Angola ratifies the ICSID Convention – Good news for inbound foreign investment

Angola ratifies the ICSID Convention – Good news for inbound foreign investment
27 Sep 2021

On 1 September 2021, Angola’s National Assembly ratified the International Convention on the Settlement of Investment Disputes between States and Nationals of Other States (“ICSID Convention”). The only remaining step is the ratification of the ICSID Convention by the President.

ICSID, a World Bank organisation, is an international arbitration institution devoted to the settlement of cross-border foreign investment disputes. By ratifying the ICSID Convention, Angola now accepts that, in certain situations, inbound foreign investors may have a right to bring an international investment arbitration against the government, which is conducted under the auspices of the World Bank. This right is often seen as being attractive to foreign investors – in the event of local political interference, foreign investors value the ability to access neutral, independent, enforceable arbitration.

ICSID Convention: Driving foreign investment in Angola

Benefiting from its position as the second largest oil producer and the third largest diamond producer in Africa, Angola is an important market for international investment in the oil & gas and mining sectors. The ratification of the ICSID Convention is an important milestone in the Angolan government’s wider plan to create an attractive legal environment for foreign investment, to boost and diversify the economy. This follows from the recent August 2019 approval of a privatisation programme called “PROPRIV” which provides for the full or partial privatisation of over 190 companies that are either public companies or companies where the State holds a shareholding interest.

The ICSID Convention is designed to sit alongside each member State’s existing matrix of bilateral investment treaties, and offers a forum where investors may commence an investment arbitration which would arise as a result of an alleged breach of a bilateral investment treaty. Angola’s bilateral investment treaties with, among others, Russia (home to some of the world’s largest oil & gas and mining companies), Portugal (one of the top sources of foreign direct investment into Angola), Germany and Italy contain references permitting an investor to commence an ICSID arbitration in the event of a dispute with the government. As the ICSID convention is now in force between these capital exporting countries and Angola, foreign investors into Angola from these jurisdictions may now refer any investment disputes to an ICSID arbitration tribunal.

ICSID Convention in Angola: Conclusion

Although the immediate impact of this ratification on the investment environment in Angola is unlikely to be substantial in the short term given the relatively small number of investment treaties currently in force with Angola (Brazil, Russia, Italy, Germany, Cape Verde, Portugal, Spain, United Arab Emirates), the government’s ratification of the ICSID Convention may be a signal that the Angolan government is keen to pursue its push for an investor-friendly legal environment. A recent example is the adoption of the Private Investment Law in 2018, which entirely reshaped the legal framework applicable to private investments (including foreign investment) by significantly cutting out bureaucracy and granting private investors important benefits to their investment projects.

Such an investor-friendly stance is to be read in combination with Angola’s ratification in 2016 of the 1958 New York Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards, which is an international treaty, ratified by over 160 States, containing a general obligation on contracting states to recognise arbitration awards as binding and to enforce them in accordance with their national rules of procedure. Both ratifications will be welcome news to foreign investors into Angola, but Eversheds Sutherland nevertheless advises to proceed with some caution because not all foreign investments will automatically benefit from these developments – careful pre-investment planning and structuring is still required.

Please get in touch if you have any questions or wish to discuss further.

Written by:

Meriam Al-Rashid, Partner
João Robles, Partner
Greg Falkof, Partner
Wesley Pydiamah, Partner
Rodrigo Barbosa Souto, Partner
Ahmed Abdel-Hakam, Principal Associate

See also:

(This article is provided for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. For more information on the topic, please contact the author/s or the relevant provider.)
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