The former Portuguese colony located in the western coast of Southern Africa, Angola, for those that are aware of its history and economy, is one that is tied to oil. The country is an Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) member. From data from the end of 2018, oil production and its supporting activities contribute about 50 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP). Breaking that down, that was over 70 percent of government revenue and over 90 percent of the country’s exports. Given the drop in recent memory of the price of oil and other issues, can industries like fintech be a solution for Angola’s economy?
Compared to other more developed fintech and wider financial services sectors in the African continent, notably Nigeria, Kenya, Egypt and South Africa, Angola’s financial services sector is still in its infancy. According to Fitch Solutions, demand of the asset management sector is undermined by generally low average income levels coupled with the limited uptake of formal financial services.
According to ResearchAndMarkets.com’s The Banking Sector in Angola 2019 report, Angola’s banking industry is dominated by six banks and competition from non-bank institutions such as microlenders remains low. A distinct characteristic of the Angolan banking sector is the participation of the state, ruling party loyalists and state-owned enterprises such as the national oil company Sonangol in private banks. Policy dictates that foreign banks can only operate in Angola through joint ventures with local and state-owned companies, making it less attractive to bring in foreign direct investment (FDI).
Nevertheless, Angola’s banking sector has expanded rapidly during the past 17 years to become the third-largest sector in sub-Saharan Africa behind South Africa and Nigeria. The number of licensed commercial banks increased from nine in 2003 to 26 in July 2019. Some banks in Angola include: Banco Angolano de Investimentos, Banco de Comércio e Indústria, Banco de Desenvolvimento de Angola, Banco Económico, Banco de Poupanca e Credito and Standard Bank Angola. In Angola the Banco Nacional de Angola is responsible for all banking supervision through its Banking Supervision Department.
The country’s natural resource wealth and growing population does show a long-term growth potential, despite its current challenges and now coupled with the pandemic of the coronavirus. Before the pandemic, the government has made efforts to boost its wider financial services industry.
The Angolan government is implementing a macroeconomic stabilisation programme focused on strengthening fiscal sustainability, reducing inflation, promoting a more flexible exchange rate regime and improving financial sector stability. Its national development programme includes strengthening financial sector resilience, recapitalising weak banks, and restructuring the largest state-owned bank. It plans to privatise most of the 195 state-owned companies or companies in which the state participates by this year (the coronavirus could of course delay this as with many other aspects of daily life globally). The restructuring and privatisation of state-owned banks will increase competition among the commercial banks. João Lourenço has been the president of Angola since 2017, whom prior to him the president of the country for many years was José Eduardo dos Santos.
The country has also helped aligned its financial services ecosystem with global best practice. It has made noticeable attempts to clamp down on money laundering such as issuing an anti-money laundering compliance code in 2015, which reflects the standards issued by the Basel Committee on banking supervision. Also, Angolan banks are now legally required to submit an annual independently audited report that lays out their actions on implementing Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and Basel standards.
Laboratório de Inovação do Sistema de Pagamentos de Angola. (LISPA) – in English translating to Laboratory of Innovation of Payment Systems in Angola, is an initiative by the Banco Nacional de Angola to promote innovation in terms of the fintech and wider entrepreneur and financial services ecosystem of the country. They recently just this past July had a virtual launch event in Portuguese with over 150 participants and partners that included: Banco Nacional de Angola, Ministério do Ensino Superior, Ciência, Tecnologia e Inovação, and Acelera Angola. The event was the launch event of the Fintech Regulatory Sandbox in Angola. Portuguese innovation advisor Beta-i is helping Banco Nacional de Angola to create an experimental regulatory environment for fintech, which institution announced in a statement.
It will be exciting times ahead in Angola as the country is on a pathway to economic diversification and acknowledging that its financial services industry, fintech and wider innovation can help lead the way.
The launch event (in Portuguese – Angola’s official language) of the Fintech Regulatory Sandbox in Angola: