Another story (this one from AlJazeera) about rich Angolans buying up fancy properties and other luxury items in Lisbon. I’m not sure why this so captures my imagination? On the one hand, there is the clear tragedy that oil wealth is leaving the country to serve a privileged and politically-connected few, while most of the country remains deeply impoverished. On the other hand, such is the nature of oil wealth in so many places, and in this instance, one can’t help but be a little amused by the reversal of fortunes given the awful havoc Portuguese colonial rule wreaked upon Southern Africa.
While Portugal suffers from Euro-zone ailments, including an expected contraction in GDP, Angola has been rapidly increasing its presence in this European economy. Flush with cash from high oil prices, Angolan companies have been buying up shares on the Portuguese stock exchange. Meanwhile, Angolan President Eduardo Dos Santos is negotiating opportunities with his Portuguese counterpart, who grew up in colonial Angola (BBC). Some reports are understandably concerned with the notion that Angolan capital could be better spend on improving the situation for the country’s poor as well as with the lack of transparency in capital flows from Angola (News24). But the stark reversal of relative fortunes is worth noting.
The situation has become so extreme for some Portuguese businessmen, that they are contemplating leaving for the seemingly more prosperous Angolan shores.
Anyone who views capital flows as a nameless, faceless set of transactions should take heed of this case. Clearly, political legacies and cultural affinities are drawing these two together in ways that would not be otherwise likely: Sharing Portuguese as a language and a love-hate relationship based on a brutal past provide a unique connection for bilateral ties.