Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Angola's New $5B Wealth Fund

Luanda, Angola (CNN) -- Angola, Africa's second-largest oil producer, has launched a $5 billion sovereign wealth fund in an attempt to diversify its economy -- a move more associated with wealthy Gulf States like Qatar and the UAE.

The state-owned investment fund, known as the Fundo Soberano de Angola, will invest domestically and internationally, focusing on infrastructure development and the hospitality industry. These are two areas the Government of Angola believes is "likely to exhibit strong growth".

In an exclusive interview with CNN, Jose Filomeno de Sousa dos Santos, the son of Angola's longtime president who is on the board of the fund, said "now is a very good time."
He added: "The country has had around five years of steady growth, good growth, mostly based on oil production increases, and it plans to diversify the economy. The best way to do that is to do that is to intervene directly in the economy through investments."

More than 90% of Angola's revenue comes from oil production -- reaching around 1.9 million barrels a day -- and it is second only to Nigeria in its exports. But despite its oil wealth, the country remains largely impoverished.

Dos Santos says the aim of the fund is to invest profits accrued from oil to promote social development in the country.
"It is very easy to have oil money and spend it but it is very difficult to have a positive impact to improve people's lives on a daily basis," he said, "and that is an area we intend to invest on a lot with the sovereign wealth fund."

The formation of a formalized fund was first announced by Angola's President Jose Eduardo dos Santos. But the global financial crisis caused the oil price to plunge, hammering Angola's economy.
The government had to offset the crisis by securing a loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in the form of a Stand By Arrangement of around $1.4 billion.

With new deep water oil finds announced by the government, Angola hopes to outstrip Nigeria to become Africa's largest oil producer. But the revenue from Angola's black gold won't last forever. The government hopes the sovereign wealth fund will help diversify Angola's profits to secure its future.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Science of 'Washing Your Hands'

On the first-ever Global Handwashing Day sponsored by UNICEF on October 15, students and teachers from more than 700 participating schools across Angola engaged in symbolic acts of handwashing and listened to government leaders speak out about the importance of using water and soap.

Attending the launch of Global Handwashing Day was UNICEF Representative in Angola Angela Kearney.

Today only marks the beginning of a major push to promote handwashing with soap as a natural and necessary habit – in schools, in the family, in institutions. We know it can save children’s lives so we cannot afford to take it lightly,” she declared.

At least two million cases of diarrhea are recorded every year in Angola, with 30% of cases recorded in children under the age of five years.  This has resulted in an average 20,000 child deaths per year.

Improvements in access to safe water and adequate sanitation, along with the promotion of good hygiene practices (particularly handwashing with soap), can help prevent childhood diarrhea. In fact, an estimated 88 per cent of diarrheal deaths worldwide are attributable to unsafe water, inadequate sanitation and poor hygiene.
UNICEF maintains that washing hands with soap can save lives and reduce about 47% of the infantile death rate, caused by diarrhea, due to the lack of hygiene.
Washing one’s hands with soap is an important barrier to transmission and has been cited as one of the most cost-effective public-health interventions. Research suggests that handwashing with soap is effective even in overcrowded and highly contaminated slums in the developing world; washing hands with water alone is much less effective in preventing disease than using soap. Soap breaks down grease and dirt that carry germs and disease-causing pathogens. Using soap also increases the amount of time spent washing hands, compared to water alone, yet lack of soap does not seem to be a major barrier to handwashing: it has been found that 95 per cent of mothers in developing countries have some sort of soap product at home.
To better understand ways to promote hygienic behavior, UNICEF research has been carried out regarding consumers’ handwashing habits and factors that motivate change. This research shows that key triggers for handwashing are feelings of disgust, nurture, comfort and desire to conform, rather than health concerns alone. These findings are being used to create more effective hygiene programs. (UNICEF, ANGOP)

