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Angola's new president speaks exclusively to Euronews

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Angola's new president speaks exclusively to Euronews

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Angola is considered one of the countries with the biggest potential in Africa, but it is going through a harsh economic crisis. The successor of the former president José Eduardo dos Santos, who was in power for 38 years, is João Lourenço, the former defense minister. He has ensured a smooth transition in last year’s general election. France was the country he chose to make his first state visit to in Europe upon assuming office, and it was in Toulouse where we met with President João Lourenço.

Michel Santos, Euronews:

"Mr President, welcome to Euronews. Why France?"

João Lourenço, President of Angola:

"Because France is an important country for Angola. With this visit we seek to strengthen the bonds of friendship that are historic with this country. We met Emmanuel Macron and here we had the opportunity to interact with ... initially we thought that there would be about 80 French entrepreneurs, but we were surprised, because they ended up being around 150 businessmen, eager to learn about the new situation in Angola,the new environment for business that we are creating in the country."

Michel Santos:

"Precisely in economic terms, what steps have you taken and what steps do you intend to take to encourage investments in Angola?"

João Lourenço:

"Foreign private investors no longer have the obligation to team up with any Angolan local partner in order to do business, but they can if they choose to. In terms of visas for businessmen going to Angola, we have created a framework of great facilitation, and in some cases, a model of visa-free travel for ordinary passports. On the other hand, we are very committed to removing a major obstacle to doing business in Angola, which is the so-called phenomenon of corruption. So, this is a struggle that is difficult, it will take some time but we are prepared to face this giant problem of corruption and we are sure that we will win."

Michel Santos:

"You are very popular in Angola, but there is also a lot of skepticism. Mr. President, you have shaken up some of the entrenched interests in the country. For example, you removed from key sectors family members of former President José Eduardo dos Santos. Is it just a change of chairs or are we going to have deep reforms and a change of attitude?"

João Lourenço:

"It is not a mere dance of chairs, we always make changes in the hope of achieving better results. I did not remove children of a former president, I removed Angolan citizens. They are Angolan citizens, who are subject, as much as others are, to the same rules. In these eight months, more than two people were dismissed."

Michel Santos:

"The journalist and activist Rafael Marques says that it is more of the same and that there are indications of less correct practices around you, by people linked to your government."

João Lourenço:

"Yes, but what are those indications?"

Michel Santos:

"They related to the use of the Sovereign Fund for the acquisition of airplanes for a private company."

João Lourenço:

"In fact, we are doing the opposite. We are hunting for these resources. We are in the process of trying to recover these same resources. What we do know is that we have less than the initial value, which was five billion dollars, but we have an idea of where these resources are: in Mauritius, in England and in other corners of the planet. The normal course of action would be, in the processing of the handover from one board to another - the previous board of directors should have opened up about it, transparently and said where those resources are. This did not happen, or if it happened it was not convincing. And this company or consortium between the Taag flag company and some private companies will not exist, it will not happen. If it happens, I hope the passengers will call me and say: "Look, you told Euronews that there was no consortium, but today I flew on one of the planes that Mr. so-and-so talked about."

Michel Santos:

"Recently, Human Rights Watch has written an open letter asking for an improvement in certain human rights violations. Are you going to work on that?’’

João Lourenço:

"We are working to ensure that Human Rights violations will not happen. In the eight months of my rule, I do not know if there are any cases."

Michel Santos:

"But will you be watching?"

João Lourenço:

"Of course, I will be. I will be careful in order to prevent this from happening".

Michel Santos:

"Do you have any projects to help strengthen the cooperation between the Portuguese-speaking countries, the CPLP. Or is it the French-speaking countries, the Francophonie, that interest you?"

João Lourenço:

"They are all interesting. As with the case of Mozambique, which is surrounded by English-speaking countries - Malawi, Tanzania,and South Africa itself - it eventually joined the Commonwealth. Angola is also surrounded, not by Portuguese-speaking countries, but by French-speaking and English-speaking countries. Therefore, let us not be surprised that we are thinking of now asking to join the Francophonie and maybe the Commonwealth later."

Michel Santos:

"In France, you signed agreements in the Defense sector. Can you give us more details about these agreements?"

João Lourenço:

"Well, the agreements, as a rule, are general agreements, agreements that give the possibility of doing something. After that, you have toexamine concrete projects, one by one. There is the possibilityof cooperating in the training of our military officers in all branches. There is the possibility of cooperating in terms of maritime surveillance, especially in the Gulf of Guinea, to prevent a kind of Somalia-scenario, (pirates), from happening someday."

Michel Santos:

"The scenario of the Democratic Republic of Congo was discussed. With these defense agreements, are they to be related as well? There is a long border between the two countries".

João Lourenço:

"You know that an agreement was signed between the Congolese Government and the opposition. That agreement obliges, the executive above all, to organize free elections in the DRC and that the current President of the Republic will not present himself as a candidate. All we want is that this agreement be fulfilled, because we understand that failure to do so can lead to political and social turmoil, which will not be very pleasant forthe Congolese people and for the neighbors themselves [of which Angola is one of them]. We are talking regularly with President Joseph Kabila. So we are available to continue to advise him, that's all, it's just advice."

Michel Santos:

"But if the agreement fails and the country is plunged into great instability, will Angola and its partners have all the scenarios open, I mean, all options open?"

João Lourenço:

"I know where you are going with this, but I will not give you that pleasure [laughs], even to talk about it. It is a lot of speculation. If we say we want stability, then whatever we do will be in the interest of stability for all."

Michel Santos:

"What is your vision for Africa, its opportunities and challenges?"

João Lourenço:

"Afropessimism" has no reason to exist. No matter how low we are, we always have the right and the obligation to dream big, to think that mainly with our work and not only - but also with international cooperation - that is why we are here and someday we will be in Lisbon - our continent will flourish!"