Angola’s business environment is still maturing at just 20 years post-civil war. As a result, distribution channels for most products and services are limited to a handful of key players. Luanda, the capital city, is estimated to have some 8 million residents, and is followed by a limited number of secondary cities: Benguela/Lobito, Huambo, and Lubango, with Soyo and Cabinda as oil industry-focused cities. With this market concentration, it is very reasonable to appoint only one distributor or representative to cover the entire country. While a number of legally established distributors and representatives of international products exist in Angola, many products, and especially consumer goods, are sold through resellers. These resellers purchase products internationally and sell through retail points of sale often using the logo of the international company to attract business.
A southern Africa regional distribution approach to Angola is challenging since it is a Portuguese language country surrounded by English and French speaking markets. The exception is Mozambique, which with Angola shares in common Portuguese colonial history and language. A significant amount of business in Angola still flows through distributors in Portugal due to the language and historical ties, but increasingly those Portuguese companies most successful in Angola have established a local presence. South Africa is a major regional commercial hub for Southern Africa, including Angola. However, other than for products manufactured in South Africa, these distribution patterns are starting to change in response to increasing competition in Angola. The Angolan market is demanding better pricing and delivery time directly from international manufacturers, as well as improved after-sales service, spare parts, and maintenance that can be better offered by a local distributor.
While it can initially be cost-efficient for U.S. companies to use other Portuguese language countries such as Portugal to lower market entry costs into Angola, U.S. companies can be most competitive in Angola by establishing distribution and representation directly with an Angolan company that can provide in-country services and support.
Distribution infrastructure within Angola continues to be challenged by poor road quality, time-consuming customs entry processes that the World Bank ranks among the slowest worldwide, and limited though expanding warehousing and cold chain capacities. Railroad expansions currently underway aim to provide intermodal transportation throughout the country.
In the petroleum industry, there is increased enforcement of long-standing regulations by Angolan government pushes for “Angolization” of the supply chain and increased local value to be provided by Angolan companies. Angolan regulations require most international companies to provide products and services to the petroleum industry, and to work with Angolan distributors who can provide in-country value-added services. Exemptions exist for complex services, but the regulation does not explicitly indicate which activities are covered by this exemption. The section in this report on “Leading Sectors for U.S. Exports - Oil and Gas Equipment” provides further details about this regulation.
The USAID Southern Africa Trade and Investment Hub (USAID TradeHub) was launched in Agola in 2021. It is a six-year trade and investment program working throughout Southern Africa in its fifth year of implementation. The USAID TradeHub is established a presence in Angola to work with the U.S. Embassy, local government partners, and the private sector to achieve the following objectives:
- Increased exports to South Africa from Angola.
- Increased investment (capital and technology) out of South Africa to Angola.
- Sustainable utilization of the African Growth and Opportunities Act (AGOA) preference program by Angolan firms.
Through the TradeHub Angolan entrepreneurs will be able to export agricultural products, beverages and others to the US market, through the mediation of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). Exports of Angolan products to the US market will be facilitated by the African Growth and Opportunity Agreement (AGOA), where national products must meet several requirements to become eligible.
Using a Representative to Sell U.S. Products and Services
A representative is important for success when establishing new business activities in Angola. A limited number of companies dominate domestic distribution. These firms are willing to partner with foreign companies exporting to Angola, but they may also represent competing products. A limited number of U.S. companies operate subsidiary or affiliate companies in Angola concentrating in the information technology, automotive, petroleum, heavy equipment, and services sectors. U.S. companies should conduct careful due diligence on potential business partners and select well-established companies already experienced with representing international products.
Some Angolan distributors and agents are reluctant to enter into new business agreements due to the investments associated with business expansion. Many Angolan distributors with existing international product lines often confront limited inventory since international payments have been typically delayed several months or more. In many cases, both Angolan importers and international suppliers are opting for cash in advance payment terms with some arranging for non-traditional payment structuring through third countries.
The U.S. Commercial Service in Angola provides business services to assist U.S. companies in the identification and due diligence of qualified business partners, distributors and representatives. For details on these services and to find your closest U.S. Commercial Service office in the United States to start this process visit Export.gov’s website (https://www.trade.gov/export-solutions).
Establishing an Office
Working with a well-vetted local distributor or representative can ease entrance into the complex Angolan market. Establishing a formal presence through a direct representative office or a direct investment is complex. The average time required to start a business in Angola is 36 days, compared to 21.5 days on average for the sub-Saharan Africa region, but a great improvement from the 66 days required just five years ago. The bulk of this time relates to securing a commercial operations permit from the Ministry of Commerce, which takes 30 days on average.
Angolan law restricts ownership of entities related to defense, internal public order and state security, Central Bank and national currency-related matters, seaports, and airports to the government. Majority Angolan government ownership is required for mineral exploration activities.
