Strategic planning and project management in the reconstruction of a country


André Augusto Choma, PMP, Consultant Partner, Euax Projects Management

Dumilde das Chagas Simões Rangel, Governor of the Province of Benguela


Since the peace accord of 2002, Angola has lived through an accelerated process of reconstruction, economic growth, restoration of basic social infrastructure, opening of markets, and democratization. This article describes the case of the Province of Benguela, as it continues with the reconstruction process on the basis of strategic planning and using the Project Management Institute’s best practices in portfolio, programs, and projects management.


“The main challenge for public management in the contemporary world is to promote economic and social sustainable development, in an environment of fast and deep changes” (Matias-Pereira, 2007, p. vii). In addition to this great challenge, public sector management has features that make the management of public expectations highly complex, as a result of the State’s limited investment capacity. In this context, the best practices of the Project Management Institute (PMI) in project, program, and portfolio management together with the concept of Strategic Management and Planning, gives public administrators tools that allow the state, together with civil society, to increase the chances of achieving their visions for the future, focusing on results.

The first part of this article presents key indicators from the current situation in Angola and Benguela, giving an idea of the challenges for increasing human development, a main element in the province’s vision for its development. The second part describes the breadth of the diagnosis and the process used in defining the strategic goals, and then aligning the projects and programs, in order to meet the expectations of civil society. The third part addresses the chronological organization of planned actions within the time horizon of the project execution, outlining the methodology used for balancing the portfolio by applying PMI portfolio management concepts to achieve the best results.

Angola – a Country in Reconstruction

Angola is located in the southwest part of the African continent and has a population of approximately 16 million people. After gaining independence from Portugal in 1975, the country faced 27 long years of civil war, which destroyed most of the existing infrastructure and took the lives of thousands of people. Since the time of the peace agreement in 2002, the government has focused its efforts on the reconstruction of the entire infrastructure and on the improvement of the population’s living conditions, which are still strongly characterized by hunger and poverty. Some of Angola’s social and economic indicators are shown in Exhibit 1.

Angola's Economic and Social Indicators

Exhibit 1--Angola's Economic and Social Indicators.

(Source: Angola–UNDP, 2005.)

After the end of the armed conflict, all indicators have shown significant development, but much remains to be done to take Angola out of the list of low human development countries.

Some Results of Peace in Angola

  • By the end of 2005, the school population reached 4.9 million students, 47% higher than in 2003.
  • Global balance of the government's accounts has gone from –8.8% of the GDP in 2000, to +8.5 in 2005.
  • Annual inflation has decreased from 106% in 2002 to 18.5% in 2005.
  • GDP growth was 11.3% in 2004, 20.6% in 2005.
  • Between 2003 and 2005, 23,737 km2 of mined areas were identified, 12,265 km of roads were cleared, and 22,699 antipersonnel and 1,929 antitanks mines were destroyed.
  • From 2001 to 2003, there was an 82% reduction in the number of accidents involving mines.

(Source: Strategic Orientations – Angola 2025, 2007)

The Province of Benguela

The Province of Benguela, in the central-western part of the country, is considered the second largest Province, in respect to both population and economics, after the Province of Luanda, where the country’s capital city is located. Benguela has an estimated population of 2.9 million people, distributed in nine municipalities. The city of Benguela is the provincial capital, and Lobito the port city; this is the location of the two largest concentrations of housing, covering approximately 70% of the state’s population.

The living conditions of the majority of the province’s population are not much different from that of the rest of the country. The lower-income families suffered very much from the armed conflict, and a huge part of the farm population has moved into the cities looking for protection and better living conditions. The war’s consequences are still felt by the people, and the majority of Benguela’s inhabitants are still living in poor conditions. Some social indicators are shown in Exhibit 2.

Province of Benguela's Social Indicators

Exhibit 2--Province of Benguela's Social Indicators.

(Source: Provincial Government of Benguela, July 2002, and World Health Organization–2007.)

To reverse this situation, the Benguela’s provincial government has initiated many efforts to improve the quality of life for the general population. Since the end of the civil war, many programs have been executed in the areas of health, education, and infrastructure, to improve the living conditions of the province’s inhabitants, along with many international assistance (technical and financial) actions. The province has become a big building site, with the construction of roads, schools, hospitals, and new energy and water supply networks. As there are many needs, the program’s portfolio prioritization takes on great importance, focusing on fixing problems that affect most of the poor population.

Human Development Index: One of the Main Challenges to the Province’s Development

At the Millennium Conference held in September 2000, Angola was among the 191 countries that adopted the Millennium Declaration as a commitment to promote peace and sustainable development. In the Millennium Declaration, eight millennium development goals (MDGs), a set of time-limited (until 2015) targets, were outlined: to reduce poverty by half, provide food to all families, provide education to all children, contain the spread of HIV/AIDS, among others. These goals constitute a challenge for Angolan society and for the United Nations.

