The latest Top 25 Movers & Shakers Watch List released earlier this week by the African Energy Chamber highlights how important 2021 will be for the Angolan oil & gas industry.

Sub-Saharan Africa’s second biggest oil producing nation has been surfing on a wave of ambitious reforms since 2018 which could prove very beneficial to put the country back on a path to recovery in 2021.

H.E. João Lourenço, President of the Republic of Angola, made it to the list for the first time after several years of reforming the industry and making it one of the most competitive on the continent. Via several presidential decrees signed in 2018, 2019 and 2020, the President has truly revived Angola’s hydrocarbons sector and its attractiveness for investors. As Angola recovers from the shock of the Covid-19 pandemic and yet another economic crisis, President Lourenço’s leadership is more important than ever to further support sector recovery and boost local content development. 

The country’s industry will also be marked by key offshore projects expected to move forward in 2021 and notably led by international majors Total and Eni. Nicolas Terraz, President for Africa at Total Exploration & Production, is another executive who made it to the Chamber’s TOP 25 for 2021. His piloting of key projects across the continent, especially in Eastern and Southern Africa, will be closely watched next year. This notably includes several brownfield expansions in deep water acreages in Angola, and the planned drilling of the world’s deepest well in Block 48.

Guido Brusco, listed for the second year in a row, will be another key figure able to impact the future of Angola’s oil sector. Recently promoted Director of Eni’s global upstream portfolio, Guido has a long experience in Africa and strong understanding of the continent’s dynamics and opportunities. As he makes strategic decisions to rationalize Eni’s upstream spend, the future of major Angolan assets like Block 15/06 is on the line.

President João Lourenço of Angola has stepped up his fight to recover billions of dollars allegedly stolen under his predecessor as Africa’s second-biggest oil producer battles to escape the continent’s largest debt crisis.

Mr Lourenço estimates the scale of the looting to amount to at least $24bn — an assertion that signals the next phase in his struggle against allies of José Eduardo dos Santos, who for decades presided over a country reputed to be one of the world’s most corrupt. Mr dos Santos stepped down in 2017.

“New things are being discovered . . . it is likely that much bigger numbers will be announced later,” Mr Lourenço said in a state of the nation address last month. He also noted that the sum was larger than Angola’s roughly $20bn debt to its main creditor, China.

Mr Lourenço already claims to have recovered almost $5bn of ill-gotten gains and wants to recover more. Angolan prosecutors have begun to investigate one of the most notorious scandals of Mr dos Santos’s rule — an alliance between allies of the former president and a secretive Hong Kong group, 88 Queensway, that allegedly hollowed out Sonangol, Angola’s oil company.

Sonangol has also begun litigation to claw back alleged loot from Isabel dos Santos, the former president’s daughter and the continent’s richest woman, who briefly chaired the company before the family’s downfall. She denies wrongdoing.

The sheer scale of the alleged looting has underlined the stakes for Mr Lourenço’s ruling Movement for the Popular Liberation of Angola as it faces rising frustration, including urban protests, over the turmoil in the economy, Africa’s third largest, and the legacy of theft by the country’s elite. 

This year’s pandemic-related crash in oil prices has exacerbated half a decade of recession and forced Beijing’s biggest African debtor to seek billions of dollars in relief. Angola has received about $2.5bn from the IMF as part of its biggest programme on the continent. The IMF has said that Angola is making progress on negotiations with three large creditors, believed by analysts to be Chinese, on $6.7bn of debt relief, but deals are yet to be announced.

A lack of direction on the economy and a crackdown on protests in Luanda, the capital, have fuelled discontent. People think little has changed. It is “basically a reproduction of the same structures, the same status quo, the same way of doing things from dos Santos’s dark past”, said Rafael Marques de Morais, an anti-corruption activist in Angola.

A recent survey of Angolan business owners by Exx Africa, a research group, also indicated that two-thirds were unhappy with the country’s direction.

Mr Lourenço, therefore, has an incentive to blame the alleged dos Santos corruption for Angola’s economic problems, say analysts. “Lourenço is portraying these grand schemes as being instrumental in the high levels of sovereign debt being accumulated over the past two decades, particularly the debt owed to China, to keep public opinion on his side,” said Darias Jonker, Africa director at Eurasia Group.

With Sonangol pledging oil deliveries to secure Chinese loans for investment, Angola became so much a testing ground for Chinese commodity-for-infrastructure loans on the continent this century that the World Bank dubbed the model “Angola Mode”.

