Tag Archives: Angola

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.

Transparency International CPI2012 shows Portugal must target corruption

Transparency International has just released its Corruption Perceptions Index 2012 and Portugal scores 63/100, ranking 33rd this year, one place below last year’s position and 3 points above the Cape Verde islands.

As austerity strengthens there’s no similar counterpart in anti-corruption measures to be issued by the political and governmental power in order to provide greater accountability of its actions and that of its employees.

It’s sad to verify such reality as prevalent corruption constitutes a “dirty tax”, leading to the appropriation of resources by public officials and to undesirable allocations of public investment from a development perspective.

Austerity combined with corruption leads to increasingly higher taxes with increasingly lower returns, a familiar cenario to most southern Europeans. On the other side, less corruption means better public investment with lower costs.

Said that, it’s frustrating to see Portugal ranking a barely positive grade as government officials demand so much from its citizens. Not only corruption takes away scarce resources from the economy but it also deteriorates competitiveness, budget consolidation and social stability, three major vectors of the structural adjustment programme itself.

Public distrust undermine political institutions,  triggering widespread trickle-down corruption and the construction of rent-seeking societies as a whole. In other words, if the wealthy and the powerful are corrupt and their corruption is tolerated by the guardians of the law, then there’s no real incentives for any other citizen to comply other than their ability to sleep at night.

Quality public investment is one of the most important channels of development and poverty alleviation. Low quality public investment often hurts the more vulnerable households who need it most, enhancing inequality and perpetuating poverty cycles. That playing along with the lack of information and accountability of the government officials creates the potential for greater social arrest and, consequently, further corruption, as can be seen in the case of Greece.

The above constitutes argument for the implementation of a strong anti-corruption policies, enhancing transparency and accountability towards closing the ever increasing gap between formal political institutions and the civil society.

Governance is an issue for a 38 years old Portuguese democracy approaching its midlife crisis at a fast pace. Portugal CPI (63/100) is below EU15 average CPI (72/100) and in line with EU27 average CPI (64/100). However, Portugal CPI is above PIGS (Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain) average CPI (51,5/100), mostly because of the aberrant CPIs presented by both Italy (42/100) and Greece (36/100).

The 16 point difference between the Portugese score and the EU15 – PIGS average CPI (79/100) sugests that Portugal can learn something from the experience of its neighbours, although there’s no applicable recipe for erradicating corruption.

It is clear that anti-corruption measures must play a significant role in shaping the future of the structural ajustment plans applied in southern Europe as Italy and Greece, especially, are perceived to be among the 3 most corrupt EU nations (the other is Bulgaria). In case these national governments don’t deal directly with such problems it is likely that further pressions for deviant behaviour emerge along with strengthened austerity.

The PALOP (African countries with Portuguese as official language) average CPI is 36/100. Mozambique (31/100 CPI), Guinea-Bissau (25/100 CPI) and Angola (22/100 CPI) rank among the most corrupt countries in the world. Botswana (65/100 CPI) and Cape Verde (60/100 CPI) are among the examples to emulate in Africa.