OPINION: Angola’s new licensing round has been a long time coming and its arrival is yet another signal that President Joao Lourenco’s deeds match his words.

Upstream investments ground to a near-halt over the past five years as the effects of the oil price crash hit home.

Luanda’s then head of state Jose Eduardo dos Santos failed to get to grips with what needed to be done to revive Angola’s moribund oil and gas sector, and raised eyebrows when anointing his daughter Isabel as head of state oil company Sonangol.

All that changed when President Lourenco took office.

He recognised the economy would be severely impacted if a forecast collapse in oil production was not addressed, and formulated a new upstream strategy while jettisoning much of the old oil guard.

Last year, the president signed off on legislation related to marginal fields, gas commercialisation, procurement, abandonment and decommissioning. In addition, he rubber-stamped anti-bribery and international arbitration decrees.

Significantly, the president also decided to remove regulatory powers from Sonangol and vest them in a new petroleum and gas agency (ANPG).

Over much of this year, ANPG has been staffing up smoothly with the ambitious goal of launching a licensing round every year between now and 2025.

Judging by this week’s slick London roadshow covering a 10-block offering in the Namibe and Benguela basins, the agency's team has got off to a good start, albeit the bid schedule announced is tight, to say the least.

Observers said companies unfamiliar with Angola will be put off bidding because 40 days — between the round’s launch on 2 October and bid submissions on 12 November — is not much time to properly evaluate data.

Unprompted, an ANPG official said feedback from oil companies currently active in Angola helped establish this bid period, leading many to wonder if Luanda is indirectly favouring bids from country incumbents ExxonMobil, Total, Chevron, BP and Eni.

This perception is not one that should sit easy with an agency committed to transparency. Surely, no-one wants to go back to Angola’s dark days of opacity.

(This is an Upstream opinion article.)