A government investigation into two Angolan-Chinese companies has ensnared senior allies of the former president. Leopoldino Fragoso do Nascimento, a confidante of Mr dos Santos known as Dino, and Hélder Vieira Dias Junior, or Kopelipa, a former military adviser, were last month named by prosecutors as formal suspects in alleged corruption involving China International Fund (CIF), a Queensway venture. Angola’s attorney-general did not respond to a request for comment.

These two men together with Manuel Vicente, chairman of Sonangol before he became deputy to Mr dos Santos, controlled significant business interests as a so-called “triumvirate”. Under Mr Vicente’s tenure, Sonangol began a joint venture with Queensway called China Sonangol.

CIF and China Sonangol helped secure access to Angola’s elite for Sam Pa, a formerly powerful Chinese middleman in Africa and senior figure at Queensway. Mr Pa ventured into Angola at the dawn of Chinese interest in the nation’s oil sector as Mr dos Santos sought loans to rebuild after the end of a long civil war in 2002.

The investigation into CIF was sensitive, given Angola’s close relationship with China, said Alex Vines, Africa programme director at Chatham House. Mr Pa was arrested in China in 2015 in an anti-corruption sweep. Mr Pa could not be reached for comment and his current whereabouts are unknown. The “relationship with China is so strategic, given the debt exposure that the timing of this [the asset recovery drive] is clearly political,” said Mr Vines.

Still, many doubt Mr Lourenço will ever recover all the money. “In macroeconomic terms, they are never going to get anything close to $24bn back from the global economy,” said Ricardo Soares de Oliveira, professor in the international politics of Africa at Oxford university.

Sonangol’s management “want to clean up” but “they have a lot on their plate” to pursue complex lawsuits while battling to control the company’s finances, said a lawyer who has worked with the business. “They probably have to prioritise.”

Mr Lourenço’s approach to tackling corruption was also “extremely ambivalent”, said Mr Soares de Oliveira. “The rhetoric is systemic and all-encompassing, but the practice is discretionary and political.”

Despite Mr Lourenço’s statement that more than $13bn was stolen from the company that Mr Vicente once chaired, Mr Vicente remains close to Mr Lourenço.

“There is a sense of arbitrariness that some who were close to dos Santos haven’t been touched, but others have,” Mr Vines said. “There is a sense of old wine in new wineskins in Angola right now.”

 

Source: Financial Times

Police in the Angolan capital, Luanda, have used tear gas to disperse demonstrators.

They were protesting against rising living costs, unemployment and the postponement of local elections due to coronavirus.

A number of people were arrested and some were injured during the demonstrations, which had been banned by the authorities.

Last month, dozens of people were arrested during a similar protest.

Angola is one of Africa's biggest oil exporters but most of its people live in poverty.

BBC World Service Africa editor Mary Harper reports that disenchantment with the government has risen in recent months, with several marches called against corruption, police brutality and unemployment.

Protesters defied the ban on demonstrations which was ordered by the governor of Luanda partly to slow down the spread of coronavirus.

Teams of well-armed police were seen on the streets of Luanda.

 

Credit: BBC

Angola's debt to China is estimated at USD 20.1 billion, and is the country's largest creditor, said Finance Minister Vera Daves on Friday.

Of this amount, USD10 billion was used to capitalize the Angolan oil company Sonangol and the remaining USD 10.1 billion to finance various investment projects.

Speaking at a press conference, Vera Daves said that the issue of China's financing to Angola has generated a lot of controversy when analyzing the quality of the works carried out by Chinese contractors.

However, the minister explained that the quality of the works does not depend on the creditor - Chinese banks - but on the Angolan State that must inspect them, and on the contractors.

Vera Daves said that upon payment, the paying bank is based only on the invoices presented on the execution of the works. The bill is paid in China and the money does not circulate in the Angolan economy.

"There is always a very strong debate about deliverables, the quality of the works. This does not depend on the financier but on the relationship between the Angolan State and the contractors", she said, explaining that the financing entity, which is a bank, focuses on the invoices and not on the walls.

As for the debt service with China for 2020, standing at USD 2. 678 million, the minister said that the amortizations represent 78.8%, that is 2,103, while interest represents 21.2% (567 million).

She explained that the debt with that Asian giant is commercial and is paid in deadlines of up to eight years, unlike that with the IMF, which allows negotiation of interest rates and repayment terms.

