Interview of H.E. Mr. João Miguel Vahekeni, Ambassador of the Republic of Angola to Japan in JAPAN and the WORLD Magazine ( January / February / March issue)

Words: H.E. Mr. João Miguel Vahekeni, Ambassador of the Republic of Angola to Japan

On November 11, 2015 in Tokyo, the Embassy of Angola celebrated 40 years of Independence. JAPAN and the WORLD magazine covered the event. His Excellency, João Miguel Vahekeni, shared with us his proudest moments as the Ambassador to Japan and ambitions for the years to come.

JAPAN and the WORLD (JW): Excellency, you have just celebrated the 40 years of independence of Angola by organizing a beautiful reception in Tokyo. How important was it for you to celebrate this day in Japan?

H.E. Mr. João Miguel Vahekeni, Ambassador of the Republic of Angola to Japan (Ambassador): The occasion was an opportunity to show to our friends in Japan Angola’s trajectory in the last 40 years, particularly during the post-civil war period, peace is an irreversible achievement.

Peace is an irreversible achievement.

The event also highlighted the strong ties that the Embassy has been building with civil society here in Japan, as shown by the diverse performances featuring Japanese students and musicians at the reception. Angola is now a mature country and is ready to work hand in hand with Japan.

JW: In March 2015, you have achieved a milestone by taking over 100 Japanese business people to Angola to show them all the latest opportunities in Angola. What was the outcome of this business mission? Do you intend to repeat it in 2016?

Ambassador: An ambassador is someone who is in the service of the national interests of his country. As such we wear many hats, one of them being the economic relations hat.

Following the business forum we have been witnessing an increase on business visa applications from Japanese companies. One noticeable fact is that we are also receiving visa applications from companies that did not have Angola on their radar, meaning, their first visit to Angola was on the occasion of the forum.

As a follow up to the forum held in March 2015 in Luanda and due to several enquiries from Japanese companies regarding the current business environment in Angola a seminar was held in Tokyo in December 2015. This seminar on doing business with Angola was organized by the Embassy, Mizuho Bank, Ltd. and the Japan Institute for Overseas Investment (JOI) with the support of the Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC).

The Minister of Economy of Angola H.E. Abrahão Pio dos Santos Gourgel, who visited Japan on this occasion shared with the audience Angola’s economic outlook and it’s economic diversification program.

The event attracted more than 100 participants representing 60 companies, which further demonstrates the interest in Angola that the forum held in March has created. In 2016, the Embassy will work with its partners to organize more events aimed at strengthening the Angola-Japan economic ties.

JW: Angola is now a stable and peaceful country and was one of the fastest-growing economies in the world between 2001 and 2010. What are the biggest challenges for Angola today?

Ambassador: The biggest challenge that Angola faces is to overcome the legacy of nearly 30 years of civil war, including among others, the removal of landmines, low education, health and unemployment indicators, poor basic infrastructures, economic growth driven by the oil sector, weak agricultural and industrial sectors which have become obstacles to the country’s sound economic and social development.

Angola has made great strides since the end of the civil war in 2002. For instance, in 1998 there was only one university in Angola, today there are nearly 20, giving more Angolans access to higher education. In the same vein, according to the World Bank, life expectancy in Angola went from 45 years in 2000 to 52 years in 2013 and with prospects for further improvement. There still remains a lot to do but I believe Angola is on the right track.

JW: Why do you believe Japan would be the best business partner for Angola?

Ambassador: Japan went through a war, rebuilt itself and became an advanced nation and a major economic powerhouse in the aftermath of World War II. Angola went through a civil war, which destroyed most of the country’s basic infrastructures. Now with peace, it is in the process of rebuilding itself. This is where Angola can gain a lot from Japan’s experience and know-how.

Japan is one of Angola’s key partners in Asia and my mission here in Japan is to take the bilateral ties to new heights. It is against this backdrop that, in 2015 three Angolan ministers, namely, the Minister of Finance, Minister Welfare and Social Reintegration and the Minister of Economy visited Japan.

As we look forward to celebrating 40 years of Angola-Japan diplomatic ties in 2016, we will continue to work to build a win-win relation where the two countries can complement each other’s strengths and benefit from it.