Clinton seeks better ties with oil giant Angola

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will seek on a visit to Angola on Sunday to boost opportunities for US business in the oil producer, widely seen as an emerging economic power house in Africa.

US officials travelling with Clinton said the United States wanted to strengthen relations with Angola, from which the United States imports 7% of its oil and which rivals Nigeria as Africa’s biggest oil producer.

The United States has invested billions of dollars in recent years to increase production in Angola through major oil companies Chevron and Exxon Mobil.

The hope was Clinton’s visit would further help US companies seeking a greater market share in Angola, where China has increased its influence.

A US official dismissed suggestions Washington was concerned by the growing influence of China in Africa, where Beijing has displaced many Western countries with the weight of its investments.

“The mention of our colleagues from Asia is a Cold War paradigm, not a reflection of where we are today,” said the official.

Bush era
But Africa experts say Clinton is working on improving a relationship with Angola that ebbed during George Bush’s administration.

“They jumped in bed with the Chinese and the US stopped paying attention to them,” said Stephen Morrison of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think-tank.

Clinton also plans to focus on food security issues, with a push to get Luanda to diversify from only focusing on oil to a greater emphasis on agriculture.

Washington sees agriculture as a way to lift millions out of poverty in Africa. US-based Dole Food and Chiquita Brands International have been in talks with local authorities to invest in the banana industry.

Angola’s main opposition Unita party, which the US helped bankroll in its fight against the government during the 1975 to 2002 civil war, urged Clinton not to shy away from issues like corruption, poverty and democracy when she meets President José Eduardo dos Santos on Monday.

Corruption and good governance has been a theme of Clinton’s trip to Africa, echoing US President Barack Obama when he visited Ghana last month.

Unita accuses dos Santos of purposely delaying a presidential election, initially scheduled for 2009, to extend his three-decade long rule.

It also says the president and the ruling MPLA party have kept a tight grip on the country’s oil wealth while millions of Angolans remain poor.

“We ask Clinton to be honest with the Angolan government and the truth is there is very little transparency when it comes to managing Angola’s oil wealth,” Unita spokesperson Alcides Sakala told Reuters. - Reuters

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