Friends of Angola

By Henrique Almeida | Bloomberg

Angolan President Joao Lourenco pledged Thursday to continue his fight against “the cancer of corruption” and roll back the African nation’s oil dependency by investing in other sectors of the economy to bolster growth.

Battling graft has been a cornerstone of what Lourenco has called the “new Angola” since taking the helm of Africa’s second-biggest oil producer last year from Jose Eduardo dos Santos, who ruled for 38 years. Angola is ranked one of the world’s most corrupt nations by Transparency International.

“There is a need to moralize our society as a whole,” Lourenco said in a speech to the Portuguese parliament during a three-day visit to the country. Earlier Thursday, Lourenco compared his government’s fight against corruption to meddling with a nest of wasps.

“We have already felt some stings but that won’t kill us. It won’t make us back off. We need to destroy that nest,” said Lourenco.

A once-loyal defense minister under Dos Santos, Lourenco has dismantled the influence of his predecessor’s family over key sectors of Angola’s economy by firing Dos Santos’ daughter Isabel as chairwoman of state oil producer Sonangol and dismissing his son, Jose Filomeno, as head of the country’s $5 billion sovereign wealth fund. Jose Filomeno is currently detained in the capital, Luanda, in relation to a $500 million illegal transfer abroad.

Presidential Friction
Friction between Lourenco and Dos Santos escalated on Wednesday when a frail-looking Dos Santos held a press conference in Luanda to deny claims made by Lourenco that he found Angola’s state coffers empty when he came to power. Lourenco on Thursday declined to comment, saying it’s a domestic political matter.

Brave measures to diversify and reform Angola’s economy are starting to bear fruit and gross domestic product is now expected to post a slight recovery next year, Lourenco said. Angola forecasts growth will rise as much as 2.8 percent in 2019 from a contraction of 1.1 percent this year, Economic Development Minister Manuel Nunes Junior said Oct. 31.

A new program with the International Monetary Fund, which is currently being negotiated, is also expected to bolster confidence in Angola’s economy, he said.

“We would like to forget that oil exists and start living from other sectors of the economy,” said Lourenco.