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Banking System in Angola

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Being the 3rd largest banking hub of sub-Saharan Africa after the South Africa and Nigeria, Angola boasts a developed banking system that includes 3 state banks and 20 private financial institutions. Similar to many other spheres of Angolan economy, the banking system is tightly connected with Portugal. Despite the rapid growth of Angolan banking system, its services are still limited and hampered by the trivial lack of money. Such thing as the Angolan stock market doesn’t exist.

Foreigners arriving in Angola are looking for a safe place for their money and a reliable service for managing personal finances. Despite obvious financial benefits of working in Angola, dealing with money here can be a frustrating experience for migrants from well-developed countries due to extremely high prices and weakness of the banking system. Angolan expats have to learn new ways in order to survive. In this guide, you will read about the peculiarities of banking in Angola and get valuable tips concerning money in this country preoccupied with money.

Opening Angolan Bank Account

If a foreigner is going to relocate to another country for work, they seriously think about opening a bank account in that country for managing their finances and getting paid by their employer. This usually works, but not in Angola. You will be surprised not to find branches of world’s leading banks such as HSBC or Citibank as these banking giants have wound up their activity in Angola after it had become notorious for its money laundering practices.

A tip: expats who have dealt with local banks don’t recommend messing with opening a local bank account as it is associated with lots of troubles: firstly, the procedure of account setup takes a long time and can require piles of paperwork; secondly, communicating with bank officers is generally only in Portuguese, and thirdly, the local government isn’t happy about losing capital so they set restrictions for exporting money from the country. Most of the foreigners successfully use their home bank accounts (USD or Euro) for getting paid by their Angolan employers.

If you still need to choose a bank for opening an account in it, these 5 offer the most reliable and developed services:

  • Banco Económico
  • Banco Angolano de Investimentos
  • Banco BIC Angola
  • Banco de Fomento Angola
  • Banco de Poupança e Crédito S.A.R.L.

Opening the account online can be challenging, so you will probably have to visit the branch personally upon arrival to Angola. Branches are usually open Monday to Friday from 8 am to 12:30 pm, and then from 2 pm to 3 pm.

The official banking language is Portuguese, but Banco Económico and Banco BIC have English versions of their official websites (however, they aren’t very informative). Bank officers usually speak very little English, so you will probably need to enlist a translator. What should you inquire about? Ask about the types of bank accounts available for foreigners (current transaction account and saving account), minimal required deposit, availability of mobile or internet banking, interest rates, and so on. At this moment, you must already know which currency your salary will be in. Documents required for opening the Angolan bank account usually are: a copy of your passport or a foreign resident card and one photo of the passport format.

If you got used to paying with your debit or credit card, you may be disappointed. There are only few food facilities and hotels that accept plastic cards. Angola doesn’t have a wide net of ATMs. Most of the machines are located in Luanda plus only few of them will let you access your foreign account. Traveler’s cheques aren’t accepted at all.

A tip: using your debit or credit card for making payments in Angola isn’t always safe according to frequent reports about card frauds. If you still use the card, you should remember to consistently check its balance to detect any theft situations. To ensure you can use your home bank account, before your departure, inquire at the bank that issued your card whether this card will be accepted in Angola.

You may wonder how you can survive in the country without a local bank account and even access to your home account via ATMs? The solution is in using your advance payments (a portion of a salary paid in advance). You can request such advance payment (1 or 2 per month) which will be given to you in cash (USD or Euros), and another part of your salary will go to your home bank account. This way, you get money for your everyday needs and make savings on a reliable home account. The trick here is in making a correct calculation of how big upfront payment you need according to the cost of living in Angola (which is pretty high).

A tip: before accepting the offer from your employer, make a research about the local cost of living and inquire about the possible advance payments in order to assess your chances of surviving.

Receiving Bank Loans

Bank loans cannot be considered as a reliable source of money in Angola. Getting a loan from a bank can be challenging not because the requirements are strict, but simply because many banks don’t have enough money to borrow. Please, inquire at your chosen bank about the availability of the credit and about the required documents for getting it. Usually, to prove your trustworthiness, you need to be a resident of Angola (it means credits are unavailable for foreigners working in Angola for a short period of time), have a strong credit history and a reasonable purpose for borrowing money.

If you were lucky enough and were found trustworthy, you can expect borrowing money at the interest rate of 18-23% for local currency and 12-14% for USD.

Angolan Currency

Kz is the abbreviation for the New Angolan Kwanza which is equal to 100 centimes. The Banco Nacional de Angola issues coins for 1, 2 and 5 kwanzas (inferior coins for 10 and 50 centimes aren’t used anymore because their value is trifling) and banknotes from 10 kwanzas to 2,000.

A tip: moving to Angola, you should take along money in US dollars or Euros (with Euros, you can have hard times trying to convert them). Take along only clean and new banknotes of 50 or 100 USD/Euro because nothing else is usually accepted by Angolan money changers.

Where do you do the exchange? It depends on how much foreign currency you have. Banks offer the most winning rates and they are the safest, but they often have little kwanzas to change for dollars. Other options are bureaux de changes, exchange windows at stores, and the black market (street moneychangers) where you can exchange big sums of money.

Declaring Money at the Customs

The minimum sum of money residents can freely carry through the Angolan border is 15k USD (10k USD for non-residents). If you carry more, you need to declare your money at the customs using the official form. If you fail to do that, your money can be seized.

Residents who have earned more than 15k USD in Angola and who are going to export this sum need to get authorised by the National Bank to do so. By the way, always check this limit before travelling as it can get changed. The limit for non-residents is 10k USD. In addition to US dollars, you can export no more than 50k Kz; you will be thoroughly searched at the airport in order to be prevented from exporting some extra kwanzas.

Angolan Income Tax

Everybody who works in Angola, irrespectively of their residence status, must pay the income tax from their salary. The rate depends on how much you earn (which income group you belong to). Salaries of 25k Kz and below are exempt from the income tax; taxing begins from 25,001 Kz at the rate of 5% and gradually grows and reaches the maximum of 17% (for salaries starting from 230,001 Kz). The employer deducts the necessary amount from the employee’s monthly wages and passes the installment to the country’s tax office. If you arrive as an independent worker, 70% of your Angolan income will be taxed at the fixed rate of 15%.

The good news is that in Angola there is such thing as a tax equalisation (aka hypo-tax) agreement: the employer pays the income tax on behalf of the employee and deducts from the salary only the amount this employee would hypothetically pay in their home country. This way, the employee can enjoy their high salary (actually a previously specified amount of money) without being robbed by high local taxes.

The official banking language is Portuguese, but Banco Económico and Banco BIC have English versions of their official websites (however, they aren’t very informative).

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