The United Nations system, through the UNDP (United Nations Development Program) established the Human Development Index (HDI) and its three dimensions (life expectancy, education, and income) as a more expansive way to measure the progress of human development, considering social aspects such as access to health and education and economic aspects such as income distribution. According to the progress report made by UNDP, Angola is currently in position 162 in the HDI ranking, within the range of countries with low human development, as shown in Exhibit 3.

Angola and other countries' HDI

Exhibit 3--Angola and other countries' HDI.

(Source: UNDP report, 2007.)

Target to Province of Benguela's HDI progress

Exhibit 4--Target to Province of Benguela's HDI progress.

(Source: Province's Economic and Social Development Program 2009-2013.)

One of the most important challenges for the development strategy, because of the priority of the social concerns, relates to raising the HDI, setting the goal of reaching the Medium Development Level during the Province’s Medium-Term Program execution period, until 2013. The desired evolution is shown in Exhibit 4, aiming for a new level of quality of the services provided by the state and directed towards improving the living conditions of the population.

The Planning Coverage and Alignment between Strategy, Projects and Programs.

A detailed diagnostic was carried out in each of anumber of sectors and, as shown in Exhibit 5, this was done collaboratively with all of the “provincial adiminstrations” (the same as State Secretariat) and municipal administrations (or city halls). This phase took about 3 months to finish and involved other civil society and government actors, such as provincial leaders, municipal and communal administrations, the traditional leaders (Sobas), and civil society representatives, including teachers, doctors, and other professionals. In total:

  • More than 500 people participated in theme-based meetings at the provincial and municipal headquarters
  • 58 towns/villages were visited in the 27 communes in the nine municipalities of the province
  • More than 4500 km traveled.
Benguela's public management sectors in its domains

Exhibit 5--Benguela's public management sectors in its domains.

(Source: Province of Benguela's Studies, Planning and Statistics Office–Province's Economic and Social Development Plan 2009-2013.)

As a consequence of the long period of civil war and the degradation of the public infrastructure, the force, effort, and vision required by the leadership in order to succeed in this kind of planning process in this unique moment in the country’s history is enormous, and it is almost impossible to be done without competent assistance and creativity to adapt the concepts and techniques to the local reality. With our approach, concepts and techniques--- the situational strategic planning (SSP) method, as well as basic principles of the balanced score board (BSC)---were used for strategic planning in an appropriate way, given the local reality.

Given the name “Province of Benguela Economic and Social Development Plan” (PBESDP/09-13), it covers all of the province’s social and economic sectors and establishes a vision for development in medium term, with goals, policies, and targets to achieve in each sector, grouped in four areas or domains, as shown in Exhibit 6.

Provincial Goals for Development Within the Four Domains

Exhibit 6--Provincial Goals for Development Within the Four Domains.

(Source: Province of Benguela's Studies, Planning and Statistics Office–Province's Economic and Social Development Plan 2009--2013.)

The plan for the province is divided into municipal development plans, each reflecting the interests of their respective populations, collected in public meetings where more than 600 hundred people representing civil society participated (i.e., entrepreneurs, nongovernmental organizations, traditional and religious authorities). In some cities, the local presentations were given in both Portuguese and the local native language, Umbundo.

According to Huertas (1996), “Planning is a tool to think and create the future, because it contributes with a way of seeing things that goes beyond the obstacles of the path and gets to the Virgin land’s border, not yet touched and won by human beings.” On the other hand, to transform reality, concrete actions that contribute to the achievement of recommended and focused strategy goals, are necessary. According to Saldanha (2006), “Planning in the strategic level, for being generic and inclusive, must be divided in tactical plans, developed at the intermediate level of the organization, each focused on its department. It is necessary to consider that each tactical plan needs to be divided in many operational plans, developed at the operational level of each organization, and carefully detailing each task or activity to be executed.”

Strategic Alignment of the Province's Medium Term Program

Picture 7 – Strategic Alignment of the Province's Medium Term Program

Source: Province of Benguela's Studies, Planning and Statistics Office – Province's Economic and Social Development Plan 2009-2013

Aligned with the strategies from the MDGs and in light of the strategies of the 2025 Future Vision of Angolan Development, projects and programs were designed to reach these goals, as Exhibit 6 shows. The project portfolio will be the basis for a portfolio management system, which will help select and prioritize the projects that will bring the best results towards achieving the development goals outlined, allowing the government to take action in ways aligned to ensure the best results, even with the limitations and capabilities imposed on the public administration. According to Lima (2007), “The result is the only acceptable reference in valuating and organization’s management: the obtained achievements allow any public organization to position itself in a scale that goes from failure to success.”

A Calendar for Development

Wave planning is the technique used in long-term projects or in situations that as yet have no detailed information. According to Dombkins (2007), “Wave Planning is a method for complex planning projects that has characteristics of waves or cycles.” The short-term actions are planned at a more detailed level, while the long-term is planned as it moves forward in time and reduces the uncertainties about both the strategic scenarios proposed at the planning phase and the progress towards the achievement of recommended goals.