Legal options for establishing a direct presence in Angola include:
Representative Office: A representative office oversees the interests of the foreign firm it represents, following up on and providing assistance to that firm’s business operations in Angola. A representative office has no independent legal authority to do business in its own name and is limited to a maximum of 6 employees.
Branch Office: Branch offices are the most common form of representation for foreign firms in Angola, because they enable foreign investors to do business in Angola on the same terms and under the same conditions as firms legally established in Angola. A branch office lacks an independent legal identity, although it is considered a legal person and can go to court or be the target of legal action under certain circumstances.
Incorporation under Angolan Law: Under the jurisdiction of Law Nº 1/04, Diário da República Nº 13, foreign investors in Angola may choose from among five types of corporate or business entities established by law: Corporations, Limited partnerships, Limited co-partnerships, General partnerships, Limited co-partnerships by shares. In most cases, international investors can incorporate as a sole ownership, but some areas such as minerals extraction operations and services require Angolan government and/or private partners.
The Angolan Government determines eligible incentives including repatriation, tax deductions, and exemption from certain taxes and duties for investors on a case-by-case review of the investment proposal for those investing in the special economic zones defined in the current private investment law. No minimum capital is required to qualify for these incentives. Interested investors may apply for these incentives through the Angolan Trade and Investment Agency, AIPEX.
Foreign companies are restricted from operating directly in petroleum, diamond and financial sectors. Angolan-owned companies subcontract out business in these industries to international companies. In the petroleum sector, international companies must enter into an association with the National Concessionaire, the National Petroleum, Gas and Biofuel Agency, (ANPG). For petroleum service and equipment provider companies, basic activities are restricted to Angolan companies, as per 2003 Executive Order 127/03 (“Exclusivity Regime”). For more complex work, a partnership (either incorporated or unincorporated) with an Angolan company is required for international companies to be able to provide goods and services (“Semi-Competition Regime”). Only in the case of the most complex work are international companies able to provide services directly to the petroleum industry in Angola (“Competition Regime”). Regardless of the complexity of the work, local companies majority owned by Angolans always have a right of first refusal provided their prices are less than or equal to 10 percent of that of foreign competitors. Additional details on operating in the petroleum industry in Angola are outlined in the section: “Leading Sectors for U.S. Exports – Oil and Gas Equipment.”
Strong consumer demand exists in Angola for international franchises, particularly for well-known brands. Shopping centers are expanding in Angola with currently ten complexes open in Luanda. One of these shopping centers, Xyami, has expanded into the secondary cities of Benguela and Lubango. International franchises operating in Angola include: Yum Brands’ Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) and Pizza Hut through their Portuguese license holder, Brazilian companies O Boticario (cosmetics), Sport Zone and Salsa (Portugal), Aldo (Canada), Tendam Group (Spain) with its four brands Cortefiel, Pedro Del Hierro, Springfield and Women
’secret. There are no legal restrictions on establishing a franchise business model in Angola.
Direct marketing is not common in Angola, though some Angolan retailers of home goods, such as furniture and electronics, use door-to-door marketing in some of the newer neighborhoods in Luanda to promote their products. Several Angola-specific online stores also exist including Baobabay.com and Kitandeira.com.
Joint ventures are encouraged under the current private investment law for the following industries: 1) electricity and water, 2) tourism and hospitality, 3) transportation and logistics, 4) telecommunications and information technology, 5) construction, and 6) media. However, the local partner requirement is no longer compulsory. Foreign investors often find that a l
ocal Angolan partner who contributes financially and substantively to the company helps in doing business; however, only a small pool of Angolan companies meet these criteria. A number of foreign investors operate successfully in Angola without a local partner.
The “Investment Climate” section of this report provides details regarding the regulations and procedures related to direct investment in Angola.
International express delivery services in Angola are provided by DHL, FedEX and UPS. DHL Express operates directly in Angola, while FedEx is represented by Portuguese company Grupo Rangel and UPS is represented by Parcel Express, an OREY Group affiliate. The state owned company Correios de Angola, which is part of the Ministry of Telecommunication and Information Technology, provides express delivery services with an extensive presence in major cities throughout Angola. Some smaller players also service the express delivery market.
All import shipments through express delivery services are subject to normal customs regulations with import duties calculated based on cargo values and quantities. Personal exemption from import duties are applied only for goods costing less than US$ 900. In the case of business documents, the customs invoice can state the item with zero customs value.
Careful selection of a local business partner in Angola will facilitate business success. The U.S. Commercial Service in Angola offers services for U.S. companies to identify top potential distributors and representatives. The U.S. Commercial Service also offers an International Company Profile (ICP) service to support due diligence research on potential business partners. An ICP report includes detailed background on a specific target company, including business structure and ownership, financials, and business activities.
For U.S. companies pursuing a joint venture or other complex business partnership with an Angolan company, the use of an Angolan law firm should be considered to provide thorough due diligence assessments before entering into any purchase or other contractual agreement or a joint venture.