Angolan President Joao Lourenco meets with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at the Presidential Palace in Luanda, Feb. 17, 2020.
Angolan President Joao Lourenco meets with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at the Presidential Palace in Luanda, Feb. 17, 2020.

LUANDA, ANGOLA - U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with Angolan President Joao Lourenco in Luanda Monday, with talks focused on strengthening economic ties and supporting Angolans in their fight against corruption.

Lourenco became president in 2017 when former President José Eduardo dos Santos ceded power after leading the country for nearly four decades.  Lourenco has surprised many by appearing to tackle corruption head-on.  Dos Santos’ daughter, Isabel dos Santos, who is  estimated to be Africa’s richest woman, is now under investigation for rampant financial crimes, including embezzlement.

At a joint news conference in Luanda, Foreign Minister Manuel Augosto said he “wants to believe that Pompeo’s presence is a sign of President Donald Trump’s support,” and hopes it signals a new chapter, a whole new relationship between the two countries.  

Pompeo said he could not answer a question about when Trump might visit Angola, saying he is very busy, especially in an election year.

Asked about U.S. competition with China in Angola and elsewhere in Africa, Pompeo said he would leave others to analyze how the U.S. model differs with China’s way of business, adding, “When we come, we hire Angolans.”  

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, right, meets with Angola Foreign Minister Manuel Domingos Augusto before a press conference at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Luanda, Angola, Feb. 17, 2020.

Pompeo told Augusto his visit comes at a pivotal moment in Angola’s history because business, civil society, and the Angolan people are clearly ready for change.

Pompeo said he and Angola’s leaders talked first about moving beyond the corruption that has stunted the nation for a long time, and praised Lourenco for his efforts.

“He has pursued bad actors.  I am optimistic that he will continue to liberate Angolans from corruption,” said the secretary of state.

Pompeo also highlighted the success of U.S.-backed health programs, including PEPFAR and malaria initiatives.  He said the number of malaria victims in Angola has been cut in half in recent years.

Pompeo arrived in Angola late Sunday after a productive visit to Senegal, where he witnessed the signing of five memorandums of understanding on private sector partnerships between Senegalese and American companies.  The venture includes the building of a major road in Senegal and a new burns center hospital.

Both Pompeo and Senegal’s Foreign Minister Amadou Ba expressed concern about sharply increasing terrorism in West Africa.  Ba said terrorism “knows no borders, and is costly.”  Asked about a likely reduction of American troops in West Africa, Pompeo said the U.S. will consult with West African countries, France and others on the security issue to make sure that “we will get it right collectively.”

In both Angola and Senegal, Pompeo met with women entrepreneurs and spoke with them about how far along they are with their businesses.

From Luanda, Pompeo will travel on to Ethiopia, Saudi Arabia and Oman, on a sweeping nine-day trip to six countries.