Saturday, March 28, 2015

Keeping it in the family

Angola has the third largest economy in Africa, with a GDP of $121bn in 2013. According to the auditors Ernst and Young, it was the world's fastest growing economy from 2000-10.  Yet it was  still classed as a "Low Human Development" country, coming 149/187 in the UN's Human Development Index for 2014. Angola’s wealth and power have stayed in the hands of a very few families. The Angolan elite lives in a world almost entirely disconnected from the rest of the country's population of 20 million. Its playground is the Ilha, a stretch of sand that curves out from Luanda, dotted with luxury villas, beachside restaurants and glitzy nightclubs. The rich and the beautiful sip $60 cocktails, as gleaming Porsches purr past, the wrists of their drivers heavy with Rolex watches. Prices are astronomical. It is as if they have been set deliberately high to enable people to show off just how wealthy they are. Why else would a supermarket charge $100 for a watermelon, $200 for a chicken? Shiny white super-yachts luxuriate in the blue of the sea. A swarm of new skyscrapers lines the horizon. One of the multi-million-dollar penthouse apartments has a helicopter landing pad. 

Isabel is the eldest daughter of President Dos Santos. Worth an estimated $3.4bn, she has been described by Forbes magazine as Africa's richest woman. Why do the media disguise the truth? She is Africa's biggest female thief and the world should treat her as such. 

Meanwhile, an estimated 70% of Angola's population survives on less than $2 a day - 90% of Luanda's population lives in slums. Child and maternal mortality rates are among the highest in the world - about one child in five doesn't surviving to the age of five, maternal mortality is 610 per 100,000 live births (UNICEF). The government makes sure local beer stays cheap - it costs less than $1 a bottle. It sponsors football clubs and pop concerts, and encourages churches; anything to distract the poor. Free drinks and T-shirts were enough to make sure that, on the eve of an opposition protest, a huge "pro-government" march was held. Rafael Marques in his book Blood Diamonds: Corruption and Torture in Angola, alleges the army and private security companies have been involved in burying miners alive, executing them en masse, and forcing them to leap to their deaths from speeding vehicles.

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