Angola: When the Wolves can Dance with the Goats

This is an edited version of the presentation made at the Conference: A Celebration of Mandela’s Legacy and a Reflection on Democracy and Good Governance in Africa.   I am honored to return to the European Parliament as a guest of the Socialists and Democrats Group, for Africa Week. This meeting is special – it coincides with the centenary of the birth of one of Africa’s most celebrated leaders, Nelson Mandela. So it is a fitting day on which we take the opportunity to pay homage to his wise legacy and share our views on democracy and good governance. In Africa, what counts as democracy and good governance? The definition of these two concepts has spawned many political arguments – not to mention an entire industry of scholarship. In homage to Mandela, and with regard to the relationship between rulers and the ruled on the African continent, allow me to […]

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Angola’s ‘Money Pit’ Currency Museum

The Banco Nacional de Angola (BNA), the country’s central bank, is housed in one of the prettiest colonial buildings that the capital city has to offer: a confection of Portuguese colonial construction in pink and white, consisting of two colonnaded wings which meet at a circular tower topped by a distinctive red-tiled cupola. The ‘wedding cake’, completed in 1956, occupies an entire block of Luanda’s Marginal, the gently-curving and tree-lined avenue which runs the length of the picturesque bay. Buried in the paved pedestrian square alongside the bank, some meters beneath an elaborate winged structure, is one of the city’s lesser known museums: the subterranean ‘Museu da Moeda’ (the Currency Museum). Opened in 2016, it may only have a single below-ground exhibition room with exhibits of dubious worth but this museum is worthy of a little more attention than it has received so far. The Currency Museum project, which began […]

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Angolan Port Authority Seeks End to Sogester Contract

The Danish multinational giant, Maersk, stands accused of making obscene profits at the expense of Angolan dockworkers amid calls for the contract awarded to its subsidiary, Sogester, to be ripped up. The Port of Namibe says it is struggling to pay its workers because it is powerless to revoke a 2014 contract which gives 90% of income to the port’s commercial operator, Sogester, a joint partnership between the Maersk group’s APM Terminals and a company which is the commercial arm of Angola’s ruling MPLA party. According to the Port of Namibe board chairman, António Samuel, “it has been an enormous struggle to safeguard workers’ pay and keep going on the 10%”. The dockworkers’ union agrees – and says it is high time this contract was torn up. The port authority and union are hoping the government of President João Lourenço (elected in September 2017) will step in to review what […]

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Swindling Angola’s Central Bank

Although to date Angola’s efforts have focused on severing ties to Jean-Claude Bastos de Morais’ management of the Sovereign Wealth Fund, his involvement in what is alleged to have been the systematic theft of money from the Angolan public purse goes further than the mismanagement of the Sovereign Fund. Up to now the government has remained totally silent about a further US $3 billion dollars that Bastos secured from Angola’s Central Bank (Banco Nacional de Angola – BNA). As with the Sovereign Fund monies, the BNA funds also found their way to the Northern Trust Bank in England, reportedly used as the hub for diverting funds obtained from Angola into Bastos’ Swiss-based Quantum Global Group. Maka Angola expanded its investigations after a whistleblower from the BNA entered into contact subject to guarantees of anonymity. The BNA official asserted that “these funds [the BNA’s US$3 billion] have been managed without accountability.” […]

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A Cautionary Tale for Foreign Investors in Angola

It may have looked like ‘easy pickings’. The property market in Angola was booming: extreme shortages of decent housing in the face of overwhelming demand (especially in the capital, Luanda) meant that hotel rates and rents had soared to become the highest of any city in the world. For non-Angolans with capital to invest, offers of bonds and equity in joint-venture companies promising a multi-million dollar portfolio of properties with guaranteed monthly income, seemed a sure-fire prospect. But as with any investment that offers a high return, there is often high risk. And nowhere more so than when dealing with the kleptocracy that ruled Angola for four decades. As ongoing lawsuits in both Angola and the USA have shown, it is all too easy for well-connected Angolans to swindle their foreign partners, and get away with it. Just ask Africa Growth Corporation (known by its acronyms AGC* or AFCO) (*See […]

