João Lourenço; the Answer to Angolan Woes?

By Patrick Brogan

 

Angola, like many other African countries, has recently undergone a positive change after years of corruption. However, doubts still remain about the motives of the man instigating many of the reforms.

João Lourenço became President of Angola after José Eduardo dos Santos had reigned supreme for 38 years. Indeed, it was dos Santos that handpicked his successor in the form of Lourenço. Many felt that dos Santos would still wield the power from behind the curtain, much like he had done in public since 1978.

Lourenço’s actions caught many off guard. He began anti-corruption proceedings and much of it focused on the dos Santos offspring. His children controlled vast sections of the Angola economy and ran many public monopolies. Isabel dos Santos has been sacked from these jobs and is described as the richest woman in Africa and ninth overall with a net worth estimated to be over €2 billion. Indeed even the senior dos Santos is facing legal action for fraud as are many of his old cronies.

 

The African ibn Salman?

 

Many parallels can be drawn with the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed ibn Salman. He is trying to revive the economy after being rocked by falling oil prices. Clearing up corruption and changing archaic laws are vital to bringing in foreign investment. Like ibn Salman, many of the those accused of fraud and corruption are from the old guard. Is this a case of a true attempt at making the country more attractive to international investors or a show of strength telling the old-guard who the new boss is? For these men, it seems to shrewdly be a bit of both.

Lourenço is also taking the lead on many regional topics. The capital, Luanda, will play host to a peace conference next week with seven heads of states in attendance. He also sought to improve relations with the Ivory Coast. Lourenço also met with the President of the Democratic Republic of Congo Joseph Kabila to advise him on how to run a peaceful democratic election. Two things stand out here, Lourenço himself was never elected and Kabila has already served two terms, which is the limit under the law. He has, today, ruled himself out of the race, but many commentators have put this down to international pressure rather than his morals dictating. Lourenço is a complex man, and like ibn Salman, we have not heard the last of him yet.

 

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