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There remain many challenges associated with doing business in Angola, including a lack of infrastructure, bureaucracy, high costs and limited human resources. Nevertheless, with its rich natural resources, a growing economy and infrastructure-development projects, there are many opportunities for expats seeking to do business in this African country.
The oil and gas sectors still dominate the Angolan business world, but the government is keen to diversify the economy and sectors such as education and training, construction, financial services and agriculture are also growing rapidly and providing opportunities for expats.
Although the government has worked hard to eliminate corruption, it remains a persistent problem and the country continues to rank low on Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index.
The difficulties of doing business in Angola are reflected in its poor ranking in the World Bank’s 2020 Ease of Doing Business Survey, where it was ranked 177th out of 190 countries surveyed. It was ranked at 186th for enforcing contracts, while other poor categories included getting credit (185th) and trading across borders (174th).
A typical work week in Angola runs from Monday to Friday from 8am to 5pm, with a lunch break of about an hour. Many businesses close early on Fridays.
Portuguese is the official language in Angola, but English is usually understood at senior management level in the oil and gas industry.
Business attire is usually fairly casual. Due to the hot climate, men wear lightweight suits while women wear longer jackets and skirts.
Gifts are generally not expected, but are welcomed. Gifts will probably be opened immediately.
A handshake is the most common greeting between both men and women. Greetings are important in Angolan culture and it’s usual to inquire about the other person’s family or general wellbeing. Elders should be greeted first.
Although women share equal rights to men, Angola remains a largely patriarchal society and few women occupy senior executive posts.
Business culture in Angola
Expats moving to Angola for business will find that the business culture differs significantly from that of Western societies. New arrivals will need to adapt to these nuances if they want to be successful in the Angolan market.
Angola’s business culture is formal and business structures are hierarchical. Status is important in Angolan society and decision making typically lies with the most senior person in a company, but final decisions are often made after consultations with subordinates. This can be a slow process as all options are weighed carefully, so expats should be patient.
Angolans, as is the case in many countries, prefer to do business with people they know and trust. It's therefore important for expats to get to know their Angolan counterparts and build trust with business associates at all levels.
With Portuguese being the primary language in Angola, it's useful to learn a few relevant key phrases. Most senior executives in the oil and gas industry speak English, but associates at lower levels may not.
Titles and greetings are important, and introductions are initially formal and marked by handshakes. Personal space isn't that important to Angolans, so people often stand close to each other when conversing and moving away may be considered offensive.
Time is flexible in Angola, and although expats should arrive on time for meetings, their Angolan counterparts won't always do the same – it’s not unusual for a meeting to start late and be interrupted several times. Should this occur, expats should be patient and not show disapproval or irritation.
Dos and don’ts of business in Angola
Do always greet Angolan counterparts properly; elders should be greeted first
Do get to know Angolan associates, as building trust is essential
Don't assume that Angolan business associates will understand English. An interpreter may be necessary for meetings
Do arrive on time for meetings but don’t expect that local associates will do the same
Don't rush business in Angola. Expect that business decisions will take time and patience is required