U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pressed Angola on Sunday to do more to fight corruption during a two-day visit to the oil-producing country aimed at bolstering ties between the two nations.
Angola rivals Nigeria as Africa's biggest oil producer but about two-thirds of the population live on less than $2 a day. It ranks 158th on Transparency International's 180-nation corruption list.
Corruption is a problem everywhere and where it exists it undermines people's faith in democracy, it distorts governance and prevents the full involvement of people in their societies, Clinton said at a news conference alongside Angolan Foreign Minister Assuncao dos Anjos.
Corruption has been a theme of Clinton's trip to Africa, echoing U.S. President Barack Obama when he visited Ghana last month. She praised Angola for publishing its oil revenues online and for working with U.S. officials to increase transparency.
Of course we raised this issue with the minister but I think it is only fair to add that Angola has begun taking steps to increase transparency, Clinton said.
U.S.-Angolan ties have turned around since the end of Angola's 27-year civil war, during which Washington helped bankroll one of the losing groups, UNITA, now the main opposition party.
UNITA urged Clinton to press the government not to delay the first post-war presidential election. It accuses President Jose Eduardo dos Santos of delaying the election, initially scheduled for 2009, to extend his three-decade rule.
Angolan Foreign Minister Assuncao dos Anjos said his government was trying hard to increase transparency and lift millions out of poverty as the country recovers from the civil war that ended in 2002.
We have the structures, we have the willingness and we can ensure a better life for our people and we will do it, he said.
Unfortunately you cannot eradicate poverty with a magic wand. You cannot say that in two years people will no longer be poor. It is eradicated through well-structured programs that will generate wealth, dos Anjos said.
Clinton dismissed suggestions Washington was concerned by the growing influence of China in Africa, where Beijing's no-strings attached approach has helped it displace many Western countries in terms of investments.
I'm not looking at what anyone else does in Angola, I'm looking at what the United States can do to further and deepen our relationship.
Major U.S. oil companies like Chevron and Exxon Mobil have invested billions of dollars in recent years to increase production in Angola. Together, they pump over half the country's daily oil production.
Clinton, who is also meeting the oil minister on Sunday, said the United States would continue to invest in Angola's oil and gas sector and was also eyeing a larger role in the once-prosperous farming sector.
U.S.-based Dole Food Co and Chiquita Brands International have been in talks with local authorities to invest in the banana industry. Angola was once a major food exporter but now imports over half of the food it consumes.
Angola, tired of being criticized by the International Monetary Fund, broke off talks with the lender in 2004 and turned to resource-hungry China for over $5 billion in loans to rebuild the country. It restarted talks with the IMF this week.
Angola is China's largest oil supplier but only the sixth biggest supplier of oil to the United States.
The government has signaled it will postpone the presidential election in order to approve a new constitution. Dos Anjos said the polls were likely to be delayed another year.
Clinton said she hoped the first presidential elections in almost two decades would be held in a timely and fair manner.
We were criticized because we didn't hold (legislative) elections, we asked for more time and we did them. We are now asking for more time for the (presidential) elections, dos Anjos said.
(Editing by Tim Pearce)