that if everybody participates in that government then those people who have ran out of Burundi or in neighboring countries will then return to Burundi so that you have stability in your country.
So this is where we are. I have been in touch not only with the minister of foreign affairs of Burundi, but I’ve been working with the African Union chair and the chair of the African Peace and Security of the African Union so that we coordinate on what kind of position we take.
What we have decided is that it is important that we increase the number of peace observers in Burundi, political observers in Burundi, and also of military observers. Initially that was a little bit of a problem for the government in Burundi, but of late eventually they may accept that. Then the second stage is to encourage the negotiations between the minister of foreign affairs of Uganda, who actually leads the negotiation. Uganda was chosen by the East African countries to lead the process of reconciliation among the parties.
So then if the peace process takes place and there is some peace in Burundi, then even if the negotiations for peace are done outside at the beginning, later on they can continue inside Burundi in Bujumbura, because right now you don’t have peace in Bujumbura. You have the president, who does not live in the capital, but you have constant conflicts in Bujumbura, that means between the government and other groups that keep on attacking the government.
So I think we need to make sure that that does no longer happen. And then if that stops happening, then they can be peace—there can be peace, but that can only return if there is a large number of political observers or peace observers and troops that will guarantee some peace in Bujumbura. If that is then, then I think it can be better.
We have also—there is a proposal of sanctions in terms of controlling the language. I think we’re trying to avoid that this becomes an ethnic conflict. So I think the sanctions will target those who have language of promoting a genocide based on ethnic lines. So what we’re trying to do right now is to make sure that there is no conflict of that nature. So that’s what we really want to stop.
So I think we are fairly well coordinated between the African Union, the Great Lakes region, the East African countries, and the United Nations Security Council. So eventually the Security Council will approve the proposal that the African Union has proposed so that then we make a step forward in terms of the peace negotiations inside Burundi.
HULTMAN: Thank you very much.
We’ll now open questions. Please, if you want to ask a question, put your name flag up like that so I can see it. And state your name and your affiliation before you ask your question to the minister. Who would like to begin?
Q: Right here.
Q: Right here.
HULTMAN: Well, this one first.
Q: Is this on? Can you—thank you.
Thank you very much, Minister Chikoti. It’s rare that Angola is the focus—
MR. : Who are you?
MR. : State your name.
HULTMAN: Yes, please state your name.
Q: Oh, sorry.
HULTMAN: Yeah, and your affiliation.
Q: Deborah Harding, retired.
It’s rare that Angola is the focus of such an event in Washington. Mostly what we hear about is the corruption, the kleptocracy, the disregard for human rights and so forth. So I’d be interested in hearing how you rate Angola’s adherence to your constitution, corruption, the independence of the judiciary, and the rule of law in general. Thank you.
CHIKOTI: Thank you. Well, I think it’s a very easy and difficult question to answer to, but corruption in Angola certainly there is. And what kind of dimension is that? I don’t know, but certainly you cannot only see corruption; you’re also going to see a country that has made a lot of progress.
So when people talk about corruption, people speak very globally. And generally they say, well, Africa is—that’s the image that Africa represents. But I think that it’s also important to look at all other areas of our own economy but also accepting that if somebody will be rich in Angola, certainly it’s good that it is an Angolan. We do not have policies that limit Angolans’ possibility of doing business of getting rich.
I think that is the difference. When the Portuguese left, they left nearly a country that—a country in which everybody was poor. Today I think there are—there have been quite a number of opportunities and some Angolans have certainly become rich. So I think that the dimension of corruption needs to be fairly evaluated before we say it’s only a corrupt state or that there is corruption. I certainly believe there is corruption, but what sometimes is the problem is the understanding of a true market economy.
Imagine that it’s quite normal in Angola that I sell my house for a million dollars and I have $1 million in my pocket. It’s only today that we are confronting—we are—people are confronted with the central bank in Angola because they are obliging everybody to have bank account, having a credit card, and having to pay through a banking system. It’s not illegal in Angola for me to come to you and buy your car if it costs $50,000 and I have a few thousand dollars. And they give you the $50,000.
So that’s why I think that we cannot necessarily measure the dimension of corruption in those terms. So as we go into today in a more and more market economy with a monetary system that is better and fully controlled by the banking system, then we will se some of these things naturally disappearing.
