Angola affirms its influence on Gulf of Guinea by leading regional commission

9 April 2007

Luanda, Angola, 09 April – Angola is focusing on affirming its economic and political influence on the Gulf of Guinea, for which it has boosted ties with Sao Tome and Principe and headed the process of re-activating the regional cooperation body, the Gulf of Guinea Commission (GGC).

At the end of March, Sao Tome and Principe received a visit from a delegation of Angolan businessmen, namely from the tourism and banking sector, with the stated aim of “assessing potential investments,” on the archipelago, which has said it is available for partnerships between companies form the two countries in the infrastructure and agricultural sectors.

Last week the two countries made it known that the bilateral cooperation program, which is under negotiation, will be based upon the training of staff on the archipelago, particularly in the financial and legal sectors.

In the oil sector the Sao Tome and Principe national oil agency recently signed a memorandum of understanding with the Angolan state oil company, Sonangol, in order to open up the way for a partnership between the two.

But the start of Angolan investment in Sao Tome is still being awaited and is likely to be a partnership that has been negotiated since the beginning of the year between the archipelago’s new airline, STP Airways and Angola’s TAAG.

TAAG, which is controlled by the state, already operates a route between Sao Tome and Lisbon, which starts in Luanda, on behalf of STP Airways.

TAAG is also expected to start a similar route from the capital of Guinea Bissau, with the Guinean Transport minister saying that partnership negotiations between TAAG and Air Bissau were at an advanced stage.

The Africa Monitor newsletter said last week that the main interest from Luanda in relation to the countries on the West African coast and, particularly the Gulf of Guinea, an important oil producing region, was shown through the re-activation of the Gulf of Guinea Commission.

Luanda, which will become the headquarters for the organization, which is focused on economic cooperation, development and security, according to Africa Monitor had a fundamental role in choosing the new executive-secretary Carlos Gomes, a native of Sao Tome and former director of the joint STP/Nigeria authority for oil development.

The inauguration ceremony took place in March, in the capital of Gabon, with the presence of Sao Tome president, Fradique de Menezes, but the main drive behind the re-launch of the organization, which since 1999 had shown few signs of life, was given by his Angolan counterpart.

José Eduardo dos Santos attended the GGC summit in Libreville, Gabon in August of last year and the efforts of the Angolan mission were noted in terms of leaving Gabon with palpable results, for which the support of Equatorial Guinea and Sao Tome were instrumental.

The increased Angolan involvement in the GGC, according to Africa Monitor, also has the support of the United States, which is interested in balancing out Nigeria’s regional influence, as the country remains somewhat unstable and is now setting out on an electoral process with an unpredictable outcome.

Along with the two Portuguese-speaking countries the GGC is made up of Gabon, Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea, Cameroon and the Republic of Congo.

Angola is also showing increasing efforts to boost the role of the African oil Producers Association at a time when it is consolidating its position as the second-largest sub-Saharan oil producer in Africa.

Membership of the Organization of Oil Exporting Countries (OPEC) achieved last year, alongside instability in Nigeria, which is less involved in economic diplomacy, Angola could soon become the standard-bearer for oil producing countries in sub-Saharan Africa, and particularly those located in the Gulf of Guinea. (macauhub)