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Potential solutions to the desperate unemployment situation in Angola

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A 2-day vocational training fair was hosted in the capital city of Angola, Luanda. An estimated 50,000 visitors attended the job fair in the first week of September 2019. Such is the desperation of the employment situation in the country, that young people are flocking en masse to find viable solutions like the one offered at the Belas Conference Center. An estimated 1000 jobs were being chased by 50 times as many people. The pandemonium that ensued was captured on camera, and it quickly found its way across social media and news sites. People were falling all over one another, desperate to get their names in with prospective employers. The job fair was geared towards young unemployed people in Angola. Among its many objectives were the training and development of jobseekers, and the provision of internship opportunities to candidates.

Thousands of Angolans desperate for work quickly found themselves in an untenable situation as they stood in line, hoping to find job opportunities. A rush of people resulted in a stampede, and subsequent injuries to dozens of people. 

According to Trading Economics, the unemployment rate in Angola increased from 20% in 2017 to 28.80% in 2018. Spiraling unemployment is largely attributed to inadequate education and skills training. This has led to high levels of illiteracy (30%). With 45% of the population under the age of 15, and a fertility rate of 6.09+ children per woman (2018 statistics), Angola faces a multi-pronged crisis. The majority of Angola’s population (48.07%) is between 0-14 years of age, with just 5.64% of the population older than 55 years of age (CIA analysis of Angola). This poses many challenges to business leaders who are trying to kickstart economic growth in the country.

Angola’s Economic Engine
The bulk of Angola’s economy is driven by oil and natural gas. 70% of government revenue is derived from oil and related activity, which also contributes towards 50% of gross domestic product. Angola exports are largely based on crude oil production. Unfortunately, the global recession which followed the 2008 financial crisis suppressed oil prices. Low oil prices have impacted the kwanza and led to lacklustre returns for producers. Angola’s GDP was measured at $193.6 billion in 2017, with a GDP per capita of $6,800. The composition of the country’s GDP is 80.6% household consumption, 15.6% government consumption, and 10.3% investment in fixed capital. The country imports substantially more goods and services than it exports, and is also a net negative investor in inventories.

Angola has been issued substantial credit facilities from foreign countries, notably the European Union, Germany, Spain, Brazil, Portugal Russia, and China to rebuild its infrastructure. Much work remains to be done, with rural and outlying regions slumbering in backward isolation compared to the more developed urban centres. Currency problems have hampered growth prospects in the country, when in 2016 Angola had its correspondent relationships with international banks severed. The Angolan Central Bank has rapidly run down its foreign currency reserves to maintain relative stability with the national currency. Inflation is on the rise again, leading to decreased purchasing power of stagnant real wages. Against this backdrop, entrepreneurs and business leaders are working feverishly to restore a semblance of stability to the economy.

Business Leaders Driving Infrastructure Development and Job Creation 
Notable business leaders like Isabel Dos Santos are fast-tracking skills training and development initiatives within the country, with many grassroots level programmes. As the chairperson of Unitel, Dos Santos has overseen the growth of the company which now covers 18 provinces across the country, spanning 100+ municipalities. 

Angolan businesswoman  Isabel dos Santos. PHOTO: AFP/ Fernando Veludo

Unitel is a leading telecommunications enterprise in Angola which provides GSM, UMTS, GPRS, EDGE, 3G connectivity options. With thousands of employees on its payroll, the company is working hard to expand telecom infrastructure across Angola to help drive economic growth. Part of the challenge in Angola is combating centuries-old stereotypes about the roles of men and women in society. Isabel routinely highlights the lack of development opportunities for women. Her companies are major employers, including EFACEC, ZAP, CANDANDO and Sodiba. Each of them seeks to develop the skills and abilities of employees – men and women. 

Rather than settle on one specific industry, Isabel’s companies span the full spectrum, including energy, finance, telecom, retail, and media. This all-encompassing approach to economic growth and development is slowly paying dividends, with opportunities being presented to Angolans of all skills, abilities and persuasions. The technological advancement of the Angolan economy is the X factor in the equation. The country is a laggard in in the greater global digital economy. Recent advancements include the Brazil/Angola undersea fibre-optic cable which is providing high-speed connectivity to Angolans. This is being used for educational, commercial, and social development on a larger scale. Empowerment goals are a parallel track being developed in Angola, particularly with gender equality issues. Female education, skills training and development, and promotional prospects are actively being promoted by many up and coming leaders throughout Angola like Itweva Nogueira, who runs a successful commercial law firm.

Macro Trends in the Angolan Economy 
The Angolan president, João Lourenço addressed a symposium of international leaders in Yokohama Japan recently. He stressed that the government is working hard to stabilize the economy, attract private investment, and provide the necessary frameworks for the

privatization of firms and government enterprises. As the official head of state, João Lourenço addressed 54 African leaders at the Seventh Tokyo International Conference on African Development. Among others, he put forth a blueprint for privatization through 2022 which includes 195 companies including Angolan Airlines, and the state oil firm, Sonangol. These initiatives are expected to provide the much-needed boost to improve job prospects and economic growth. The president extolled the merits of the current macroeconomic stabilisation programme to improve the business environment for all Angolans. With government and private sector leaders working together to provide the necessary frameworks and infrastructure, a viable business environment is slowly being stitched together at macro and micro level.


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