Angola

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Although Angola is still recovering from a brutal civil war that officially ended in 2002, its oil, gold, diamonds and natural beauty are attracting business people from all over the world.

Fact File
Population:
12 million
Time zone: GMT+1
Plugs: Round-pin attachment
Dialling code: +244
Currency: Kwanza – $1=97.5AOA
Language: Portuguese, Bantu, other African languages

Background
Once a Portuguese colony, Angola achieved independence in 1975, but then followed that up with 27 years of civil war. Up to 1.5 million lives were lost and four million people displaced. Jonas Savimbi’s death in 2002 ended UNITA’s insurgency and strengthened the MPLA’s hold on power. President Jose Eduardo dos Santos pushed through a new constitution in 2010 and held elections in 2012.

Business Travel Activity
Today Angola enjoys a general sense of redevelopment and progress, and is one of the fastest-growing economies globally, with Luanda a city with great development potential.

Angola is one of the largest exporters of crude oil, diamonds, refined petroleum products, gas, coffee, sisal, fish and fish products, timber and cotton.

The country’s high growth rate is driven by its oil sector, which has taken advantage of high international oil prices. Oil production and its supporting activities contribute about 85% of GDP.

There were no major developments on the Luanda hotel front in 2013, but a couple of the big international groups have their eye on the city.

On the airline front, TAAG introduced an additional frequency between Cape Town and Angola. In addition, TAAG has grown its Chinese presence by launching its second scheduled direct flight between Luanda and Beijing. The flights depart Luanda on Mondays and Fridays, with the return flights operating on Tuesdays and Saturdays. A third frequency is planned for launch in 2014.

Air Namibia also increased the frequency of its flights between Windhoek and Luanda, with one additional flight per week, on Tuesdays, bringing to seven the total number of weekly flights.

Airport
Quatro de Fevereiro International Airport is the main international airport, and is located in the southern part of Luanda.

Shuttle and bus transport is available into the city from the airport. Allow for up to an hour and a half to get there, and it’s best to stay clear of the local blue taxis.

There are paid airport lounge facilities available at the gates.

“This is a modern airport, but with basic facilities,” says Shelley Summers, General Manager Africa Division for American Express Travel Services. “The international arrivals terminal is small and one large aircraft easily fills it. Queues at immigration are long, and it takes up to three hours to get through all the formalities, with another possible wait to receive checked-in baggage. There is air-conditioning, but with the humidity and delays, it is certainly not very effective. Unlike other African countries, ‘meet and assist’ is not permitted by Angolan law.”

“I had no idea that visitors were not allowed to leave the country with local currency,” says Mbali Mngomezulu, Sales and Marketing Director for Birchwood Hotel & O.R Tambo Conference Centre. “I was picked out of a line, questioned in Portuguese, and had to hand over close to R300 in kwanza on the spot, with no receipt!”

A new international airport is under construction 40 kilometres south of Luanda, with the opening scheduled for 2015/2016.

Hotels
Accommodation in Luanda is incredibly expensive, and while the city does have many hotels, there is a general shortage of accommodation and it is advisable to book well in advance.

The Talatona Convention Hotel is a popular 5-star hotel located in a quiet suburb about 10 kilometres south of Luanda amidst a prestigious collection of private residences.

Epic Sana is a centrally-located 5-star hotel in the very heart of downtown Luanda, with incredible views over the sea and the Ilha. Top-notch business facilities and a spa are available.

The 4-star Hotel Alvalade is five minutes from Quatro de Fevereiro International Airport, but is by no means just an airport hotel. 

Hotel Baia is located in the business district, five minutes from the city centre. This newly-built 4-star hotel overlooks Luanda Bay.

Hotel Presidente is located downtown overlooking the promenade, and is currently undergoing a complete refurbishment.

“Hotels are very expensive and it is recommended to opt for a 4-star or above property,” says Summers. “The hotels have an international feel, with local staff who generally speak very limited English. The Internet connectivity can be a little slow and intermittent at times.”

“The Epic Sana is a good choice, because of the service and quality,” says Mngomezulu. “But it is expensive. I would also recommend the Talatona.”

Card Acceptance
Angola’s currency is the kwanza. It is not convertible and cannot be taken out of the country. As with many third world economies, the US dollar is also widely-accepted.

Visitors can exchange money in banks, at hotels or on the street, where the rates are sometimes marginally better.

