Jan 31, 2020

The Senate on Thursday resolved to probe the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) over the sum of $396 million expended on Turn-Around Maintenance of refineries in the country between 2013 and 2015.

Accordingly, the Upper Chamber mandated the Committee on Petroleum Downstream, Upstream and Gas to carry out a holistic investigation on the Turn-Around Maintenance expenditures and the current state of the refineries as well as convoke a stakeholders conference with the aim of finding ways to revamp them.

The decision to investigate spending on maintenance of refineries by the Corporation was reached after consideration of a motion brought to the floor by Senator Yusuf A. Yusuf (APC, Taraba Central).

The lawmaker noted that the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation has four refineries: two in Port-Harcourt (PHRC) and one each in Kaduna (KRPC) and Warri (WRPC).

According to him, the refineries were established to adequately supply and serve needs for Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG), Premium Motor Spirit (PMS), Dual Purpose Kerosene (DPK), Automotive Gas Oil (AGO), Low Pour Fuel Oil (LPFO), High Pour Fuel Oil (HPFO) and Aviation Turbine Kerosene (ATK) for both local consumption and exports.

He recalled, “The country through NNPC has in the past 25 years spent Billion of US dollars in Turn-Around Maintenance of the refineries, the latest being over $396 million spent between 2013 and 2015 without meaningful result.”

The lawmaker lamented that “the refineries have remained in moribund state in the last 15-20 years and is almost reaching total collapse due to lack of proposer maintenance of the facilities with a poor average capacity utilization hovering between fifteen percent and twenty-five percent per annum.”

Senator Yusuf said “despite the huge spending on turn-around Maintenance of refineries, NNPC recently announced a cumulative loss of N123.25 billion in 10 months (January to October, 2019), putting the total revenue of facilities at N68.82 billion, while total expenses incurred was N192.1 billion within the same period.”

He warned that “such huge wastage and slippages amidst the nation’s tight economy, if not addressed, may lead the country back to recession.”

The lawmaker added that such losses, when averted and combined with the huge expenditures in “under recovery” on fuel pump price and properly channeled into full rehabilitation and construction of modern refineries, would positively impact on the economy and save the country from the embarrassment of importation of petroleum products and its ripple effect.

Jan 30, 2020

Nigeria’s debt to the World Bank soared from $8.51 billion (about N3.085 trillion) as of September 2018 to $9.81 billion (over N3.556 trillion) as at September 2019, the Debt Management Office (DMO) has said.

This represents a growth of $1.3 billion (N471.250 billion) or 15.3% in twelve months according to the latest data published by the DMO on Wednesday.

The loan facilities were granted to Nigeria over the years by two arms of the World Bank Group namely the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) and the International Development Association (IDA).

The IDA had availed credit totalling $9.41 billion to Nigeria as of the end of September 2019 relative to the sum of $8.39 billion loan it had granted to the country in the corresponding period of 2018.

On its part, the IBRD’s total exposure to Nigeria as of 30th September 2018 stood at $124 million compared to the $409.51 it had granted to the country as of 30th September 2019.

Headquartered in Washington D.C., the IBRD is an international financial institution that grants loans to middle-income developing economies.

The IDA, also headquartered in Washington, is responsible for providing loans and grants to the world’s poores countries.

The DMO had about two weeks ago said through its Director General, Patience Oniha, that Nigeria’s public debt as ot third quarter 2019 stood at N26.215 trillion, up from the N25.70 trillion posted in the corresponding periof of 2018.

According to the DMO, Nigeria’s debt to GDP ratio as of 30th September 2019 was 18.47%. Meanwhile, it said about N1.59 trillion would be sourced by government this year as new domestic borrowings.

Jan 30, 2020

Nigeria lost $408.28 million (about N148.002 billion) in capital flight arising from plunge in Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) between June and September 2019 owing to insecurity in the land.

This translates to over 45% drop when compared to the figure posted the quarter before.

Okwu Nnanna, Deputy Governor Economic Policy, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), gave the revelation Tuesday in Lagos at the sixth national economic outlook session put together by the Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria (CIBN).

