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Angola seen returning to growth in 2020 after four-year slump

Highlights

  • President vows to continue to diversify economy, fight graft
  • Angola’s economy contracted after oil output, prices dropped

Angolan President Joao Lourenco expects Africa’s second-biggest oil producer to return to growth next year as the government accelerates efforts to diversify an economy battered by a decline in crude prices and output.

“Angola’s economic crisis started in 2014 and it got worse, not just because of lower oil prices, but because the country is indebted and is honoring its commitments,” Lourenco said in a state-of-the-nation speech in parliament on Tuesday. “In 2020, we expect the economy to return to growth due to rising output from the non-oil sector.”

Angola’s gross domestic product contracted for the past three years and is expected to shrink 0.2% in 2019, according to the latest Bloomberg survey. Angola’s crude exports in November may fall to the lowest level in at least 11 years, according to the country’s loading program. The drop has put a strain on a country that depends on oil for more than 90% of its exports.

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Diversifying the economy and battling graft has been a cornerstone of what Lourenco has called a “new Angola” since taking power in the 27-million strong nation in 2017 from Jose Eduardo dos Santos, who ruled for 38 years. Transparency International ranks Angola one of the world’s most corrupt nations.

Lourenco, a former army general, said there are 45 cases in court to recover more than $4.1 billion allegedly stolen from the state. Authorities have also seized other sums of cash, cars and more than 70 properties, he said. Last year, Angolan lawmakers approved a law to allow for assets that were illegally acquired by public officials to be confiscated.

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Angola is seeking to improve its finances after signing a three-year, $3.7 billion-loan agreement with the International Monetary Fund, Lourenco said. Some of the measures include the privatization of dozens of state-owned companies or assets, the phasing out of subsidies on several products, such as refined fuel, and measures to ensure the sustainability of Angola’s debt, according to the IMF.

The plan is for public debt to decline to less than 60% of gross domestic product in 2022 from about 90%, he said.

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