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Isabel dos Santos: The Fall of Africa’s Richest Woman

Just think for a minute. In a two-year span, a father gave his daughter, among several contracts, four that were worth over US $22 billion. The father is then President José Eduardo dos Santos, and the daughter is Isabel, Africa’s richest woman. These were the golden days of the presidential family’s capture of Angola. Period. In the past month, with a stroke of a pen, General João Lourenço has annulled the four egregious contracts. The former “princess” is crying foul, and is threatening to sue the Angolan state however, the state is calling out her bluff. Her fortune is about to tumble like a house of cards, just as her father’s power fell flat once he left office after 38 years. Through her father’s presidential decrees, Isabel built her fortune. Now, ironically, the man her father personally chose to replace him is first and foremost taking away the family’s fortunes […]

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Sums Don’t Add up for Angolan Central Bank

Angola’s central bank, the Banco Nacional de Angola (BNA) has failed to produce its accounts for the second year running, with the current BNA Governor, José de Lima Massano, forced to issue a written explanation to the Angolan President. In so doing, Massano has brought to light a convoluted financial arrangement, sanctioned by one of his predecessors, in which the BNA unlawfully acted as guarantor for a US $200 million foreign loan for a private bank, the Banco de Negócios Internacional (BNI). Angola’s Banking Laws authorize the BNA to intervene to help a private bank only as a lender of last resort to inject liquidity during a temporary crisis, and only on condition that the private bank has sufficient collateral in non-liquid assets. The BNI case did not meet the criteria on any count. It is further alleged that the loan was obtained under false pretences, and that the BNI […]

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Lourenço’s “Flying Palace” and a Coconut Head

Following his 11-day European tour, Angolan president, João Lourenço, arrived home with a staggering flight bill. He spent several million dollars on a US $74,000 an hour luxurious “flying palace” that transported him the whole time, while preaching anti-corruption at home. The distinguished Ghanaian economist and activist, George Ayittey, has a name for this kind of a leader: a coconut head. For Ayittey, a coconut head is a leader, who, rather than run his country ruins it through folly and depraved indifference to the suffering of ordinary people. Many Angolans saw the social media images of the world’s only private US $350 million Boeing Dreamliner 787 VVIP ostentatiousness. Owned by the Chinese  HNA Group, this plane is the world’s largest luxury business charter. Few wanted to match it with the plane that took President Lourenço to state visits in France and Belgium, as well as a private visit to Spain. […]

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My Trial and The Law to Allow Money Laundering

I am due back in court on May 21 for exposing corruption. The corrupt former attorney general of the Republic, General João Maria de Sousa, is the plaintiff. He has failed to appear in court for the past two months. He even demanded that the trial be moved from the courtroom to the Office of the Attorney General, claiming immunity and privileges. But on April 25, he fled to Portugal and became, for the third time, a runaway plaintiff. There is a great irony in this trial that exposes the farcical anti-corruption discourse of President João Lourenço. On May 17, his ruling MPLA, in power for the past 42 years, passed the Law for the Repatriation of Capital. This new law might as well be aptly named the Law on Money Laundering, for that is what it is. According to this law, those who have siphoned off funds from the […]

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Behind the Smoke Screen: An Authoritarian New President

After the 2017 elections, the hopes ordinary Angolans placed on President João Lourenço were so high that many regarded him as a gift from God. Next September, his predecessor, José Eduardo dos Santos, will finally step down from the leadership of the ruling MPLA, after 39 years. The combined imperial powers of the country’s presidency and of the MPLA will make João Lourenço the absolute ruler of Angola, and it does not bode well for the country. The political partisanship of the army and the militarization of justice are two troubling trends seen since Lourenço took office. Both need to be addressed urgently before he gets comfortable with absolute power. Initially, President Lourenço enjoyed a surge of popularity thanks to a strong anti-corruption stance. He fired his predecessor’s children from key positions, and ditched some other rotten apples. He also allowed for some other senior officials to be publicly named […]

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