France and Angola have decided to “turn over a new leaf after the misunderstandings of the past” and to seal an economic and political partnership “between equals,” the French president said on Friday during a brief visit in Luanda.
Nicolas was the first French president to travel to the country since the so-called Angolagate scandal.
Relations between the two countries were damaged by an arms trafficking controversy involving French businessman Pierre Falcone. Several Angolan politicians, including President Eduardo Dos Santos, have been accused of pocketing millions of dollars’ worth of commissions on the deals.
In Luanda, President sarkozy renewed his commitment to revamp France’s African policy and to establish relations based on the respect of mutual interests.
According to FRANCE 24’s international affairs specialist Jean-Bernard Cadier, Angolan leaders had been waiting for a political gesture from France for a long time. “It was necessary that Sarkozy himself took the trip, rather than a minister,” he said.
After France made it clear that it wanted to renew its diplomacy in Africa, Angola found itself at the centre of political attention. Nicolas Sarkozy highlighted the important role Sub-Saharan Africa’s second-largest military had to play in the stability of the continent.
“Angola is a major power in the region and in Africa. We have therefore decided to consult each other systematically on key African issues,” he said.
Angola’s economy grew by 23% in 2007 and constitutes an attractive market for French companies. The French president, who took many industrialists with him on his trip there, clearly aimed at developing business deals between France and Angola.
Several companies, including Thales, Castel and Société Générale, have announced the signature of sizable contracts. Top executives from Air France, Bolloré group and Total also formed part of the French mission.
Angola is Africa’s number 3 oil producer and became the country’s top oil exporters last April. Its promising gas market is also attracting interest from foreign companies.
A 27-year-long civil war
Economic opportunities in the former Portuguese colony aren’t limited to oil. “France doesn’t want to leave it alone to the Chinese, the Americans or the Brazilians,” said Roselyne Febvre, a France 24 correspondent following President Sarkozy on his trip to Luanda.
In a country where everything needs to be rebuilt after 27 years of civil war, there is no lack of investment opportunities in the transportation, construction, telecommunications, health and farming sectors.
The French president declared himself “convinced” that the two countries could do “even more,” to “help Angola in the diversification of its economy beyond oil and gas.”
He also announced that the French Development Agency (AFD) would resume its activities in Angola, after they were suspended in 1996. The AFD should focus its projects on drinking water, electricity and professional training.