Angola is a cash economy, and local ATMs rarely accept foreign bank cards. Credit cards are accepted by major hotels and airline companies, but the bulk of business is done in US dollars or kwanza.

Visas
Almost all nationalities must get a visa prior to arrival. It is not possible to obtain a visa upon arrival. Your passport must be valid for another six months, minimum, and contain two blank pages.

Travellers need an international vaccination certificate indicating yellow fever inoculation within the last 10 years, but on the Namibian/Angolan border this is not an issue.

Namibians don’t need a visa for Angola. When obtaining a visa from countries to the north, travellers will often only be issued with a five-day transit visa. If travelling by road, this will only give travellers enough time to get to Luanda, where it takes up to four days to get another five-day transit visa.

Visitors also need a letter of invitation from a private individual, organisation or company, stating that they will take responsibility for the visitor’s stay.

Travellers may encounter delays or exclusions if they do not have at least one blank visa page in their passport for entry stamps. Angolan embassies and consulates will not issue visas unless the passport has at least six month’s validity remaining. Angola does not require travellers to have an exit visa.

Work visa applications will require certain information from the firm or contractor.

Allow at least two weeks to get a visa.

Connectivity
Not all mobile phone companies have roaming arrangements with Angola. SMS text messages may not get through, or for those that do, users may not be able to receive the reply. Mobile coverage outside the main urban areas is patchy. When travelling outside Luanda, it advisable to carry a mobile phone with both Unitel and Movicel contracts, as coverage for each provider varies throughout the country.

Microsoft launched the Huawei 4Afrika phone in February 2013.

There are a few Internet cafés in Luanda. Access outside of the capital is limited. Telephone connections, cellular and landlines are heavily overloaded, making communication difficult at times. International lines are, however, often better.

Health
Visitors are advised to use anti-malaria medication. Full health insurance is essential and should include medical evacuation insurance. There are some hospital facilities in the main towns, but adequate medical facilities are currently virtually non-existent. However, there are some good private clinics in Luanda. Medical treatment is free although often inadequate, and visitors should travel with their own supply of remedies for simple ailments such as upset stomachs, as pharmaceutical supplies are usually extremely difficult to obtain.

All water should be regarded as being potentially contaminated.

Hepatitis E is widespread and hepatitis B is hyper-endemic. Bilharzia is present, so avoid swimming and paddling in fresh water. Meningitis outbreaks occur. Dengue fever epidemics occur sporadically. Vaccination against tuberculosis is sometimes advised. Rabies is present and for those at high risk, vaccination before arrival should be considered. If bitten, seek medical advice without delay.

The Experience
“Restaurants in Luanda are of an extremely high standard,” says Summers. “The seafood is the best item to order off the menu, as it is fresh from the sea. There is a lovely island strip (Ilha) in Luanda with amazing restaurants and views of the city, harbour or ocean, depending on which side of the island you are.”

“A couple of tips: you must check in for your return flight at least three hours before the scheduled departure time, to allow enough time for security checks and passport control. Once you have passed through security and immigration, you are taken into a small room and questioned about the amount of cash you are travelling with. The rooms are small, and if you are not aware or prepared for this experience, it can be quite daunting.”

Contacts
www.angolanembassy.org
www.angola.org 

Comment

Danica Helfrich – Regional Marketing Manager Southern Africa: Lufthansa Group

It had been two year since my last visit, when I visited in November. A lot has changed, and one can see and feel the transition Luanda is going through, even though it still has a long way to go.

One of the differences I noticed was that there wasn’t the chaos I had experienced before in the arrivals hall before you go through immigration. That has been replaced by an organised and fast-moving queuing system.  The second thing that has changed drastically is the traffic from the airport to the hotel. It took us about half an hour. Two years ago, that same trip took us about two hours. The streets, though, still need a serious upgrade.

On my last visit, the ‘Marginal’ (paved area on Luanda Bay) was still under construction. This time I took the opportunity to take a nice evening stroll along the promenade. It’s a great palm tree-lined walk or run of about three kilometres. 

I stayed at the Hotel Presidente. It’s located in the centre of Luanda, with beautiful views over the bay and port. It was being renovated when I visited in November, and the renovation has resulted in the lobby and restaurant/bar areas receiving a modern contemporary African look.

Complimentary Internet is available in all rooms via a network cable. Wi-Fi is only available on the eighth floor, where the bar and the restaurant are located. So, any iPad or iPhone user not willing to spend a fortune on data roaming charges should find themselves a place there.

