Tuesday, May 22, 2012

USA: Angola's Silent Partner

The advance in relations between Angola and the United States has been “fairly incredible” in the barely two decades since diplomatic recognition, says US Ambassador Christopher J. McMullen, who took up his post in March last year.

“The first Africans to reach the territory which comprises the United States today were slaves coming from Angola,” says Maria da Cruz Gabriel, executive director of the US-Angola Chamber of (USACC). “They became part of the first permanent English settlement in Virginia. This common historical past should be seen as an asset to bring US and Angola co-operation even closer in today’s world.”  
Whereas other countries’ involvement in Angola’s reconstruction such as that of China, Brazil and Portugal, is highly visible in road, rail, construction, and airports, American efforts are often “under the radar”, McMullen believes.  The ambassador likes to think of the US as Angola’s “valued-added, silent partner”, involved in top-end economic partnerships which affect the whole economic strata.

McMullen is anxious to point out that American relations with the Angolan people go back much further than the period of the Independence struggle. Indeed, they go back many centuries.

Ambassador McMullen outlined three major elements contributing to the solidity of the relationship. First of all, the American missionaries who went to Angola in the early 1800s and cemented “people-to-people” connections.

An important consequence of these missions was to bring literacy and educational opportunities to a broad spectrum of Angolan society. The late President Agostinho Neto’s father was a Protestant pastor, and a New York- based missionary board granted Neto himself a scholarship in 1947 to study medicine.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Angola's Shipwreck Beach

Some 20 miles north of Angola's capital, Luanda, lies a stretch of beach that is an eerie resting place for 20 + derelict and rusting ships.   Known by locals as Praia da Santiago or Praia do Sarico, the 1.5 mile stretch of beach is better known as Shipwreck Beach or Karl Marx Beach, named after the biggest shipwreck on the beach.  Off shore and along this stretch of beach are dozens of rusting hulks of  tankers, cargo ships and fishing vessels.   Many legends have been passed along concerning how the large ships mysteriously arrived there.  But in reality, with the absence of salvage facilities, the most likely explanations for this site is that the ships were removed from Luanda harbor after being unseaworthy.   Either the ships were intentionally grounded onshore on this beach or their offshore moorings rusted through and the tide and currents pushed them ashore.   Truly an incredibly photogenic spot.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Angola Nutrition Analysis

(World Bank Report, May 9) Despite remarkable economic growth in the past decade, undernutrition remains a serious public health problem in Angola. High rates of child stunting and micronutrient deficiencies are contributing to an under-five mortality rate of 161 deaths per 1,000 live births, limiting the growth and development of children, hindering productivity, and preventing the country from reaching Millennium Development Goals 1 and 4.
According to latest estimates from the 2007 National Nutrition Survey (NNS), nearly 30% of children under 5 are stunted, more than 8% are wasted, and 15.6% are underweight. Micronutrient deficiencies are also pervasive: 30% of preschool children and more than half of pregnant women are anemic, almost two-thirds of preschool-aged children are vitamin A deficient, 20% of young children are at risk of developing iodine deficiency disorders, and almost half of the population is at risk of inadequate zinc consumption. Furthermore, infant and young child feeding practices are poor with less than one-third of infants being exclusively breastfed for 6 months of age. Although the prevalence of undernourishment in the population has been declining in the past decade, child stunting remains high at nearly 30%, and more than 50% of people consume less than three meals per day.
High priority problems include the dearth of up-to-date, reliable, and comprehensive information on the nutrition situation in the country, severe shortages of trained nutritionists, and an exclusion of nutrition from community-based health activities.  The nutrition policy agenda is slowly gaining momentum in the country. The National Food Security and Nutrition Strategy released in 2009 include nutrition actions for Children Under 5. (World Bank Report)

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Angola's 'Sweet Success'

Surrounded by vast sugar cane fields, with the mysterious Pungo Andongo rocks looming in the background, lies the bright red sugar mill run by the Angola Bioenergy Company (Biocom). Its ambitions are as impressive as its location. 
Biocom, a partnership between Sonangol, Damer and Odebrecht, is currently Angola’s only sugar and ethanol-producing company. Created in 2006, it covers 30,000 hectares in Cacuso, Malange, 1,450 hectares of which are already covered with sugarcane. In the near future, Biocom’s sugarcane will cover 25,000 hectares. Biocom is set to produce a staggering 250,000 tonnes of sugar when the project reaches its maturity. “Angola’s annual market demand exceeds 400,000 tonnes per year,” says a Biocom director during a tour of the plantation and factory, which is still being completed.

The sugar production process takes place in giant tanks immediately in front of Biocom’s storage sheds. “Sugar cane has a lifespan of four to five years,” he says. “In the second phase, Biocom will double the production to 500,000 tons of sugar a year." 

At present, all of Angola’s sugar is currently imported, and demand is increasing due to population growth. According to Biocom, per capita demand in Angola will also rise. It is 12 kilos per person per year now, compared with 50 kilos per person per year in Brazil. As Angola is an emerging economy, per capita demand is expected to soon reach 30 or 40 kilos per year.

Around 70% of Biocom’s sugar cane is turned into sugar. The remaining 30% is used for ethanol and the production of electricity. Electric power is produced by burning sugar cane waste. The vapour released during the process is channelled into a high-pressure turbine.

The energy that is generated as a result can light up a city of up to 400,000 people, Biocom says. Just 40 per cent of Biocom’s energy produced next year will meet Malange’s demand, which means 60 per cent can be sent to the rest of Angola. This percentage will gradually increase.

When the project reaches its maturity, Biocom will be capable of producing 250,000 liters of ethanol a day, which may be used as fuel and also to blend with petrol and diesel. Ethanol has never been used as a fuel before in Angola but is well-established in Brazil, where over 85 per cent of new cars can run on either ethanol or petrol or a combination of the two. (Sonangol Universo Magazine)