Angola: Shifting the Development Paradigm in Angola

The people-centered, policy-backed and productive capacity-driven programme of the UN Conference on Trade and Development.

Since 2017, the European Union-UNCTAD Joint Programme for Angola: Train for Trade II has adopted a holistic, data-driven and evidence-based approach to economic development. The Southern African nation, one of the 45 least developed countries, has an economic structure closely tied to the exploitation of the country's rich petroleum resources.

However, this structure has locked Angola in a cycle of commodity dependence, excluding other sectors with high growth and employment potential. On the development front, this cycle deepens poverty and inequality. It also reduces economic opportunities, particularly for rural communities, women, youth and other vulnerable groups.

Taking a holistic approach to economic development

To decrease dependency on the commodity-led growth model, UNCTAD decided to write a new narrative. With financial support of the European Union (EU), the Joint Programme for Angola takes a comprehensive approach to diversifying exports and the economy, linking Angola to regional and global value chains.

This holistic approach represents a new development paradigm. It is a shift towards evidence-based development planning that encompasses the entire economy. It aims to replace the model applied so far, which has focused narrowly on sector-based and short-term projects that have not delivered the desired outcomes.

The innovative UNCTAD model underscores the importance of inclusive, multisectoral and multi-partner programmes tied to national development policies. Those who implement the model adopt a long-term view, steadily building domestic productive capacities to transform economic structures and harness comparative advantages.

Three enablers: Approach, commitment and skills

Over the last six years of work in Angola, UNCTAD has identified three factors as critical enablers of the Programme's success.

First is the integrated, whole-of-society approach that all levels have adopted. UNCTAD works directly with the Government of Angola, the private sector, academia and civil society across a range of needs and national priorities.

The Programme integrates all partners into its management mechanism. As a result, a core group of Angolans has formed, Angolans who understand the motivation for a new development paradigm and have worked together over time to deliver this change.

Second, the Programme's success rests on the deep institutional commitments not only to economic diversity but also to a comprehensive, participatory policy-making approach.

Through the support of 15 national policies and processes - among them, revising Angolan investment policies, setting up a cultural and creative industries framework, and developing a comprehensive national entrepreneurship policy - Angolan institutions are codifying their profound commitment.

Such steadfastness is essential to the Programme's sustainability and its delivery of intended outcomes. By moving towards the adoption of these national policies, the country aims to put in place the requisite frameworks for growth in the years ahead. Complementary policies and, critically, internal stakeholder commitment are hallmarks of the holistic approach.

Third, under the Programme, efforts have focused on developing skills within the country's labour force and boosting productive capacities within various industrial sectors.

For example, training entrepreneurs in key green sectors and coaching the national trade facilitation committee have strengthened human capital in key trade-related initiatives. Enhancing the capacity of Angolans to define public-private partnerships (PPP) and create transport corridors helps to relieve a trade logistics bottleneck.

Ambitious goals, impressive results

The EU-UNCTAD Joint Programme was quite ambitious when the two partners started implementing it in 2017. But all the hard work has yielded significant returns, surpassing expectations of the Programme's own goals across seven components. It trained over 3,300 Angolans, over a third of them women.

UNCTAD support for forming PPP in transport and logistics infrastructure helped launch tenders for major Lobito corridor components, totaling an investment of $3.2 billion by the Government. Through this corridor, farmers from remote provinces will be enabled to bring their green products to market.

Perhaps more telling, macroeconomic evidence shows a positive diversification trend in the Angolan economy. Non-oil exports from the country have increased by over 5.7 per cent since 2016. While the path to sustainable and inclusive growth is long, Angola - with the support of key development partners - is making important strides.

The Programme for Angola now serves as a model for other developing countries because it addresses the development challenges facing structurally weak and vulnerable economies. The UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs identified its consultative process as one of the good practices in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. The long-term sustainability of the Angola programme requires adequate finance and robust engagements of the country's institutions and development partners alike.

Now, several developing countries across various world regions have initiated or are starting similar interventions, fostering South-South and triangular cooperation. This is the surest way for countries to progress in sustainable development.

Paul Akiwumi is the Director, Division for Africa, Least Developed Countries and Special Programmes, UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD)

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