In this sense, the government’s actions were organized in a calendar, made up of intervention measures, chronologically grouped into “Three Big Waves to the Province’s Medium-Term Development”. As Exhibit 7 shows, the first wave proposes structural measures and has the goal of preparing the environment in order to execute the development program; priority measures in the second wave focus on the improvement of living conditions, restoration of basic infrastructure and public services, and sustainable measures; and, priority measures in the third wave focus on the consolidation of economic and social sustainable development.

The “Three Big Waves to the Province of Benguela's Medium-Term Development (2009 – 2013)

Exhibit 8--The “Three Big Waves to the Province of Benguela's Medium-Term Development (2009 – 2013).

(Source: Province of Benguela's Studies, Planning and Statistics Office–Province's Economic and Social Development Plan 2009-2013.)

Another concern of the team was about the balance of this extensive programs and projects portfolio in nine municipalities, within the plan’s period. According to standard for portfolio management (Project Management Institute [PMI], 2006), the portfolio balance has the objective of creating a diversified portfolio with the greatest potential of achieving the strategic goals. To balance and prioritize an extensive projects and programs portfolio, analyses were made with the state’s secretariats, municipal administrations, and with the Studies, Planning, and Statistics Office–State's Planning Office.

The quantified targets for each secretariat will be used as indicators, or KPIs, which will be regularly measured by the Statistics Sector of the Provincial Government. The purpose of those indicators is monitoring the plan’s execution, focusing the results and generated benefits, and in a participative way, guiding the application of resources in the form of programs and projects and balancing the actions in the four domains established for the development of the province.

So that the actions can be properly be managed within the development waves, it was necessary to establish clear rules for the management of the portfolio in order to be aligned with the strategic goals of the four development domains. According to Dye and Pennypacker (1999), “Portfolio Management is the art and science of establishing knowledge, tools and techniques in a collection of projects to achieve or exceed the needs and expectations of an organization’s investment strategy.” By the end of the actions planning step, approximately 1,800 proposals of programs and projects were identified among the various provincial and municipal government agencies, which then started to compose a provincial global portfolio.

Using as a basis the concepts of a Standard for Portfolio Management (PMI, 2006), a specific process was designed to help the selection and prioritization process of so many simultaneous actions in ways to best meet expectations. The main actions were:

  • Identification of all projects that should be done by the Province in the planning period (2009-2013)
  • Separation of the projects according to the established types, through categorization
  • Alignment of the projects with strategic goals, and determination of the medium-term targets
  • Development of a model project plan to help the state’s secretariats structure the projects’ planning (first development plan)
  • Assistance with the prioritization of actions, in accordance with budgetary limitations
The Province of Benguela Portfolio Management Process

Exhibit 9 – The Province of Benguela Portfolio Management Process.

(Source: Province of Benguela’s Studies, Planning, and Statistics Office–Province’s Economic and Social
Development Plan 2009-2013.)


The social and economic development plan for 2009--2013 includes a portfolio of more than 1,800 proposals for programs and projects, defining the vision of the future goals and targets for the development of the province, broken down into nine municipal development plans.

During the plan’s execution period, controlling and monitoring activities must be done to ensure the best results towards the recommended goals. In addition, there must be a continuous process for revising the plan to reflect the changing reality, keeping a step ahead of the adversity and changes that this dynamic environment will surely produce. In this way, these plans will contribute to making real the vision of a more human future for the population of the province of Benguela and to the people of Angola.

The use of the strategic planning concepts and practices on the projects, programs, and portfolio management introduces into the public sector a culture of planning actions to deal with society’s problems, in a strategic and organized way, focusing on the medium-term results and aligning them with the long-term strategy.

In the current environment of constant and rapid changes, it is possible to say that Angola and the province of Benguela’s government initiatives are laudable and show the country’s anxiousness to achieve development in a structured and sustainable way.


Dye, L. D., & Pennypacker, J.S. (1999). Project portfolio management: Selecting and prioritizing projects for competitive advantage. Glen Mills, PA: Center for Business Practices.

Dombkins, D. H. (2007). Wave planning. PM World Today, 9(10),1-13.

Huertas, F. (1996). The SSPMethod: Interview with Matus. Sao Paulo, Brazil:FUNDAP.

Lima, P., & Barreto, D. (2007). Excellence in public management: Gespublica’s trajectory and strategy. Rio de Janeiro: Qualitymark.

Matias-Pereira, J.(2007). Conteporary public management handbook. Sao Paulo, Brazil: Atlas.

Project Management Institute. (2006). The standard for portfolio management. Newtown Square, PA: Project Management Institute.

Saldanha, C. (2006). Introduction to public management. Sao Paulo, Brazil: Saraiva.

© 2008, Xisto Alves de Souza Junior, PMP, Andre Augusto Choma, PMP e Dumilde Das Chagas Simões Rangel
Originally published as a part of PMI Global Congress Proceedings – Denver, Colorado



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