An ex-colony may be getting the better, in economic terms, of its old master
Sep 3rd 2011 | LUANDA | from the print edition
THE airport at Luanda, Angola’s capital, is called “The Fourth of February” after the start of the nationalist uprising against Portugal, the old imperial power, in 1961. But that is not deterring the thousands of Portuguese flooding in every week. With Portugal’s economy sickly, a stream of professionals has been heading south to the former colony. Portugal’s foreign ministry says it registered 45,000 Portuguese citizens as resident in Angola in 2007-08. A year later the figure had jumped to 92,000. Not long ago, Angolans were fleeing a civil war, looking for a better life in Portugal.
Vying with Nigeria to be Africa’s largest producer of crude oil, Angola is awash with Chinese credit to the tune of $14.5 billion. The IMF reckons its GDP will grow by 7.8% this year and 10.5% next. Portuguese building companies such as Teixeira Duarte, Soares de Costa and Mota Engil have been switching from the home market to Angola’s. Portuguese banks dominate Luanda’s financial sector.
But the tables may be turning. Now Angolan state and private investors are eyeing Portugal. Angola’s Banco BIC, part-owned by Isabel dos Santos, the eldest daughter of Angola’s president of 32 years, José Eduardo dos Santos, is to buy Portugal’s Banco Português de Negócios (BPN) for $58m, a fifth of the original asking price of $260m. The IMF made the sale of BPN a condition for Portugal to get its recent bail-out of $113 billion.
After a recent visit to Angola by Portugal’s foreign minister, Paulo Portas, Angola’s government was said to be studying Portugal’s privatisation plans “very deeply”. Angola’s national oil company, Sonangol, buoyed by last year’s profit of $3 billion-plus, acts as the government’s main dealmaker and overseas investor. It has the biggest share (12%) in Portugal’s largest listed bank, Millennium BCP, and is sniffing for a stake in Portugal’s state energy firm, GALP. Earlier this year it bought a chunk of ESCOM, the African mining and property arm of Portugal’s Grupo Espirito Santo.
Apart from her stake in BIC Angola and BPN, Ms dos Santos owns just under 10% of Portugal’s Banco Português de Investimento (BPI), which runs Angola’s Banco Fomento de Angola (BFA); it has shares in several other banks. She has also bought a Portuguese cable-television provider, ZON Multimedia. Another of her companies, Condis, is teaming up with a Portuguese supermarket chain, Sonae, to launch a network of Continente outlets in Angola.
“Historically the Angolans worked for the Portuguese, but now it’s the Portuguese who are working for the Angolans,” says Paulo Pimenta, a Portuguese lawyer based in Mozambique. “People have to get used to it.” “This is definitely a first for Africa,” says Pedro Seabra of the Portuguese Institute for International Relations and Security, “that the dynamics between colony and master have been so inverted.”
Source: The Economist