29 January 2013

Angola: How Much Is Her Daddy Worth?

Photo: Maka Angola
A cartoon in Maka Angola portraying allegations of corruption involving President dos Santos.


So now we know. Isabel dos Santos is officially Africa’s richest woman. In fact, she is the continent’s first ‘woman billionaire’ according to an appalling article on the Forbes magazine website, which was torn to shreds by Louise Redvers, who has lived in Luanda and who actually knows what she is talking about when it comes to Angola – and to the ever-increasing wealth of the dos Santos family.

But Louise's devastating critique only gets to the heart of the matter right at the end. Forbes’ typically fawning piece about another member of the global super-rich is grotesque because Isabel’s obscene wealth is in such stark contrast to the extreme poverty that the vast majority of her fellow Angolans are forced to endure. Because her father’s 33 years on the throne (sorry in the presidency) has allowed her to enrich herself to a sickening degree, while millions of Angolans scrabble to survive on less than a dollar a day (yup that’s a billion times less than Isabel). Because she can invest hundreds of millions of dollars in companies around the world, while most Angolans cannot invest even a pittance in their children’s education or their own health care because their net worth is nothing.

Because if Angolan were better governed – if it weren’t, as Louise so rightly puts it, treated as the personal ATM of the dos Santos family – and if its vast oil wealth were invested in providing education, water, health care, and electricity for everyone, Africa might (sadly for Forbes) still be waiting for its first ‘woman billionaire’ but Angola would be a far more equal place - where people not named dos Santos would have the chance to prosper.

Instead of celebrating her achievement in amassing so much money, Forbes and others should be celebrating Angola's real heroes - the men, women and children who somehow manage to survive each day against huge odds.

And then there is the elephant in the room – the great unanswered (and by Forbes, unasked) multi-billion dollar question. If Isabel is worth a billion dollars – how much is her daddy worth?

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