According to him “insecurity and the tepid recovery following the fall in oil prices – a trigger to the 2016 recession – have slowed investor appetite. Thus, foreign direct investments, which have been on the slide since 2011, fell to $498.62m in Q3 2019 from $906.9m in Q2.

“Similarly, portfolio inflow declined to $2.59bn in Q3, from $4.46bn in Q2 2019. Hot money is volatile and is subject to sudden reversal at the slightest swings in sentiment.”

The $1.87 billion plunge in portfolio inflow translates to about N678 billion loss of foreign portfolio investment (FPI) in the country in just three months.

The CBN deputy chief went further to say that up till 8th January this year, the external reserves could meet twelve month import obligations comfortably.

He observed that the primary obstacle that could stand in the way of macroeconomic stability was absence of fiscal buffers and Nigeria’s escalating unemployment level.

Nnanna nevertheless stated that the recent hike in Value Addedd Tax (VAT) rate and Sundry Stamp Duty was a right decision by government.

Jan 30, 2020

Boeing reported on Wednesday its first annual loss since 1997 , as the company continues to grapple with the fallout of the 737 Max crisis.

Boeing also lost $1.01 billion in the fourth quarter of 2019, it said.

Boeing Co expects nearly $19 billion in costs related to the grounding of its 737 MAX jets, the U.S. planemaker said, while also indicating it would cut production of its bigger 787 Dreamliner aircraft.

The grounding, which followed two fatal crashes, forced the planemaker to freeze production of the 737 for the first time in more than 20 years and led to the ouster of Chief Executive Officer Dennis Muilenburg.

“We recognize we have a lot of work to do,” Boeing President and CEO David Calhoun said in a statement.

Adding to Boeing’s pain, demand for its bigger and more profitable jet – the 787 Dreamliner – has waned in the face of the U.S.-China trade war, prompting the company to cut production, hurting cash flow at a time when its debt is mounting.

Boeing, which is producing the 787 Dreamliner at 14 aircraft per month, said in October it expects to lower the production in late 2020 to 12 per month, amid a drought of orders from China.

The company now expects to further lower 787 Dreamliner production to 10 per month in early 2021.

The company reported negative free cash flow of $2.67 billion for the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31, compared with a positive free cash flow of $2.45 billion a year earlier.

Core operating loss was $2.53 billion, or $2.33 per share, compared with a profit of $3.87 billion, or $5.48 per share, a year earlier.

Analysts on average expected Boeing to post earnings per share of $1.47 in the quarter.

Jan 29, 2020

Australian scientists at the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity announced that they have recreated the deadly coronavirus in order to find a cure.

The breakthrough announcement made by researchers in Melbourne on Wednesday, is expected to quicken the creation of a vaccine.

Doherty Institute Deputy Director, Mike Catton told reporters that they will share the sample which was grown from an infected patient with the World Health Organization and laboratories around the world.

He said; “We’ve planned for an incident like this for many, many years and that’s really why we were able to get an answer so quickly. This is a step, it’s a piece of the puzzle that we have contributed.”

The recent coronavirus outbreak has killed over 132 people in China and infected close to 6,000 after the flu-like virus broke out in the central Chinese city of Wuhan at the end of 2019. Though no death has been reported outside China, there are at least 47 cases confirmed in 16 other countries including in Thailand, France, the United States of America and Australia.

While Chinese authorities said the virus can be transmitted during its incubation period, WHO insisted that it remains unclear whether it is contagious before symptoms appear. WHO added that the incubation period can range from two to 10 days.

Commenting on how the virus is being transmitted, Dr. Catton said; “An antibody test will enable us to retrospectively test suspected patients so we can gather a more accurate picture of how widespread the virus is, and consequently, among other things, the true mortality rate.

“It will also assist in the assessment of the effectiveness of trial vaccines” he explained.

Jan 29, 2020

Britain on Tuesday gave the green light to a limited role for Chinese telecoms giant Huawei in the country’s 5G network, in a decision it said was necessary for developing its future digital economy.

But its choice also left the United States “disappointed” after its called for a total ban was ignored by both England and the EU.

Even though London decided that “high risk vendors” would be excluded from Britain’s “sensitive” core infrastructure, a US official insisted there was “no safe option for untrusted vendors to control any part of a 5G network”, which offers almost instantaneous data transfer.