We dined at a stylish restaurant called Cais de Quatro on the Ilha (sandy peninsula). It offers spectacular views of Luanda’s skyline. The restaurant’s tables are all on a huge deck or on the terrace on the first floor. It was busy, with all the tables occupied by a nice mix of young and old, casual and business dinner guests, locals and foreigners. The menu was interesting, creative and catered to a wide variety of tastes. The service could have been more attentive, but I guess the staff were overworked, due to the full restaurant.

Jose Ventura – VP Asia-Pacific, Middle East & Africa, Business Development: Preferred Hotel Group

Angola will be leading the African continent very soon, thanks to their resources and commitment from the government. However, we personally recommend that business travellers make sure they have all facts ready at hand before departure. 

Make sure your hotel is in a reasonably well-protected area with the right access to the airport and city centre. Ideally, arrange all meetings at your hotel to avoid losing time as a result of traffic.

Steps are being taken to eradicate a culture of bribery. President dos Santos has declared a zero tolerance approach to corruption in government, with two important laws passed in this regard in 2010.

Angolans are straightforward in their decisions and opinions. Don’t be surprised, though, if you wait quite a long time for a business deal to go through, as Angolans are said to take their time before carefully making decisions.

You will not have problems making appointments, but do expect last minute cancellations. Appointments are usually not made too far in advance, and are confirmed only a few hours before. Also expect your appointment to be rescheduled at short notice. It is therefore important to be flexible with your time.

English is usually spoken amongst senior staff, but most business is done in Portuguese and you will find that receptionists do not speak English.

Smart business dress is appreciated, but because of the climate most men will not wear a full suit, nor jacket and tie. Businesswomen will usually be dressed formally with a jacket and either smart trousers or reasonable length skirt.

Paulo Correia – Area Manager Angola, Oil & Gas Division: Wings Travel

The challenges are plenty, but so are the opportunities, which can be seized more effectively with proper preparation and the right support.

A three or 4-star hotel will cost between $300 and $400 per room, per night, with dinner costing anywhere from $60 to $80. Added to this, there are challenges with payment, as there are limited ATMs and credit cards are not widely accepted.

It’s strongly advised to hire a driver, as normal rules of the road do not apply. In Luanda, it takes an average of 90 minutes to cover 15 kilometres, just to give you an indication of the traffic congestion. Added to this, the roads don’t have names. So it’s always better to have a local driver who knows the landmarks and can safely get you around. 

Ensure you are in possession of your passport at all times, with a valid visa. There are regular roadblocks and it’s imperative that your documents are in order. Planning for potential delays when scheduling flights is also important. Even when flying domestically, be sure to arrive at least two hours early, as planes rarely stick to published schedules. 

Air Travel
Air France – www.airfrance.com 
Air Namibia – www.airnamibia.com.na
Arik – www.arikair.com
British Airways – www.ba.com
Brussels – www.brusselsairlines.com
Emirates – www.emirates.com
Ethiopian – www.ethiopianairlines.com
Iberia – www.iberia.com
Kenya – www.kenya-airways.com
KLM – www.klm.com
LAM – www.lam.co.mz
Lufthansa – www.lufthansa.com
Middle East Airlines – www.mea.com.lb
SAA – www.flysaa.com
TAAG – www.taag.com
TAP – www.flytap.com

Hotels
Luanda
Epic Sana – www.luanda.epic.sanahotels.com
Executive Hotel Samba – www.executivehotelsamba.com
Hotel Alvalade – www.tdhotels.com
Hotel Baia – www.tdhotels.com
Hotel Continental – www.hotelcontinentalluanda.com
Hotel Presidente – www.hotelpresidenteluanda.com
Hotel Tropico – www.tdhotels.com
Ritz Victoria Garden – www.victoriagardenhotel.com
Skyna – www.skynahotel.com
Talatona – www.hoteltalatona.com
Tivoli – www.tivolihotel-angola.com

Car Rental
Avis – www.avis.com
Budget – www.budget.com
Europcar – www.europcar.com
Hertz – www.hertz.com
Sixt – www.sixt.com

TMC
Access-to-Africa – www.access-to-africa.com
American Express – www.americanexpresstravel.co.za
CWT – www.carlsonwagonlit.com
FCm – www.fcm.travel
HRG – www.hrgworldwide.com
Wings – www.wings.travel
XL Travel – www.xltravel.co.za