On the discharge of the public debt, estimated at about 90% of GDP and 60% of the General State Budget 2020 (AKz 13.5 billion), ie, USD 5 billion, according to analysts from the Fitch Rating Agency, the director of Public Debt, Valter Pacheco, Angola needs at least 29 years.

However, the official explained that this is just a hypothetical example should the country no longer incur any debt. But this is not the case because the country needs to finance itself to meet needs.

"We will continue to go into debt, but in a more productive and responsible way. Angola will have to continue to finance itself, but with lower interest rates and longer terms ", said the official.

 

Source: ANGOP

Qatar's state-owned oil and gas company Qatar Petroleum has entered into a farm-in agreement for an acquisition of a stake in an offshore block in Angola.

Qatar has reached the deal with Angola's Sonangol, and France's Total to acquire a 30% participating interest in Block 48, located in the ultra-deep waters offshore Angola.

"The block, with a drill-ready opportunity, covers an area of approximately 3,600 square kilometers, and is expected to be drilled as part of a 2020/2021 drilling program," Qatar Petroleum said.

Saad Sherida Al-Kaabi, the Minister of State for Energy Affairs, the President and CEO of Qatar Petroleum, said:" Continuing on our journey to build a world-class exploration portfolio, by securing interests in promising exploration blocks in diverse geographies, we are pleased to be part of this exciting ultra-deepwater opportunity in Angola, a leading oil and gas producing country.”

Al-Kaabi said: "This is our first opportunity in Angola with both Sonangol, and our long-term partner, Total, an experienced operator with significant in-country presence. We would like to thank the Angolan authorities and our partners in this block for their support. We look forward to a longstanding and fruitful partnership.”

The farm-in agreement is subject to customary approvals by the Angolan Government. Upon receipt of such approvals, the parties respective interests in Block 48 will be as follows: Total (40% - Operator), Sonangol (30%), and Qatar Petroleum (30%).

Block 48 is located in the ultra-deep waters offshore Lower Congo Basin, approximately 400 km northwest of Luanda and 200 km West of Soyo onshore facilities. The average water depth in the block is around 2,500 meters.

Following a recent oil drilling halt offshore Angola caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Total on Tuesday said it had restarted offshore drilling works in the country, with more drilling rigs expected to resume work soon.

 

Credit: Offshore Engineer

Nigerian Government has impounded a Boeing 777 jumbo plane belonging to the Angolan government at the Lagos airport for flying illegally into Nigeria.

The government grounded the passengers-laden plane and subsequently impounded it, shortly after touching down in the country on Wednesday afternoon.

The jumbo jet belongs to Angola Airlines, a state-owned airline and flag carrier of the Angolan government.

It was learnt that the plane flew into the country without the requisite and mandatory approvals from the Nigerian authorities. Aviation sources said the jet which was flown into the country purportedly to evacuate stranded Angolan citizens in Nigeria was found to be carrying fee-paying passenger.

However, the number of passengers on board the over 300-seater plane could not be ascertained as of the time of filing this report on Thursday night.

The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority has commenced further investigation into the matter, it was learnt.

Prosecutors in Angola have ordered the closure of places of worship belonging to one of Brazil's biggest churches, accusing it of corruption.

At least seven buildings belonging to the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God (UCKG) have been seized in the capital, Luanda.

Prosecutors said the evangelical church had been involved in tax fraud and other fiscal crimes.

UCKG officials have previously strongly denied any wrongdoing.

Last year about 300 Angolan UCKG bishops broke away from the Brazilian leadership, accusing it of mismanagement and not being African enough. UCKG officials described the accusations as "defamatory".

The UCKG claims to have about eight million members in Brazil and branches in several African countries. It promotes "prosperity theology", whereby believers are told their faith and donations to the Church will lead to material wealth.

The row started last year when Angolan bishops broke away from the Brazilian Church, accusing it of "fiscal evasion" and of practices contrary to the "African and Angolan reality".

In December, Angolan authorities opened an investigation and on Friday prosecutor-general Alvaro Da Silva Joao announced the seizure of seven UCKG temples.

"These apprehensions result from the fact that in the records there are enough indications of the practice of crimes of criminal association, tax fraud, illicit export of capital, abuse of trust and other... illegal acts," he said in a statement.

