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Angola: Has President Lourenço delivered an ‘economic miracle’?

In depth
This article is part of the dossier: João Lourenço’s Angola

By Estelle Maussion
Posted on Monday, 10 May 2021 18:57, updated on Tuesday, 11 May 2021 03:57

President of Angola Joao Lourenco attends a wreath laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier by the Kremlin wall in Moscow, Russia,
President of Angola Joao Lourenco attends a wreath laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier by the Kremlin wall in Moscow, Russia, Thursday, April 4, 2019. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin, Pool)

When João Lourenço’s took over as president, it marked a turning point in Angolan history. In September 2017, after 38 years of rule by José Eduardo dos Santos, he took the reins as president of Africa’s second biggest oil producer. And with that, inherited a Herculean project of turning around the country.

This is part 1 of a 6-part series.

It was a transition rather than a transfer of power, as both men belong to the Movimento Popular de Libertação de Angola (MPLA), the party that has governed the nation since 1975.

While Lourenço may be a pure product of the system, he was nevertheless quick to promise that he would turn the page on past missteps and put an end to governance plagued by corruption, nepotism and impunity.

A tall order

Ties with the former first family were abruptly severed. José Eduardo dos Santos, his eldest daughter Isabel (who ranked as Africa’s top female billionaire in 2013 according to Forbes) and his second daughter, Tchizé, currently live abroad.

The ex-president’s first-born son, José Filomeno, stayed behind in Luanda, where an Angolan court sentenced him to five years in prison.

Meanwhile, problems have piled up for President Lourenço, who has had to contend with a major economic crisis – fuelled by the fall in oil prices and the Covid-19 pandemic – while facing silent, but very real challenges to his leadership, even from within his own party.

Will Lourenço’s gamble pay off and allow him to deliver an “economic miracle” for Angola? Will he be able to make something new out of the old? And how can he make a real difference when the past weighs so heavily on society and mindsets? This five-part series attempts to answer these questions.

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