The country’s recent elections showed that business as usual is no longer an optionby Alex Vines / August 31, 2017 / Leave a comment
Finally, change is coming to Angola. Multiparty elections in August saw Africa’s second longest-serving president, José Eduardo dos Santos, step down from the presidency after almost 38 years in power. João Lourenço will be sworn in soon—Angola’s third president since independence in 1975.
The final results are yet to be announced, but preliminary numbers suggest that the People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) has won 61.1 per cent of the vote (although this is being contested by the opposition). An impressive total by British standards, but if the figures are correct they show that while turnout was up 13 per cent on the last election in 2012, the MPLA’s vote share is significantly down. Business as usual is no longer an option for the party.
Dos Santos’s resignation will not be enough to reassure Angola’s electorate. The country’s economy, which, after years of rapid growth, contracted 3.6 percent in 2016, has been badly hit by a fall in crude prices (they have halved since 2014), and Angola’s voters have punished the MPLA for excessive corruption and the weak economy. The next election in 2022 will be much closer—and the MPLA can no longer rely on its liberationist credentials. Angola has an increasingly youthful population made up of those who have only known independence, while many older Angolans are prioritising poverty reduction and economic growth.
And here’s the thing: they are right to. The country faces deep structural challenges in the years ahead—and Britain has a role to play in ensuring the country gets back on track.
Angola’s economy is dominated by oil. Today, it depends on the offshore petroleum industry which accounts for 50 per cent of GDP and 75 per cent of government revenue. As an OPEC member and Africa’s second largest oil producer, the country has over the last decade or so attracted increasing UK interest. Britain became more deeply engaged in Angola after its civil war ended in 2002 and Claire Short, former Secretary of State for International Development, regarded the country as important enough to open a DFID office (though this was closed in 2009).
Recent Conservative governments have been less engaged than their Labour predecessors, however. They have introduced prime ministerial trade envoys, including one for Angola, but with the sharp decline…