You wouldn't think of Angola as a surfing destination. But Cabo Ledo, a few hours south of the capital city of Luanda, is a world-famous surfing beach. Angola, the seventh largest country in Africa, has more than 1,000 miles of beautiful beach coastline, plenty for sunbathers, swimmers and water sports enthusiasts.
The growth of the tourism sector is critical now to Angola's economy. As a major oil producer, the country has been affected by the global drop in oil prices. Angola needs to diversify, to develop new economic opportunities, and tourism has immense promise.
In fact, as a tourist destination, Angola offers something for everybody. According to an article in the Washington Post, "Angola is a giant jigsaw puzzle of different climates, landscapes, cultures and colors. From mountains to vast open plains, wide white beaches to thick tropical rainforest, Angola has it all, as if each of its eighteen provinces were a different country."
In addition to its sandy beaches, Angola boasts all types of dramatic landscapes -- tropical rainforests, mountain ranges, plunging waterfalls and winding rivers. There are six internationally-recognized national parks, including Kissama National Park, one of the largest in Africa, and six nature reserves. For those interested in wildlife, game parks and eco-tourism, Angola holds great potential.
In Luanda, beautiful colonial architecture and spectacular churches and cathedrals mix with modern skyscrapers. The capital's nightlife offers a distinct Brazilian spice, reflecting Angola's heritage, with a variety of bars, restaurants and nightclubs.
As reported by Macauhub.com, according to the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism, by 2020 Angola is expected to host 4.6 million tourists who will provide estimated revenue of $4.7 billion. As forecast, tourism revenue would account for about 3% of GDP and generate some one million jobs. In 2014 alone, tourism accounted for $1.5 billion in revenue.
But Angola remains more or less an undiscovered treasure. One of the obstacles to developing Angola's tourism sector is the country's onerous visa procedure. The visa situation hampers Angola severely in the competitive global market for international tourism. Most countries in the region provide US, EU and other citizens a visa upon arrival or have no visa requirements at all. Angola requires an official letter of invitation, documents concerning the purpose of travel, a copy of the travel itinerary and proof of funds, all of which must be approved. Ordinary visas last only 30 days and can be renewed twice, but the procedure is slow.
There has been some movement toward visa reform, reports Macauhub.com. Angola has started to grant multiple-entry tourist visas and ordinary visas. According to the Economist Intelligence Unit, the creation of a tourist visa is an important measure that can "help unlock the high tourist potential of Angola, which largely remains untapped." At the very least, we need to consider reciprocity agreements to help bypass the heavy requirements currently in place which are hindering travel.
It's time to modernize the visa process and open Angola to the world. The world should come to Angola, because many new discoveries await.
Zandre Campos is chairman and CEO of Angola Capital Investments (ACI), an international investment firm that invests in companies in the healthcare, energy, transportation, hospitality, and real estate sectors throughout Africa. The mission of ACI is to create global value for developing countries in Africa, while contributing to their economic development.