Washington has banned Huawei from the rollout of the fifth generation mobile network because of concerns that the firm could be under the control of Beijing, an allegation it strongly denies.

The announcement came as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo prepared to meet British Prime Minister Boris Johnson this week for talks in London likely to focus on Huawei and as Britain looks for a trade deal with Washington after Brexit.

The United States had threatened to limit intelligence-sharing with London in the event of Huawei winning a UK role. Some analysts assessed approval for the Chinese firm could affect any future UK-US trade deal.

But Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab told parliament: “Nothing in this review affects this country’s ability to share highly sensitive intelligence data over highly secured network.

“GCHQ (Britain’s cybersecurity agency) have categorically confirmed that how we construct our 5G and full-fibre public telecoms network has nothing to do with how we share classified data.”

London’s decision — following a meeting of the National Security Council chaired by Johnson — came shortly after Brussels said it would also allow Huawei a limited 5G role in the European Union.

Brussels and London are both grappling to find a middle way to balance Huawei’s huge dominance in the 5G sector with security concerns.

“We want world-class connectivity as soon as possible but this must not be at the expense of our national security,” said Britain’s Digital Secretary Nicky Morgan.

“High risk vendors never have been and never will be in our most sensitive networks,” she stressed.

Huawei welcomed the news that it would have at least a part in building Britain’s 5G networks.

“Huawei is reassured by the UK government’s confirmation that we can continue working with our customers to keep the 5G roll-out on track,” said Huawei Vice-President Victor Zhang.

Meanwhile Brussels also ruled out banning the company. A top EU official said instead it was “a question of laying down rules”.

“They will be strict, they will be demanding and of course we will welcome in Europe all operators who are willing to apply them,” the official said.

Huawei is widely viewed as providing the most advanced alternative for super-fast data transfers behind technologies such as self-driving cars and remotely operated factory robots.

Existing providers of limited 5G network infrastructure in Britain include Nokia and Ericsson, while non-core elements are counted as antennae and base stations attached to masts and roofs.

A number of UK mobile phone operators, including EE and Vodafone, currently sell 5G services — but it is so far available only in a handful of cities, notably London and Birmingham.

Jan 29, 2020

The Abuja Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) has called for urgent attitudinal change within the country’s regulatory bodies to enhance Ease of Doing Business (EoDB) framework.

Prince Adetokunbo Kayode, ACCI President, made the call on Tuesday in Abuja at the Ease of Doing Business conference organised by Delegation of German Industry and Commerce in Nigeria (AHK-Nigeria).

Nigeria is ranked 131 among 190 economies on the World Bank latest global Ease of Doing Business index.

Kayode said that government should ensure that key regulators were proactive, adding that existing regulatory framework for the EoDB had hindered and weakened economic prosperity and growth in the country.

Speaking on ‘Regulatory Framework and Ease of Doing Business in Nigeria’, Kayode said that business operators with reliable data were also coming up with scary reports.

He listed some of the scary reports to include the relocation of companies, failed businesses, delay and failure by some regulatory bodies to give prerequisite support or approval in the sector, among others.

“Government agencies should transform from regulators to business facilitators as well as put an end to complicated paperwork, which aids corruption, to give room for automation of business approval processes.

“There should be access to capital, consolidation of multiple charges, inspections, single-digit business loan, the government should allow the private sector to run businesses and only grant facilitation to grow the economy,” he said.

He noted that the Federal Government policy on EoDB has recorded many successes, by placing the issue of the hostile business environment in the front burner of public discourse.

“It is regrettable to note, however, that regulatory environment remains harsh and hostile with no sign of easing,” he said.

According to him, most regulators operate from a socialist mindset that sees business as a hindrance, rather than a pivotal plank of the society.

The ACCI president added that most regulators lacked a clear understanding of how market forces operated or deliberately neglected the role of production cost, product prices and competition in the life of a business.

He advised that the Nigerian Customs Service should be reformed and its activities automated to remove grey areas for competition and efficiency.

Mrs Edirin Akemu, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Industry, Trade and Investment, while encouraging regulators to be facilitators, listed expectations of business operators on the regulatory framework of EoDB.

