Angola: The Intersection of Geopolitics, U.S.-Angola Relations and Energy Security

press release

Good morning. It is a pleasure to be here today. First, I would like to thank the Rector of Universidade Católica, Dom Damião Franklin; Vice Reitor, Padre Jeronimo Cahinga; Professor Justino Pinto de Andrade; Professor Antonio Costa; and Professor Salim Valimamade.

I have a great respect for Universidade Catolica. It is obvious from the atmosphere here that this is an institution that promotes a love of learning and the best tradition of constructive debate and dialogue about competing and sometimes conflicting ideas. Through CEIC, UCAN is leading Angola in credible, impartial academic research so that leaders and the public alike can make informed decisions about the future of the country. UCAN is exactly the kind of institution that is essential to growth and development of any country. I am happy for the Angolan people that you have this institution.

I was invited here today to talk about geopolitics, U.S.-Angola relations and energy security. At first glance, it seems that these are three separate topics, suitable for three separate speeches. But really, these topics are so interconnected that it's impossible to talk about any of them without considering the others.

Let's start with the primary topic about which I was asked to speak - geopolitics. Geopolitics is international relations in the broadest stroke, analyzing international political action across the globe, often focusing particularly on issues that transcend borders. It is worth noting that the original usage of geopolitics referred specifically to the influence of geography on international political behavior. Geographical issues such as the location of borders, access to waterways, and source of natural resources, continue to shape with enormous influence the self-interest and political interactions of nations.

In June, President Obama released the U.S. Strategy toward Sub-Saharan Africa. As many of you likely know, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton traveled across Africa in August. In each of the 10 countries she visited, she explained U.S. policy and our actions across the continent advancing those policies. We can use this as a model for our conversation today. I'll briefly outline the U.S. strategy priorities and then talk about the U.S.-Angola bilateral relationship in the context of this strategy. Naturally, any discussion of U.S. - Angola relations, be they political, commercial or people-to-people, will involve energy. In this way, I will address today's three interconnected topics.

The U.S. strategy toward Africa has four objectives: first, to promote opportunity and development; second, to spur economic growth, trade, and investment; third, to advance peace and security; fourth, to strengthen democratic institutions. The strategy elevates in particular the U.S. commitment to strengthening democratic institutions in Africa and promoting broad-based economic growth through trade and investment.

At the core of this strategy is also an emphasis on how interconnected these goals are. When he announced this strategy, President Obama said: "Strong, accountable, and democratic institutions, sustained by a deep commitment to the rule of law, generate greater prosperity and stability, and meet with greater success in mitigating conflict and ensuring security. Sustainable, inclusive economic growth is a key ingredient to security, political stability, and development, and it underpins efforts to alleviate poverty, creating the resources that will bolster opportunity and allow individuals to reach their full potential."

Those are the principles, but let's parse them out into practical terms. Africa has some of the world's fastest growing economies. African economies cannot continue this impressive rate of growth without sustainable development throughout the society to build human and physical resources, including critical investments in health and education. Nor can African nations be stable without broad-based, equitable growth that benefits the population as a whole. African nations have extremely large percentages of their populations that are young. African governments need to create opportunities, both economic and political, for these young people to achieve their dreams and enjoy the benefits of their growing economies. We believe that democracies are the best forms of government for creating prosperity and opportunity for their people, and for giving them space to express themselves constructively and peacefully.

Why are these things important to the U.S.? Why does what happens in Africa matter to the U.S.? When Secretary Clinton was in South Africa, she answered these questions eloquently. She said "consider some of the problems we face today - an anemic global economy, transnational crime and terrorism, climate change, disease, famine, nuclear proliferation. None of these problems can be solved by any one country acting alone or even by several countries acting together. Each one calls for a global network of partners - governments, businesses, international and regional organizations, academic institutions, civil society groups, even individuals all working in concert. And there cannot be a strong global network unless there are strong African partners." Secretary Clinton expressed the belief of my government and the American people that Africa is increasingly important for the security and prosperity of the world, especially our own.

So how does the relationship between the U.S. and Angola fit into this broad U.S. strategy toward Africa? Each bilateral relationship is unique, but the values and priorities the U.S. brings to each one are the same.

Before connecting the U.S. strategy and our bilateral relationship, I would like to explain briefly my views on the U.S.-Angola relationship, the topic about which I am most commonly asked to speak. I will summarize the view of the relations between our two countries that I've presented in a number of speeches and interviews in my nearly two years in Angola. I believe that our countries share fundamental experiences. I also believe that we have deep connections that extend broadly across our government, personal and business relationships. These common interests and connections form the basis of our bilateral relationship and how we can achieve goals of mutual interest.

The histories of the U.S. and Angola show that we share many formative experiences. The U.S. began its history as a colony of England, as Angola was once a colony of Portugal. Both the U.S. and Angola fought wars of independence to win their nationhood. After independence, both countries fought long and bloody civil wars that threatened to destroy their new nations. Fortunately, both countries survived this threat and reconstructed their nations.

