Agricultural production in Angola suffered greatly from the 27 yearlong Civil War that ended in 2002. Production rates were low, irrigation systems and infrastructures were destroyed, and access to markets was difficult. Today, agriculture is a key element of the country's diversification plan (Angola is highly dependent on its oil exports) and has great development potential, as the climate is favorable, the land fertile, and only 10% of the cultivable land is currently used.
Ms Assis Africano, Commissioner General of the Pavilion at Milan 2015 tells us about the new face of Angola and how it will be showcased in Milan.
BIE: The theme you have chosen is "Food and Culture: Education for Innovation", could you explain it in a few words?
Ms Assis Africano: Our aim is to present the cultural diversity of Angolan cuisine as well as the traditions associated to it and the tools for future generations to achieve healthier and more sustainable lifestyles.
Through the slogan "Education for innovation" we will show our vision for the future. For us, "Education" means creating a new consciousness on the topic of nutrition. We will present the many efforts of the government in raising awareness through the media and in schools, and introducing new regulations and standards for food products. "Innovation" means putting into practice this new consciousness by identifying best practices from our secular culinary traditions as well as adapting to and developing new technologies.
Agriculture is an important part of the diversification plan of Angola. What projects have been developed to implement this strategy?
The diversification strategy carried out by the Angolan Government aims at boosting employment and income, stabilizing the population in rural areas, and combating hunger and poverty.
Our National Development Plan for 2013-2017 has set the mission of achieving food security and sustainable development of commercial agriculture in order to become a self-sufficient country and an exporter of agricultural products, as we used to be in the past.
The projects we have developed aim to sustainably transform agriculture from subsistence farming to market, and are adequately financed by development Banks such as BDA – Angolan Development Bank and micro-credit programs in other commercial banks. A few examples of the projects developed in Angola are: a development program for family agriculture, a national program for food security, the promotion of agro-industrial and large scale farms, a program for the recovery and development of coffee, among many others.
Could you tell us about the pavilion design and visitor experience?
The Angolan pavilion has been designed in a holistic way, with the exterior and interior conceived as one. The design is inspired by modern-tropical architecture. Outside and on the roof, visitors will be able to relax in open gardens. Inside, the pavilion will be organized around a technological baobab tree. The Baobab is a very important tree in African culture. The exhibition will develop on three floors though informative and interactive installations, augmented reality technologies and entertaining activities for adults and children.
Angola will also host a number of events in and outside of the pavilion with the participation of singers, dancers, artists, and many speakers.
Visitors will be able to taste Angolan food in the two restaurants of the pavilion, including a fusion-food restaurant, and buy products and handicrafts in a themed bazaar.
After years of war, Angola is rebuilding itself and its economy. What image of the country do you wish to leave in the minds of the visitors?
We don't want to show an unrealistic image of the country, nor mislead our visitors. We intend to show our reality: a new Angola, built by the efforts of people who suffered in the flesh the horrors of the war, respect the newly acquired peace, sustain it, and keep it whole-heartedly.
In this new Angola, we have managed so far to build thousands of kilometers of roads so as to link the whole country from north to south and from east to west. We have created hospitals, rehabilitated schools, libraries and universities, built housing for middle class, and social housing for poorer classes. Agriculture has been developed and new industrial poles have been put to work, creating and promoting national industrialization.
Despite the fact that there are still some negative constraints, our economy continues to grow very rapidly and is one of the best in the African Continent.
It is this new Angola that aims at offering a better quality of life to its citizens that we intend to show in our pavilion at Expo Milano 2015.
Do you see Expo Milan as an interesting place to share best practices with other countries in the field of Nutrition and food production?
Expo Milano 2015, in our view, will be an unforgettable stage where all will share experience and gain knowledge on specific topics, for the good of humanity. The theme "Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life", is a very sensible subject for the world and especially for Africa.
Angola, as an African country, considers that such cultural exchanges can contribute to help fight nutrition problems that are still afflicting our continent. Thus, we are confident that once this event has come to its end, there should be guidelines for all countries, regarding the methods, technologies, and other knowledge to improve the nutritional food predicament of our planet.
For more information on the Angolan pavilion, visit the official site.