So then this will also be the same in terms of kleptocracy. Kleptocracy, well, I don’t know, but if you come to Angola you will certainly find political parties. They are in parliament. They compete for elections. They run the government, and therefore the party that wins rules, makes the laws. They go into parliament just as any other country.
So I don’t know whether it is that kleptocratic, but naturally if you judge us with only a United States perspective from here you will say, well, this is a place that is not possible for an American to live. But believe us, there are many Americans living there, many other foreigners living there, and many people doing business with us.
We know, I think, that there are many challenges that Angola has to face and to address, and we can only do that with time and with measures that will certainly close all those gaps in terms of managing our resources and managing our budgets and everything. So I believe that you need to judge a little bit not totally as in terms of America but eventually in a—with some nuance, I will say. But, well, some think that somebody—maybe, Director Cruz, make a comment on that one. I did not read properly your proposal.
CRUZ: Oh. (Laughter.) My goodness, I have been exposed. (Laughter.)
No, just to emphasize—well, thank you, Minister—
CRUZ: —the independence of the judiciary. In the last few years—
HULTMAN: And you should say that you are the ambassador.
CRUZ: OK. I’m Francisco da Cruz, director of the Americas and minister of external relations.
In the last few years the Angolan government has lost 17 court cases. For those who think that the judiciary is under control of political structure, this is an indication of independence of—and some of the cases were related to properties from colonial time which had been nationalized. People went to court to reclaim those properties and the government lost.
For us is real proof that the legal system is getting stronger, independent, and doing its job. And therefore we expect the cases before the court will take its course in the end. The judge will make a wise decision. Thank you.
Q: Hello. Jonah Victor, Department of Defense.
Minister, you talked about a number of areas where Angola is involved in conflict resolution in Africa. I’m wondering, what role would you like to see the United States play in conflict resolution and security in Africa? What are areas U.S. and Angola might be able to cooperate in terms of security in Africa?
CHIKOTI: I think one of the things I’ve seen this time, which I’ve already mentioned to our colleagues in State Department, is the first time I’ve seen that people in the State Department, they listen. They listen to us as partners. We may not have maybe the full solution, but the simple fact that we can talk, I think that’s very important.
With this administration, I think I’ve been called more than twice, three times in the last part of this year—my president as well has been called—just to discuss and share visions. I mean, we spoke about South Sudan, Burundi, DRC. So I’ve felt first the attitude that maybe they just don’t have to take a position but they want to listen. They want to listen to the countries. They want to listen to the neighbors. They want to understand what the African countries are saying about some issues. So I think that is, I think, a first good step or a first good action.
Then I think that what Africa is trying to build, I think Africa wants to consolidate its security. And it wants to consolidate its security, then we have to look into those terms. I know the United States have sent troops in Central Africa, I think some 300 troops, to fight terrorism. And we have also sent some hundred troops to help Uganda locate Mr. John (sp) Kony.
Well, I think that eventually today some countries like ours, we may not need troops, we may not need, eventually, other things, but I think we may need to share better intelligence. Maybe we may need to train certain special units. I think that it’s important that the African continent, the African Union resolves its own problems.
In some cases we have faced the issues of funding. For example, we’re talking about the AICRC. The AICRC is the initiative of the African Union whereby we will have 5,000 troops which will be ready to intervene in any situation of military coup so that they will then re-establish democracy. That’s fine. The system can work as long as it is eventually Angola, South Africa working on that. But if it goes beyond that, eventually if we need more time maybe we will need more resources. So in terms of security we need the resources. We will need more resources. Sometimes our contributions are not as good.
But one of the issues we have been talking about at the African Union level is that some countries don’t pay—not because they don’t pay, just because they don’t care about some of the issues. They only care when it becomes really a problem for themselves. So I think the African Union has got to address that issue. They have got to be able to say, this is what I can have in terms of budget, and then what I need in terms of other things will be sometimes equipment. Sometimes it will be air force.
