Category Archives: Africa

Angola and Portugal, a common struggle?

We are often confronted about the huge amounts of money some Angolan citizens spend in Portugal. We often read about their investments as well. We often tend to think it is a good thing.

As you may know, the Portuguese economy is frozen. We don’t have much money to neither invest nor to consume so any extra help will do.

There’s also the fact that Angola is a sovereign country. If there is money leaving the country against the best interest of the people, it is in first place their problem.

Now imagine there’s this guy who steals gold for living. He robs people on the streets, he robs from houses, whatever. He’s a total thieve. Let’s say he even took a necklace from my grandmother on her way to the supermarket, hurting her knees along the way.

The fact is that there are plenty of places buying gold without any consideration regarding the origin. So this inglorious thieve has the incentive to keep on robbing as he knows there will always be a buyer.

And what do you expect the owner of the place to do? Do you really expect him to say something about it and end up ruinning his beautiful business? With this economy? No way, a man’s gotta eat. I’m sorry for the old lady though, she should start carrying a gun or something.

My point is that laxity is dangerous: when you decide to take the dirty money you are actively incentivating corruption and deviant behaviour. There will always be excuses for doing it though, that’s why it is so dangerous to accept it the first time.

But back to our topic: all this investment from Angola, where does the money come from? Are those personal investments or is the money coming from the government budget? Is there even a difference?

Is it thievery? Or is it good business?

It is common knowledge that bags and bags full of money arrive ‘undercover’ from Luanda to the Lisbon airport. However, nobody (at least nobody with power to do anything) seems to find it weird.

Isabel dos Santos, the daugther of the President Eduardo dos Santos, is according to the Forbes magazine the most powerful woman in Africa. Her first business was Unitel, the biggest mobile operator in Angola, in partnership with Portugal Telecom and the state-owned Sonangol.

With Sonae, Isabel dos Santos took Continente retail stores to Angola.

In Portugal, Isabel dos Santos owns relevant shares on companies such as banks BPI and BIC, Galp Energia and Zon Multimedia, who is expected to acquire Optimus from Sonae.

There are rumours connecting such prodigious daughter to everything from traffic of diamonds to political bias, inside trading and lobbying. Without surprise, it looks like Portuguese elites are all over these schemes.

As companies and economic agents in Portugal try to make a profit out of the situation, they are enduring a regime of oppression in one of the poorest countries in the world, ranking 148th on 2013 HDI rankings, behind countries like Pakistan or Bangladesh.

So there is a common struggle after all: responsability.

Africa vs. Africans

@BBCAndrewH

Africa’s image abroad… Would it help if word “Africa” were used less and focus put instead on individual countries? http://t.co/KP7i6nko

Humanitarianism, according to Wikipedia, can be described as «an ethic of kindness, benevolence and sympathy extended universally and impartially to all human beings». Such kindness or benevolence often lead to Paternalism and therefore to the reinforcement of the prevalent oppressive structures within the global economic and social order.

The word “Africa” is, in my opinion, branded in a deeply humanitarian sense. However, it is well accepted today that only africans themselves can change their objective reality and build new, more developed, contexts. Such paternalism is extended to the representation of the Other, the African, who, we believe, needs to be saved from its own reality.

Not only Africa is branded under such paternalistic light as there are also certain sectors of the developed societes who are, still today, very active on selling negative prejudices about the continent, labeling african nations and societies as conflict-prone, discriminatory or even pre-civilized. These sectors insist not to see africans as individuals or human beings but more like animals, deprived of agency and, more broadly, of their own will, or soul.

The use of a greater degree of detail when refering to african countries can refresh the image of the continent and reinforce the curiosity of the people for its internal dynamics. Africa is a diverse continent, as defended by historians such as Elikia M’Bokolo, and therefore it must not be treated, from an academic perspective, as an indivisible whole, in prejudice of complexity.

The extensively use of the word “Africa” also contributes to create distance from its people, who live in much more specific contexts than a subjective and uniform Africa, hiding their concrete lifes from the eyes of the world.

A possible solution to this question is to consider the african reality as a fragmented object, featuring a wide range of links and interdependences among its different subsystems or components, by following a subject oriented, bottom-up approach.

It is crucial to identify latent issues at smaller levels of analysis, emanating from the real people who experience the objective reality – the Subjects, and to place them afterwards in more generalized contexts.

Last year, during the Lisbon and Estoril Film Festival, Somali born hip-hop artist K’naan took the stage to speak about the reality of his country. During such presentation, the artist made reference to a documentary film he was producing based on his last visit to the country. In the crowd, one listener from Angola raised word to ask the singer about government oppression. According to him, in Africa it was very difficult to escape government’s authority and dictatorship in order to attain freedom of expression. K’naan got somehow confused and answered that in Somalia the problem was not the excess of authority but more the lack of it.

Obviously the people from Angola are very concerned about the oppression they live in: it is a latent issue for them. However, after 5 minuts of dialog, it was clear to everyone in the room that despite the common problems of oppression, in a broad sense, and underdevelopment, very little can be generalized from one african country to another. Even africans are, sometimes, not awared of such complexities, and the media play a big role on such global desinformation.

Once we are able to objectively identify such latent issues, they can be used as a platform for global dialog and only by then can prejudice disappear and the image of the continent renewed.

It is important then to stop abusing the word “Africa”, as if it was a homogeneous reality, and to put the emphasis on the lifes of the people, the primary agents of development.

Who is Tchuna after all?

Normally I keep my sports talk away from this blog. However I feel like doing it today in order to pay a personal tribute to a fascinanting diaspora.