Monday, October 8, 2012

From "Guns to Roses". An Angolan Soldier's Story

For a former number three of UNITA guerrillas, Antonio Urbano Chassanha, who hung up his uniform in 1992 and is now based in Lobito, Angola's southern coast, the past life of the military, has been changed into that of an entrepreneur, into a branch of floriculture.
In order to settle with accounts of the past and guard those past memories, he has written two books, "Angola: Onde Os Guerreiros Não Dormem” (2000)  (Translated: "Angola: Where The Warriors Don’t Sleep") and  “Esanju: A Rebelde Do Wambu” (2003) (An Umbundu language title) on the history and legends with ovimbundo traditions that pass from generation to generation through the oral tradition.
Now living in Catumbela, between Lobito and Benguela, Urban Chassanha explains that now being refurbished from the Angolan Armed Forces, he does not want to spend the rest of the days "sitting on the couch in front of a television."
Together with his wife, Anabela, three years ago they had the idea of producing plant species replantings and from there progressed to the production of ornamental trees, plants and flowers.
"I had a teacher who said that, ‘He who knows suffering better appreciates the happiness of others.’ Indeed, creating life through seed matter, having expectations for it to pop up, keeping up with its growth and then putting  it in bag is a whole dynamic that gives us much enjoyment, "he says.
Former senior officer of the Armed Forces for the Liberation of Angola (FALA / UNITA), Urban Chassanha was a deputy of the in the "Black Rooster" delegation in the Joint Commission, a body created to oversee the implementation of the United Nations sanctioned Protocol of Peace signed in 1994 in Lusaka.
Three years ago, through his book writing and other events, his life changed and he took on a role in a new vocation: gardening.   He opened his business, Lobitus Garden Horto and his new ambitions were realized.
"We experimented with indigenous trees, whose seeds were taken from an area between Balombo and Bocoio (Benguela province).  These plantings sprung up well and are in good health, and in this success we have the ability, when we are asked, to produce millions of species," says proudly.
Along with him he has 42 employees who help him in the ‘process of creating life’, which is the starting point in the rehabilitation of the living areas of Angola.
Converted to his new identity, Urban Chassanha considers that it has not been a difficult transition from ex-guerrilla to florist.
"I often say that the war did not create us many options. Peace creates us all the possible options and gives us imagination. It was not at all difficult. I like what I have done and have an interest in doing more, because it is an area that gives me immense pleasure,” he emphasizes.
And Angola? Does the country that is more than 10 years out a of civil war that left thousands dead and maimed and destruction behind, ready to replace the bullets for flowers?
"I think the country has all the conditions to move forward. Weaknesses are specific to a process that is not easy.  Also, nobody naturally thinks of the facilities needed for the future. It takes work.  It needs a lot of work," he says.
"I believe that in time all wounds can be healed. He also notes, that he is very pleased with the eagerness of people to learn more, forming an extremely positive sign.  Those of us, the older people, are here to tell them the history "
"I am giving a compass to create this project, but when I feel that this project is up to speed, after a time I  will devote myself to writing," he concludes. (Lusa website)

Friday, October 5, 2012

Angola's Emerging Contemporary Artists

In the rebuilding of Angola’s society after the war, a burgeoning crop of contemporary artists, especially in Luanda, are expressing their inspirations to the world.  Here is the view of two well-known Angolan artists.
António Ole, one of Angola’s most admired and internationally acknowledged artists.  He expounds,  “The world is in transition. And during transitions there tend to be artistic explosions, explosions of creativity. Right now, everyone should be alert. Interpreting the world is part of what we artists do,” he says
One of a handful of artists who stayed on in Angola during the civil war, Ole, 60, has since exhibited all over the world including in venues such as London’s Hayward Gallery and the National Museum of African Art in Washington DC. He has also taken part in international exhibitions including the Venice Biennial, the São Paulo Biennial and ‘The Short Century: Independence and Liberation Movements in Africa, 1945–1994’ at New York’s Museum of Modern Art.
Ole’s work includes film, sculpture and photography as well as painting. “What astonishes me is people’s creativity in Angolan civil society,” he says. “I feel very inspired by this positive energy. Development is not only about education and health; it is also about the evolution of a cultural identity. From independence onwards, Angola has tried to find, construct and keep this identity. It’s a long marathon in which everyone takes part. What Angola still needs is a more balanced society. Then you’ll see that we’re going to create artistic champions.”
Another well-known Angolan painter is Paulo Kussy, 34. He studied fine arts in Lisbon and is fascinated by the human body. He passes on his artistic expertise to students at the Methodist University of Angola.
Kussy attended school in Luanda up until the sixth grade. He then lived in Lisbon with his family for 17 years. He spent all his family holidays were spent either in Rome, Madrid, Florence, Venice or Lisbon, the culture of which influenced him profoundly. Kussy returned to Angola, where critics immediately applauded his art.
“Painting is like writing a song,” Kussy explains in the café of a Luanda city centre hotel. “You spend five days thinking about the lyrics and the melody. Then you go to the studio, close your eyes and just let it go.”
Kussy is inspired by the Pre- Raphaelites, neoclassicism, baroque art, cubism, surrealism, architecture, graffiti art and the hectic day-to-day life of Luanda. “I enjoy looking at people,” he says. “Our structure, muscles, fat – I study people when I look at them.” His paintings are all about “people fighting for space” and he places great emphasis on anatomy. “The figures in my paintings ask for help. They’re aggressive, they’re submissive, they are pulled away, pushed against.
“What’s Angolan about my work is that I’m Angolan. I’m contributing to the development of my country. There should not be a preconceived idea of what is Angolan or African or black or white art. Art is all about the individual,” he argues.
“I’m mostly influenced by cities because I didn’t grow up in the countryside. Big buildings, structures, that’s my library. Not a woman carrying a child, or an elephant, a lion or a baobab tree. I’d be lying if I painted that. It would be fake.” (Sonangol Universo Magazine, October 2012)