For example, when we look at the many operations recently which we did in South Africa, only two countries were able to provide airplanes to transport the troops. It’s not enough when you look at what Africa may represent. But that’s the reality. Well, Angola gave planes. I think Nigeria did. South Africa did. But that’s all we could do. So eventually at a certain level we will need more equipment. We will need better training for special units, particularly if it becomes monetary now that we should fight and contain terrorism in the African continent.
When you look at the issue of terrorism in Nigeria, in Mali, and globally in Niger, Libya, and even Somalia, and then it’s already affecting countries like Cameroon, so it’s becoming really a crisis. But when you look at the armies in those countries, well, I think there is a very big challenge to make sure that we may need better support, more prepared people, and eventually more kind of equipment in order to confront those issues.
When we met in Luanda, looking at the security—maritime security and energy, we also realized that in terms of navy we were all completely very weak. So it is a problem. Eventually some of the problems that will happen at sea we will need, but the logistics, more organization, more intelligence. So I think we need to be able to anticipate some of these things with better preparation, better equipment, and more resources. Those are some of the areas of weakness I see in Africa.
There is lady here.
CHIKOTI: Thanks. Right there.
Q: Hi there. My name is Michelle (sp), and I also work at the Department of Defense, so a somewhat related question.
Angola has one of the best-resourced and most capable defense forces on the continent, so I’m curious to hear what the strategic outlook is for Angola’s participation in peace and security. What role can you foresee your country playing as it will become a greater leader as far as participation and so forth in peacekeeping operations or a number of areas?
CHIKOTI: It’s very fast.
Q: Too fast?
CHIKOTI: Yes. (Laughter.)
HULTMAN: Do you want to summarize your question in a couple of phrases?
Q: I mean, Angola has such strong—is a well-resourced and capable military on the continent. I’m curious what the strategic outlook is for Angola’s role in peace and security on the continent. What do your foresee it playing in the next 10 to 15 years—what role?
CHIKOTI: Well, it is true. What you’re saying is true, but we have got to look at our strategy first. Our national defense is totally directed at our national interests. We have an area which is fairly good and big, and fairly well-equipped and trained, but we’re still looking at our national priorities. However, we are sensitive to some of the issues around our neighborhood.
In SADC we are the chiefs of staff of the Southern African region, so we have troops there. We have troops in Southern Africa. The commander in chief is an Angolan. And I think in Southern Africa today—Angola, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Tanzania have got some good capacity we can work together with others. I think we ought to have major concerns in Southern Africa.
Our concerns are in Central Africa and in the Great Lakes region. Here we have a more unstable region. We have the DRC. We have Central African Republic, and we have now, naturally, Burundi. So the way we are looking at the region is that first we will be focused on issues that we think can touch our borders very quickly.
So we are looking at everything that is evolving in all these—in all these countries. We are very skeptical in sending our troops to other missions other than those until we are very sure that there is enough stability in our one region. So eventually our commitments will be when we really feel that it is necessary to go beyond the limits of our region. I think that that’s how we look at it.
And we are also a little bit late, because since the end of the war in 2002 we have not invested very much in modernizing the army. So we are now doing that, particularly the navy. We realize that we need to go faster, and eventually to be able to link up better with our—a country like Nigeria and others on the west coast to make sure that we have a better control and understanding of how—all the dangers that may come by sea.
So to keep it short is that we are more focused in making sure that nothing that is in our close neighborhood will affect our country in the immediate situation. But eventually, later on, we are working also with the African Union. We are part of the countries of the AICRC. We have officers in the—in the African Union working on that with the African Peace and Security Council. So eventually if there is an urgent situation that requires that we commit troops to, eventually we will be ready to do that way. So that’s how we’re looking at the region for now.
Q: Thank you.
CHIKOTI: You’re welcome.
Q: Thank you. I’m Barbara Span of the Western Union Company, and I’m very pleased to say that we have invested in doing business in Angola for years and are very proud to continue doing so.
My question to you stems from a speech of yours that I read from a few months ago, and it was talking about companies investing in Angola. And you were stating the great benefit in having a large and supportive workforce, willing workforce, of Angolans. You also stressed the importance and value of having an African workforce of individuals who could move into and out of Angola to participate and work.