 

Credit: BBC

Angola's Supreme Court has handed a five-year jail sentence to Jose Filomeno dos Santos, the son of the oil-rich country's former president, for fraud when he headed the national sovereign wealth fund.

Dos Santos, 42, was summoned before the court in December over allegations he tried to embezzle up to $1.5 bn from the sovereign wealth fund, which he oversaw from 2013 to 2018.

Nicknamed "Zenu", dos Santos, son of ex-President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, was charged with stealing $500m from the fund and transferring it to a Swiss bank account.

"For the crime of fraud ... and for the crime of peddling influence ... the legal cumulus condemns him to a single sentence of five years in prison," judge Joao da Cruz Pitra said on Friday.

Three co-defendants, including the former governor of the National Bank of Angola (BNA), Valter Filipe da Silva, were sentenced to between four and six years in prison for fraud, embezzlement and influence peddling.

All four were acquitted of money laundering charges. They have previously denied any wrongdoing.

Zenu is the first member of the former presidential family to be prosecuted as part of an anti-corruption campaign led by President Joao Lourenco, who came to power in 2017.

In February, Angolan investigators froze the assets of Zenu's billionaire half-sister, Isabel dos Santos.

She is being probed for a long list of crimes in Angola, including mismanagement, embezzlement and money laundering during her stewardship of the state-run oil giant Sonangol.

Lourenco has mainly targeted the family members of his predecessor, who appointed relatives and friends to key positions during his 38-year rule - leaving a legacy of poverty and nepotism.

Isabel has vehemently denied the accusations against her and denounced Luanda's actions as a politically-motivated "witch-hunt".

Only a small elite have benefitted from Angola's vast oil and mineral reserves.

The southwest African country has been slow in recovering from a 1975-2002 civil war. Large pockets of the population live in poverty with limited access to basic services.

 

SOURCE: AFP

Angolan prosecutors on Tuesday sought a seven-year jail sentence for the son of former president Jose Eduardo dos Santos for allegedly embezzling $500 million from state coffers.

Jose Filomeno dos Santos, 42, was summoned before Angola's Supreme Court in December over allegations he tried to steal as much as $1.5 billion (1.3 euros) from the sovereign wealth fund, which he oversaw from 2013 to 2018.

Nicknamed "Zenu", he was charged with pilfering $500 million (445 million euros) from the fund -- alongside the former governor of the national bank of Angola (BNA), Valter Filipe da Silva, and two others.

The funds were alleged transferred to the funds to a Swiss bank during the dos Santos presidency.

All four have denied the accusations.

Deputy attorney-general Pascoal Joaquim asked judges to sentence Zenu and one collaborator to seven years in prison and hand the other two a 10-year sentence.

"Since the beginning, the defendants have always had the intention to bypass the Angolan state," Joaquim told the court in the capital Luanda.

Zenu is the first member of the former presidential family to be prosecuted as part an anti-corruption campaign lead by President Joao Lourenco, who came to power in 2017.

His predecessor led Angola for 38 years, leaving a legacy of poverty and nepotism in a country still recovering from a 1975-2002 civil war.

Zenu was appointed head of the $5 billion fund in 2013, 34 years into his father's reign.

His half-sister Isabel dos Santos was ousted from her position as chair of the state oil giant Sonangol in November 2017.

Cited by Forbes magazine as the richest woman in Africa, she is accused of diverting billions of dollars from state companies during the dos Santos presidency -- allegations she has vehemently denied.

In December a court in Luanda issued a "preventative" order to freeze her business assets as part of the investigation.

Earlier on Tuesday, Lourenco reiterated his intention to combat graft.

"Over the past two years we have done a lot and the evidence is there," the president told members of his ruling People's Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) party.

"The authors are paying for the crimes they committed, which is different to what has been done... since independence."

 

Credit: AFP

Angola plans to kick off niobium exploitation at Bonga mountain, located at central Huila province's municipality of Quilengues, in the second half of this year, official said on Tuesday.

After two years of prospecting, the rare superconducting material, used in the space industry, niobium will be exploited for the first time in the country, said Adriano Pedro, Quilengues' administrator.

For the exploitation, Pedro said a mining company is investing 100 million U.S. dollars for the project, adding that the prospecting process of the mineral made it possible to collect samples and ensure the quality of the ore.

Given the project has already been authorized by Presidential Decree and the prospecting process is over, the exploitation is able to start in the second half of the year, the official said.

 

Xinhua

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