RvP-tchuna

Ilustration 1: RVP pays tribute to his friend and personal hairdresser Tchuna, one of many Cape Verdian emigrants in Netherlands

Since last Man Utd’s game there is an increasing buzz in the internet about who the hell was Tchuna. Some say it refers to the indian girl who died a few days ago, after being brutally rapped by a group of men while traveling in a public bus along with her boyfriend. Some say, and they’re right in some extent, as RVP has confirmed, that Tchuna was a close friend of the player from Rotterdam.

However, here in Portugal and more precisely here in Lisbon, the «most populated island of Cape Verde», as a colleague once told me, quite a few people seem to be aware of who Tchuna really was.

Tchuna, according to these people, was part of the great Cape Verdian diaspora, a country that lives outside its physical borders, and was radicated in Rotterdam, where he worked, among other things, as RVP’s personal hairdresser. National newspappers in Cape Verde are trying to clarify this situation since yesterday.

This whole apparatus also presents a tribute to globalization. News spread in Portugal that Tchuna from Santiago, Cape Verde, had passed away from cancer in the USA, where he was receiving treatment,  to be subject to a warm tribute, shortly afterwards, from a Dutch friend,  who happens to be a famous soccer professional with plenty of media coverage worldwide, working in England as a star player for the powerhouse Manchester United FC.

This is the fascinating world we’re living in. Wishes of a fulfiled 2013 to all.

Some thoughts on US upcoming elections

I’m no expert in none of the topics below. However, and since there is a widespread disbelief about the importance of next American elections, I felt like pointing out a couple of points I believe to be worthy of consideration for non-American citizens. It isn’t like we have a voice but, in the age of globalization, we sure could use some.

First of all, America’s approach to economic policy remains very influent, while setting the tone for economic policy worldwide. As Stiglitz points out:

(…) Romney has not really distanced himself from the Bush administration’s policies. On the contrary, his campaign has featured the same advisers, the same devotion to higher military spending, the same belief that tax cuts for the rich are the solution to every economic problem, and the same fuzzy budget math.

Therefore, if you are not exactly in line with “austerity politics” or, more broadly, with “structural adjustment” and economic contraction, then Romney’s not your guy. While we global citizens are trying to make the push for the implementation of adjustment policies more prone to economic growth, job creation and to overcome deprivation, we can use some support from a candidate like Obama, more keynesian-oriented, than the righ-winged, business as usual, Reagan-inspired Romney.

In fact, the area where we can express greater praise for Obama is precisely in fighting deprivation – health deprivation, to be concise. As the The Economist explains:

The other qualified achievement [of Obama’s Administration] is health reform. Even to a newspaper with no love for big government, the fact that over 40m people had no health coverage in a country as rich as America was a scandal.

Obama deserves praise not only for doing the right thing, building capabilities for the more vulnerable american households, but also for the example Obamacare represents for all the developed states, urging to get rid of their social responsabilities in favor of budget consolidation. I’d like to see similar commitment to providing better education for the very same vulnerable households, in a country where the poor get poor health, poor education and very poor opportunities.

However, there’s a major challenge in chasing such noble social goals: America cannot continue to tax like a small government while spending like a big one. Some adjustments are necessary and they need to be done as soon as possible and in a way that reduces the widening gap between the rich and the poor.

Additionaly, environment and climate change cannot be ignored no more. While both Romney and Obama did not pay great attention to this issue during the campaign – at least before “Sandy” crushed in – Obama is more likely to do something about it than the very skeptic market-solves-all-bads Romney, trapped in a party of “climate deniers”.

Regarding trade, well, we don’t need a trade war between America and China at this point of our lives. We really don’t, Mr. Romney. Obama wins again.

Is is also commonly accepted today that balanced regulation enables markets to operate better, not the contrary, as some highly iluminated minds around Romney seem to believe. Even though Obama has not excelled on his trade and commerce policies, it is hard to imagine how Romney could even do better.

Said this, Obama has not been perfect. Far from it. As strange as it may sound, it was during Obama’s mandate that China overtook the US as Africa’s largest trading partner. Quoting from Reuteurs:

In 2009, China overtook the United States as Africa’s largest trading partner. According to the Brookings Institution, President Hu Jintao of China has made up to seven trips to Africa, five as head of state, and has visited at least 17 countries. In contrast, Obama’s 20-hour 2009 sojourn in Ghana has been his only trip to sub-Saharan Africa as president.

“We would have expected to see more American involvement instead of a retreat. If you go to many countries and ask them about who is doing more, they will tell you China,” said Mwangi Kimenyi, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.

In my personal opinion, Obama’s lowest point was reached in the day America got their public enemy number one, Osama Bin Laden.

I did appreciate the departure from the previous approach to the «War on Terror», sustented on “all muslims are suspects of terrorrism and all suspects of terrorrism can die and suffer if for the good of National Security”. Obama has managed to focus on terrorrists, dropping religion.

Anyway, war is still war, an invasion is still an invasion, aggression is still aggression and I still don’t understand why the Americans forced the occupation of  Afghanistan andI still don’t like OTAN and what it represents. It just doesn’t make sense in today’s world, I have expressed it before.

I must say I was extremely disappointed with Obama the day I saw him celebrating cheerfuly the murdered of another human being, even though it was for the good of National Security (or was it revenge?). Osama Bin Laden was a criminal and I do not support criminals; however, criminals belong to justice, not to graveyards. Martyrs belong to graveyards, and, as I see it, we sure didn’t want any more of those.

Four years ago, I had great expectations for Obama. I’ve spent Election’s night celebrating his announced victory. We all thought he could make the difference in a increasingly multipolar and globalized world. He proved he cannot do such thing, at least alone. He proved to be a lot weaker than we thought, in a variety of topics.

But Romney just shouldn’t represent a viable option in today’s world.

A Herança do Portugal Africano