Markus Weimer
(Former Chatham House Expert)

Angola's economy is the fastest growing in the world in the last decade and it has welcomed a long list of foreign dignitaries in a bid to attract business.

Norway's Ministers for Business & Trade and Environment & Development are currently in Luanda as part of efforts to strengthen bilateral relations. Norway's courting of Angola is emblematic of changes in the global economic order that the financial crisis has catalysed: different countries are engaging as equal players.

The key phrase during Norway's visit to Angola will be 'mutually beneficial relationship'. Angola is the largest source of oil for Norway's national oil company Statoil, outside the Norwegian continental shelf. Statoil relies on Angolan crude for over 170,000 barrels per day (bpd) of its two million bpd portfolio. 

Taxes received in 2008 by the Angolan government from Statoil were double the total overseas development assistance (ODA) from Norway to the whole of Africa. In 2009, Norwegian investments in Angola amounted to about £3.85 billion. This is more than six times as much as Norwegian ODA to Africa.

Angola chooses 

Despite highlighting common ground when it comes to business, differences exist: Norway is a beacon of good governance and integrity in the world of oil and gas producing countries. Accountability, transparency and integrity are values Norway wants to export. Norwegian taxpayers want their money to have positive impacts in partner countries.

But with so many suitors Angolan leaders are spoilt for choice when it comes to bilateral partners. Angola does not need to put up with uncomfortable issues that are important to western electorates. 

Rather than risk damaging the oil relationship and alienating Angolan hosts, Norwegian Minister of Environment and International Development Erik Solheim, is likely to focus on more palatable non-oil aspects that are also high on the agenda: diversifying Angola's economy, developing renewable energy, and education and training. 

Partners matter

Europe as well as the US, China, and Brazil are actively courting Angola. This provides Angola with the opportunity to realign its foreign relations and forge ahead in new directions with new allies and partnerships. Some of these will be more valuable than others. 

The key for Angola will be to use this opportunity to the best effect and for the benefit of Angolans. This will include overcoming its over-reliance on oil and gas. If Angola succeeds it will cement its position not only amongst premier oil producers in Africa but also as one of the economic and political powerhouses on the continent, and even beyond.

Angola Forum.