US pushes for investment in Angola

US secretary of state to focus on agriculture as means to uplift its poor.

Despite being rich in natural resources, the majority of Angolans are poor [GALLO/GETTY]

Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, is expected to push for greater opportunities for US investment in the southern African nation of Angola as she continues her seven-nation tour of the continent.

With more than 85 per cent of its revenue derived from oil and diamonds, Angola is one of Africa’s top producers of petroleum, rivaling Nigeria.

Clinton’s visit on Sunday is part of efforts to strengthen US ties with one of its major supplier of crude and natural gas.

But the trip is also a chance for Clinton to help US businesses that are seeking a greater share in a market where China has much influence.

Beijing has recently stepped up its investments in the country, whose oil accounted for 18 per cent of China’s total oil imports in 2008, according to a report from Chatham House, a London-based research institution.

China has played a particularly important role in helping the country’s reconstruction efforts following a 27-year civil war that ended in 2002.

Beijing has provided Luanda, the Angolan capital, with assistance in energy, health, education and public works efforts, the report said.

Emphasis on agriculture

But US officials have dismissed suggestions that Washington is concerned by the growing influence of China in Africa, where Chinese loans are being used to help rebuild the struggling infrastructure of several countries on the continent.

The US has also invested billions of dollars in recent years in the continent, and in particular Angola, with efforts to increase production in Angola through Chevron and Exxon Mobil, major US-based companies.

But Clinton is expected to push Angola to diversify its oil-based economy, by encouraging the country to boost its agricultural output.

Once famed for its farming, agriculture now only accounts for nine per cent of the economy of Angola, which imports more than 50 per cent of its food.

Clinton is expected to attempt to change this by pushing for partnerships with US food companies including Dole and Chiquita Brands International.

The two companies are reported to have been in talks with local authorities to invest in the banana industry.

Despite the US and Chinese investment, the vast majority of Angola’s citizens live below the poverty line.

The US has said agriculture could provide a way to lift millions out of poverty in Angola, and across the continent.

“In Angola, Secretary Clinton emphasises Africa as a place of opportunity, built on an ethic of responsibility,” the US state department said ahead of her visit.

“She will underline America’s commitment to partner with governments, the private sector, non-governmental organizations, and private citizens to build societies where each individual can realise their potential.”

Source : News Agencies

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