THE BLOG

Angola's Wealth and the Angolans' Impoverishment

Undertaking a rapid search about Angola in the news, we discover powerful headlines such as "President's Vision in Higher Education Development Highlighted", "Angola attends high level dialogue on health after 2015", "Angola may host African cup in 2016" or even "Angola continues with legal definition of the continental shelf." Most pinpoint a modern fast-growing country.

Angola's fast pacing economy is essentially motivated by its oil sector, the greatest source of income for the State's General Budget and it is currently the second largest oil producer in Africa, after Nigeria. It is curious to observe Angola's government continuously reminding that the oil revenues contribute significantly to the development of the region in other areas, for example housing, energy, water, education, health, agriculture and employment. Nevertheless the oil sector employs less than 1 percent of the total labor force. Diverse industries should be developed to eradicate poverty and to combat the unemployment rate that is 'officially' estimated at around 26 percent (it is almost certainly higher).

It is deplorable that the exceptionally high revenues obtained from a natural resource cohabit in the same country, shoulder to shoulder, with extreme poverty. There is still a high percentage of the population living below the poverty line, on less than $1.25 a day. Angola is a country of profound disparities. While there are millions of people living without basic necessities and facing extreme difficulties, Isabel dos Santos, the eldest daughter of Angola's president, became Africa's first female billionaire.

Such discrepancies drive us to a recurrent question: Where is the oil money? Unfortunately, for as long as we don't have transparency growing side by side with economy, the answer to this question remains unavailable.

Various investments have been made in Portugal, namely in banks, energy and telecommunication companies. Yet, in the last weeks a certain tension arose between those two countries, originated by an article published in a Portuguese newspaper stating that an Angolan Attorney General was being investigated on suspicion of fraud and money laundering in Portugal. In reaction, the newspaper Jornal de Angola blamed a persecution of Angola's investments in Portugal and defended the end of all investments there. This episode was already settled due to immediate diplomatic efforts from both sides, but the pressure that Angola tried to make cannot be ignored.

The double standards in the Angolan society are also perceptible in the way that human rights are surreptitiously disregarded. Besides the work of several organizations fighting human rights violations, the book Blood Diamonds: Corruption and Torture in Angola, written by the Angolan journalist Rafael Marques, denounces such violations.

How can a person still pay a lot of money (or any money at all) for a diamond after knowing that there are diamond mining companies in Angola capable of anything to protect their mines? And by "anything" it really means that no limit is respected. Not even a human's life. Torture and killings are commonly used and wholly allowed. This is a sad reality that keeps occurring with total impunity because powerful people are involved in the industry, like the eight generals who tried to stop the book from being published in Portugal without success.

No economic growth can excuse these abuses and no wealth should make the rest of the world silent.

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