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Angola’s People to Watch

Posted on Monday, 23 November 2009 17:12

José Eduardo dos Santos

Angola’s President is an obvious choice, but someone to watch no less. Fifteen years ago, the enigmatic Dos Santos was considered by many to be the pariah head of a so-called Marxist government and on the losing side of a vicious civil war. Since then, he has positioned Angola as a growing continental superpower. At the same time, buoyed by oil receipts, he has assiduously courted closer ties with the US, South America and Asia.

Meanwhile, Dos Santos has consolidated power in his ruling Movimento Popular de Libertaçao de Angola (MPLA), whilst sitting at the top of a vast and oil-fuelled patronage network. The MPLA garnered almost 82% of the vote in the 2008 legislative elections and won majorities in every province. Dos Santos will run and certainly win the presidential poll expected at the end of 2010. The bigger question is who will succeed him afterwards – and can that person hold the country together?

Manuel Vicente
CEO, Sonangol

Vicente, the mercurial CEO of Sonangol, has been at the forefront of the company’s transformation from a source of political patronage to the most sophisticated state-owned oil company in Africa. In a country where the division between public and private spheres is often blurred, Vicente has interests in companies which have benefited from state connections. He sits on the board of the Banco Africano de Investimentos, the favourite bank of the Futungo de Belas (the presidential palace); is vice-president of the Fundaçao Eduardo dos Santos, President Dos Santos’s charity; and is director of Unitel, Angola’s largest telecoms provider.

Mateus ‘Manucho’ Gonçalves
Striker, Real Valladolid

The one-time talismanic footballer has endured a difficult time of late. Having learned his trade from his father in the slums of Luanda’s Terra Nova suburb, Manucho was voted one of the best players at the 2008 African Cup of Nations (ACN) in Ghana, scoring a memorable 23-metre goal against the eventual winners, Egypt. Yet despite the expectations which greeted his signing for Manchester United in 2008, Manucho only lasted one season at Old Trafford before being deemed surplus to requirements.

After a mixed season at Premiership minnows Hull City, Manucho left for Spain’s sunnier shores and appears to have found his scoring touch again at Real Valladolid in the Primera Liga. Fans of the Black Antelopes hope that the lanky striker maintains his form at January’s ACN, which Angola hosts, after the team’s intense disappointment of not qualifying for the 2010 World Cup finals in South Africa.

Luzia Inglês Van-Dunem
Secretary-general, Organizaçao da Mulher Angolana (OMA)

The secretary-general of the OMA, the women’s wing of the MPLA, Van-Dunem is Angola’s most powerful and respected female politician. Her father, a Methodist pastor, was tortured to death by the colonial regime and her mother died shortly afterwards. At 13, Van Dunem joined MPLA guerrillas. Within the party, she has been trying to get more women into politics by introducing a requirement for parties to field electoral lists containing at least 30% female candidates. The result has been impressive. Since 1992, the number of women elected has nearly tripled, increasing from 29 to 81, or 36% of the 220 seats at the National Assembly. Van-Dunem has been quietly critical of the government’s lack of effort in the social sphere, despite its petrodollar-filled coffers

Isabel dos Santos

President Dos Santos’s daughter is the first family’s most famous oligarch and a competent business woman in her own right. Isabel helped set up the GENI group of companies, with interests in banking, oil, diamonds and construction, and has stakes in several of Angola’s most prominent companies including Unitel, Banco Internacional de Credito and Ciminvest. She is married to the Congolese businessman, Sindika Doloko. In the oil sector she is often represented by her husband, who sits on the board of Portugal’s Amorim Energia.

Bartolomeu Dias Domingos
Owner, Grupo Bartolomeu Dias

The success of entrepreneurs like Dias is a bellwether for the country’s investment climate, particularly as most coverage focuses on government-funded projects. Dias is the owner of one of Angola’s largest corporate groups, Grupo BD. Set up in 1992, it is a group of six independent companies working in industry, agriculture, import and export, transport, tourism and mining. Its turnover is a reported $320m and it has around 3,000 employees.

Dias began his career in agriculture, importing foodstuffs from Europe and South Africa at a time when a resurgent Uniao Nacional para a Independência Total de Angola (UNITA) declared a return to war, sealing off large areas of fertile countryside from major cities, especially Luanda. In 1997, he branched out into transport and logistics, purchasing a fleet of trucks against the advice of friends concerned by the worsening direction of the war. Grupo BD now owns a number of private jets to ferry VIPs around the country. Recently, Dias has focused on boosting manufacturing capacity, opening new foodstuff factories in southern Angola.

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