The influence-peddling of Grupo Gema

When Pope Benedict XVI visited Angola in March 2009, President José Eduardo dos Santos made a speech in which he proclaimed the virtues of private economic initiative. He called on Angolan businesspeople and shareholders to invest in projects of national interest “that seek to combat unemployment, poverty, and homelessness, and to improve the goods and services on offer”. Dos Santos nevertheless emphasised the need to keep private business separate from state business. He said he was ready to fight against the misappropriation of public goods by state functionaries.

Grupo Gema has been one of the fastest-growing private initiatives over the past few years in Angola. It controls part of the drinks market in Angola through its partnership with SABMiller in Coca-Cola Luanda Bottling, and through its role in Ucerba, which is a major shareholder in the country’s biggest breweries: Cuca, Nocal and Eka.  In the petroleum sector the group, through its subsidiary Geminas, is in partnership with the Brazilian multinational Petrobrás, the Sino-Angolan Sonangol Sinopec International, Falcon Oil and the Angolan state company, Sonangol, in the exploration of Block 18/06. In construction, Grupo Gema is a partner with Edifer, one of the biggest Portuguese firms in the sector, in EdiferAngola and Construções Fortaleza; it also has a joint-venture with the Portuguese company Escom, part of the Espírito Santo group, and with Camargo Corrêa in the Palanca Cimento project. Grupo Gema also has stakes in the automobile market, through its company Vauco, which represents General Motors, Peugeot and Honda in Angola.

The company is composed mainly of public office holders and their families whose positions have allowed complete access to state resources, and have allowed them to have a say in the government’s decisions on privatisation, foreign investments and support for the private business sector.

This investigation deals first of all with the group’s shareholding structure, detailing the blending of state power and private interests by its shareholders. Second, it situates the growth in Grupo Gema’s interests with various decisions by the Council of Ministers, whose secretary is a shareholder in the group, as well as with various laws that define the relationship between public duty and private interest.
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