The one area of weakness that you mentioned, though, was having a more highly skilled workforce that was a match with companies looking to invest. And we all know that having that—a skilled workforce that is able to have employment is a factor in stability. So what would you say are some of your key strategies in working better to find and have a highly skilled workforce that matches those who invest? Are you looking towards encouraging diaspora who have been educated and worked elsewhere to move back? Are you looking to build it more from within Angola or within the region? We’d love to hear more about that.
CHIKOTI: Well, it’s a tough question, but let’s see. What has been so far the issue of having skilled workers in Angola, it’s true that most of our well-skilled people, they studied abroad, and they came in and generally they were immediately taken by government either in the central bank, Ministry of Finance, or other ministries in terms of areas of technology or Sonangol. Sonangol has regularly trained most of its people abroad and then taken them back into Angola.
But I believe now that for most of the companies establishing themselves in Angola, they have generally recruited in Angola, looking at the skills they have, and sometimes they have retrained them and then used them into their areas of interest. And I think that’s what most of the private banks are doing as well right now.
So, generally the job market, and particularly people with skills, you will find many people with very good education background, either people trained in Angola or those who trained abroad. And what most companies have done is that they have recruited, they have retrained, and then they have made these young people adapted to what they may want to have as a technician.
What I have seen now is that we have a lot of private schools, a lot of private universities. Most of them are also training many Angolans. So what companies are basically looking at is that generally they will look at the best they can get locally, adapt them to their goals, and then have them respond to what they may want to achieve.
So I believe that the country has more and more people with those capacities that they want, or companies will give a little bit more so that they have people working to their satisfaction. So I expect that’s going to be the trend for some time, but I think that some schools are already, you know, becoming more demanding in terms of what they offer as diplomas or certificate to people coming out of their schools.
HULTMAN: We have room, I think, for one more question. And please say your name and affiliation.
Q: My name is Ambrose Okulu (sp). I’ve been a professor here. Now I’m doing some research on my own—
MR. : There it is.
Q: —and writing.
HULTMAN: Speak into the mic, please.
Q: —and writing basically on the problem you are talking about, industrializing Africa.
If we are serious, first of all we have to make sure that Africa becomes peaceful. That is the first condition for vigorous industrialization. Secondly, we have to make sure that we embark on systematic technology transfer, systematic. You plan well and you do it state by state. What works, what is the foundation, you lay it first and then you move from there. I’ll give you an example.
HULTMAN: Do you have a question?
HULTMAN: We have only a couple of minutes left.
Q: OK. The question is, do the presidents in Africa accept expertise that are Africans from outside?
CHIKOTI: Well, certainly Africans from outside. I have to tell you that on this row here, Mr. Francisco, myself, we—I was in exile for 20 years. Then I went back to Angola. He was also outside. And many, many other Angolans have done so. And I’ve seen also in other countries many experts from outside going back into their own countries and taking jobs or being advisers to governments. Otherwise there wouldn’t be much growth.
And believe you me that Africa has had—for the last maybe 10 years we have about 6 percent growth every year, which shows that all the countries are doing fairly well in terms of economic growth. And I think that part of that is largely also because of the skills, the technical skills of young Africans trained outside of the continent. You have many people being trained in our own countries, but you have more and more people who are trained outside and who are decisive persons in whatever jobs they are doing in their countries.
Q: For example, do you have a systematic body for technology transfer?
CHIKOTI: Well, no. I think the issue of technology transfer, in my view, is eventually a problem that we need to address properly. I think that in many countries we don’t necessarily talk about technology transfer but we talk about the issue of using more and more technology in our own systems or in our own countries.
When I look at the way people are using computers today, you go in nearly all the high schools in Angola people are already using that. But even when you go into companies you see how modernized the work is. For example, we are an oil-producing country. If you went into Sonangol, which is our oil company, it’s just almost as good as Chevron is or as BP is.
And so when you look at the amount of technology they use in bringing the oil from down up, and when you go into their offices where the communications are done, I think it’s becoming more and more an issue in terms of technology. Naturally we are very far behind, but it is more and more an issue.
HULTMAN: Minister Chikoti, thank you very much for being here. Thank you to the delegation—(inaudible). (Applause.)
I want to remind you that this has been an on-the-record session. Thank you for coming.
CHIKOTI: Thank you.
This is an uncorrected transcript.