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Angolan development turns Benguela province into investment magnet

By Chris Burns
Angolan development turns Benguela province into investment magnet

With a rebuilt railroad, a port and a new airport, the province of Benguela - one of Angola's trading powerhouses - has been reborn, bringing with it booming businesses and a flood of investment opportunities.

Benguela province is home to Angola's second-largest industrial park and a long coastline, but recent investment in the area has only cemented its status as a key region in one of Africa's leading economies.

One of the continent's most historic railways, the Lobito Corridor has been rebuilt, stretching 1,300 kilometres. Not only has it cut travel times from weeks to days, but it will also link Benguela's port with the mineral-rich regions of south-central Africa and add muscle to the local economy.

But, it is not just the railway that has made Benguela more attractive to investors, it is also Catumbela International Airport, located in one of the region's coastal cities.

While the airport officially opened in 2012, further investment has led to an ultra-modern refurbishment, along with its new accreditation as an international airport.

"Here we have an inter-modality of transport. We have railways, we have port services and we also have airport services, so we are contributing to air transportation, both inside the country and abroad," said Armindo Chambassuco, the airport's director.

Agriculture and fishing are among the top industries in Benguela's economy, and now, with the airport and railway, local business owners hope that tourism could also make the list.

Manuel "Nelito" Monteiro, managing director of FertiAngola, is also known as the 'Banana King'. His agricultural business was started by his father, with one tractor, but now it spans 100 hectares.

"We are in the process of collecting and packing bananas," he said.

"The region of Benguela is a very promising region in banana production. At the moment we are in a training phase to enter the export market.

Mr Monteiro's business has also expanded to distribution for the farming sector, selling chemicals, seeds and other supplies. He encourages investment in the region.

"Why invest? You should invest here because the business environment is a very good one, isn't it? Here we have an airport, we have rail, we have a port. The economic environment is stabilising, so, it's a good time to invest," he said.

Known as the 'City of the Crimson Acacia', Benguela has beaches, bars, restaurants and streets lined with palm trees. It also has Ombaka National Stadium, which was built for the Africa Cup games in 2010. Benguela's residents hope that all of these factors, combined with its flourishing business and economic opportunities, will attract investment and tourism to the coastal region.

There is already major international investment Benguela's fishing industry, but it is competing with local businesses.

Vimar & Filhos is a family-run company that has been in the region for generations. They employ around 600 workers and mainly catch sardines and mackerel.

Naty Viegas, Vimar & Filhos' managing partner, said: "I think our country needs greater investment. It's a country that needs investments of the sort, in addition to being our own country. I think we should invest here to create jobs and economic development. This is a promising country."