Akemu noted equal market access, value transparency on decision making and operations, incentives administration, removal of uncertainties, access to resolution and intervention as some measures expected by operators for business to thrive.

Katharina Felgenhauer, Delegate, AHK-Nigeria, said that the Germans were working with its commercial affiliate and Nigerian companies in fostering business relations, hence the EoDB conference.

According to her, the delegation represented German business interest in Nigeria, while under International Business Services Ltd., AHK Nigeria offered services to companies to support foreign trade business activities.

Jan 28, 2020

I’ve had a slight Symmetry OCD since I was a kid. Obsessions with this OCD include the persistent, mostly irrational need for things to ‘feel’ symmetrical, or be perfectly aligned, or to get to some version of “just right”. Accompanying compulsions include repeated rearranging, evening up, constant realigning and even repeated tapping. It’s not bad in my instance, I just have slight urges every now and then.

What a relief when I later on found out that I am not alone in having obsessions and compulsions like this. I know normal people that have an irrational need to constantly clean everything or, say, make the volume on the TV an even number or a multiple of 3. I’m sure you know someone with an irrational tick as well. Those are all mild OCD’s.

Perfectionism as an entrepreneur can just as easily evolve into an irrational tick that can have a toll on your efficiency. As an entrepreneur, the last thing you’d want is to have a need to be perfect in a sport where the dynamics are ever-changing. Still, when most entrepreneurs have a picture locked within their heads, it’s hard to get it out. What they however overlook is the negative effects that are associated with being the perfectionist they cling on to being.

Perfectionism is refusal to accept any standard short of your perceived idea of what is perfect.

All successful entrepreneurs share similar values. A good entrepreneur has the ability to accept correction, be a team player, be productive, dream, effect proper time management, and have good networking skills, to mention a few. All these values do not see eye to eye with perfectionism.

Perfectionism is the enemy of correction.

A business entrepreneur must always have a plan. A perfectionist, when presenting his/her business plan, believes that it is the finished work he has done and hence is not likely to consider any input that is going to be given to him/her. A better entrepreneur would see other inputs after sharing said business plan as helpful.

On the other hand, a perfectionist may see the input given as criticism of his/her work. Most perfectionists assume that their standards are the highest standards and hence are not ready to listen to what others have to say. They would always come up with reasons why what you are recommending would not work and for that reason, they stick to what they originally planned on doing, forgoing the opportunities that outside recommendations can bring to the table.

Perfectionism is the enemy of development.

Being obsessed with being right is the main characteristic of a perfectionist. Their standard is the yard stick by which any and every input is measured. In my opinion, perfectionism prevents you the entrepreneur from coming up with a perfect product, by hindering the implementation of helpful input.

The truth is, perfectionists do not usually consider or apply corrections put forth to them. By missing out on chances to better their products and services, a perfectionist gives room for competitors to surpass them. One major setback from being a perfectionist is the fact that it gets difficult for you to learn from others. This therefore reduces the rate at which you develop. Somehow, most people who call themselves perfectionist believe that they have had more experience than many and hence do not believe that anyone has anything new to teach them, forgetting that the world is evolving, and new things come up every day.

Perfectionism is the enemy of team building.

For a business to be said to have grown, the size of workers is one of the measuring tools. This is normally expanded through team building. Perfectionists however have great difficulty in doing this. They do not do it consciously, but they always end up doing it. A perfectionist will rather work alone and get things done according to their standards than to work with others that he/she feels will stifle progress.

When working as a good team, everyone’s input is considered, and everything is built from scratch thinking outside the box. When working with a perfectionist, said person comes to the team with what they expect to be done, and how they expect it to be done. They may come asking for what everyone thinks is the right way to go about things but at the end of the day, what they had in mind is what is going to be used by them.

This usually tends to discourage team members from contributing towards work that have been presented before them as they feel they will just be wasting their time. Even when they know easier and shorter ways to get things done, they will rather remain silent.

Perfectionism is the enemy of productivity.

Perfectionism will not enable an entrepreneur to come out with a product until he/she feels the product is perfect, based on their perceived standards. While the perfectionist is in the lab working on their product to get the perfect product, competitors will release his product and allow feedback to make the product better to meet the needs of his/her target market.