Certainly, we are at different stages in our histories as nations: the U.S. is 236 years old and our civil war is over 100 years behind us. Angola won its independence 37 years ago and ended its civil war only ten years ago. Nevertheless, I believe that these similar experiences shape who the American and Angolan people are and are essential to understanding our national characters and how we interact.

I believe that the current bilateral relationship between the U.S. and Angola rests on three pillars - people-to-people ties, commercial ties through U.S. companies investing in Angola and formal government relations. Although our nations have only had formal diplomatic relations for 19 years, we have a much longer history of bilateral interaction. In fact, this history begins before either of our countries was a nation with the tragedy of slavery, when Africans from what would become Angola were enslaved and sent to the new world, including territory that would become the United States.

The ties between individual Americans and Angolans go back to the 1800s when American missionaries first came to Angola. They shared with the Angolans in the communities where they worked not only their religious beliefs, but also their American values. Indeed, American missionaries had an important role in providing the schools where Angola's future independence leaders studied. For example, Agostinho Neto's father was a Methodist minister educated at schools founded and run by American missionaries.

American businesses and NGOs operated in Angola prior to the establishment of formal diplomatic relations, developing commercial ties through their operations and people-to-people ties with their employees and neighbors. Angolan students have long studied in the U.S. In fact, nearly 700 of them are studying there right now, serving as representatives of their country and building long-lasting relationships with the Americans they meet there.

I believe that we have a great deal in common and broad connections throughout our societies. Thanks to these commonalities and through these ties, we will achieve goals of mutual interest and overcome our differences.

I will link our common goals to the pillars of the U.S. strategy toward Sub-Saharan Africa.

Our first strategic objective is to promote opportunity and development. Ten years after the end of war, Angola continues to invest in reconstruction to overcome the damage done by decades of war. The United States shares this goal, as demonstrated by our ongoing program to remove land mines and return cleared land to productive use. The U.S. government and U.S. companies work with many ministries, including Health and Education, to improve the health and education of Angolans and rebuild the physical health and education infrastructure so that all Angolans will have access to adequate medical treatment and education.

Our second strategic objective is to spur economic growth, trade, and investment. Angola seeks continue its strong economic growth but also to diversify its economy, so it will not always be dominated by oil and natural resources, with the long-term problems that such economies tend to face. The United States shares this goal, in part because we want to create more opportunities for American businesses to invest and grow in Angola. Also, as I said before, we know that long-term stability of any country depends upon a diversified economy that provides jobs and a decent standard of living for all its citizens.

Energy currently dominates our economic relationship with Angola as it dominates the Angolan economy. Most Angolan exports to the U.S. and the rest of the world are oil. The U.S. seeks sustainable, affordable, and reliable access to diverse energy supplies for the sake of our economy and the good of our population. On a geopolitical scale, the U.S. seeks to improve energy governance so that extractive industries benefit their nations while expanding energy access to those who still lack it. If we ignore those without access to energy, we entrench further their poverty. If we expand access to electricity without making it sustainable, we accelerate environmental impacts and the race for scarce resources. Angola has great potential for growth not only in the oil and gas sector, but also in other sources of energy, including hydro, wind and solar. Angola will be a key nation in any global conversation about energy for the foreseeable future.

Our third strategic objective is to advance peace and security. Angola seeks to play a larger role in the region and in the world. The United States shares this goal as well. We welcome, for example, Angola's interest in providing troops to peacekeeping missions with the AU and possibly the UN. As ties between the American military and the Angolan Armed Forces continue to grow, we encourage Angola to look for other ways its armed forces can play a constructive role in Africa.

Our fourth strategic objective in Africa is to strengthen democratic institutions. Angola's 2012 election marked an important step toward strengthening Angolan democratic institutions. The United States and the international community watched the elections with great interest. I can only speak here for my own government. We were impressed by the peaceful and orderly conduct of the election, the professionalism of CNE poll workers and the use of new technology to assist voters. We applauded the civic engagement of political parties and the constructive dialogue from civil society on Angola's future.

I would like to clarify what we in the U.S. mean when we refer to democratic institutions. When use this term, we don't only mean government institutions. Government institutions like a strong, independent CNE or a multiparty parliament essential to a thriving democracy. But they are not enough. Democracies also need non-government institutions like civil society, a free, independent and professional press and independent academic institutions. Democracy in any country, including the United States, is not simply about elections. Democracy is a constant dialogue between the government and the people. It is a process that depends on both the government and its citizens fulfilling their responsibilities. Strong democratic institutions like the ones I mentioned both inside and outside the government ensure the integrity of that process.

I would like to close by saying that I believe within this broad, geopolitical context, the U.S. and Angola share many objectives. We are different countries, at times with different interests and different views. However, I believe we have a great deal in common, both in experience and in interest, and at those points of convergence we can find ways to achieve mutual goals. I am committed to deepening and expanding these ties across all sectors of our societies - government, commercial and people-to-people. Stronger ties between the U.S. and Angola are very much in the U.S. interest.

Thank you again to Universidade Catolica for inviting me here today. I look forward to taking your questions.

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