President Joe Biden and his Angolan counterpart Joao Lourenco met at the White House on Thursday to discuss infrastructure and regional security, as the United States seeks to counter China’s growing influence in Africa, marking the culmination of a year of engagement that has seen the US-Angola relationship undergo a profound transformation, including on security cooperation.
The two leaders discussed a range of issues, from trade and investment to climate and energy, but the main focus was on the defence partnership between the two countries, which has grown significantly in the past year.
According to a joint statement issued after the meeting, the US and Angola agreed to “enhance cooperation on maritime security, counterterrorism, peacekeeping, and defence institution building”. They also reaffirmed their commitment to “supporting regional stability and security, especially in the Great Lakes region and the Gulf of Guinea”.
The US and Angola have a shared interest in addressing the security challenges in the region, especially in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), where a surge of violence by armed groups, some affiliated with the Islamic State, has caused a humanitarian crisis and threatened regional stability.
The DRC is a key neighbour and partner of Angola, which hosts over half a million refugees from the country and plays a leading role in the Southern African Development Community (SADC), a regional bloc that has deployed a military force to support the Congolese army in fighting the rebels.
The US, on its part, has provided humanitarian and security assistance to the DRC, as well as diplomatic support for a political dialogue among the Congolese parties and regional actors. The US also recognises Angola’s influence and leadership in the region, and seeks to coordinate its efforts with the country.
The meeting between Biden and Lourenço was the first of its kind since 2014, when former President Barack Obama hosted former Angolan President José Eduardo dos Santos. It was also the first visit by an Angolan head of state to the White House since 1993, when former President Bill Clinton received former President José Eduardo dos Santos.
The meeting reflected the growing importance of Angola for the US, not only as a strategic partner in Africa, but also as a potential market and investor. Angola is the second-largest oil producer in sub-Saharan Africa, and has embarked on a process of economic diversification and reform under Lourenço, who took office in 2017.
The US and Angola have also cooperated on energy and infrastructure projects, such as the Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment (PGI) project in the Lobito Corridor, which will connect Angola, the DRC and Zambia to global markets through Angola’s Lobito port.
The meeting between Biden and Lourenço was hailed by both sides as a success, and a sign of a new era in the US-Angola relations. The two leaders expressed their desire to continue the dialogue and cooperation, and to work together for the benefit of their peoples and the region.