Following the latter, it enables the market to decide and partake in the development of a generally accepted product while the perfectionist keeps working on making it perfect by his/her standards. The fact that perfectionists have difficulty in accepting correction also prevents them from seeking feedback from the public as they would see this as a criticism of their product or service.

Perfectionism is the killer of dreams.

When an individual has the dream to start a particular business, it looks easy at the beginning. It could be easier when you seek advice from people who have already been in that industry or mentors. Most individual use the advice they receive from such people to make their business a better one and are ready for further inputs to help them grow.

However, that is not the case for people who practise perfectionism. Due to the fact that they believe and are used to being “right” at all times, they see inputs given them by people in the industry as criticism which do not go too well with them. Most often when perfectionists are faced with challenges, they tend to get frustrated and are most likely to give up on their dreams. If things do not go exactly as they wish it to go, they are likely to drop the dream and console themselves that it was not meant to be.

Perfectionism is the enemy of effective time management.

When you are not focused on getting things done perfectly but having things done properly, you are able to make time for many things. However, when you are focusing on getting something done using perfectionism, you spend all your time on that and in the end, you have many things left undone.

Based on this we can boldly say that perfectionism is the enemy of effective time management. A perfectionist will not move away from what they are working on until they feel they have attained the standard they deem to be perfect. This prevents them from addressing other aspects of their lives and this goes a long way to making perfectionist become workaholics.

Perfectionism is the enemy of good networking.

Perfectionism is said to be the enemy of networking. Networking happens under less tense scenarios and usually outside the work environment. Perfectionists as I mentioned earlier turn to be workaholics. They turn to give up their social lives in an attempt to build the successful business that they envision. This makes whatever you are working on become very stressful and because the entrepreneur does not have time to destress, being a perfectionist has been associated with bringing about illnesses such as anxiety disorder, fatigue and insomnia. Research has also discovered that due to the lifestyle of perfectionists, most of the time they are seen to die earlier as compared to how long they would have lived should they have lived without all the pressures of being a perfectionist.

How does one handle perfectionism?

We should choose attainable targets and not ones that are solely abstract. I am a Ghanaian, so it would be totally unattainable to, say, at this stage and age, aim to be the President of America. That is not to say one shouldn’t dream big. But stories of only one person seeing the way and being the pioneer is the exception to the rule. Ask for help or for what you need. There is nothing different under the sun. As you give up trying to reinvent the wheel, embrace the team mentality as you progress step by step as a unit. It’s less stressful that way anyways.

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How do you think you can apply what you’ve just read in your current situation? Do you know anyone that’s a perfectionist? How do you think once can better manage the urge to try to be perfect at everything?

Hit me up on social media and let’s keep the conversation going! I read all the feedback you send me on LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

Also, feel free to send me your articles on relevant topics for publication on the Macroeconomic Bulletin. I’d give you full credit, an intro, and an outro. Kindly make it about 1000 words.

Have a lovely week!

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Maxwell Ampong is the CEO of Maxwell Investments Group, a Trading and Business Solutions provider. He is the Business Advisor for the General Agricultural Workers’ Union of TUC (Gh). He writes about trending and relevant economic topics, and general perspective pieces.

LinkedIn:/in/thisisthemax   Instagram:@thisisthemax   Twitter:@thisisthemax   Facebook:@thisisthemax   Website: www.maxwellinvestmentsgroup.com   Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.   Mobile: 0249993319

Jan 28, 2020

A senior female manager with Fidelity Bank Plc, Lagos, Agatha Dunu Igwe has been arraigned before a Lagos Magistrates’ Court for allegedly obtaining the sum of N42 million from the Managing Director of Maydom Pharmaceutical Limited under false pretence.

Police said that Igwe allegedly obtained the money from the complainant on the pretext to use the money to lobby senior officials of the bank to help him to secure a $1 million import finance loan from Fidelity Bank Plc, a claim the police said the accused knew to the false.

Igwe was arrested by the operatives of the Police Special Fraud Unit, PSFU at Ikoyi, Lagos and after investigation by Supol Akio and his team, Igwe was charged before the Igbosere Chief Magistrates’ Court on a three-count charge of obtaining money under false pretence and stealing.

Police counsel, Supol George Nwosu told the court in charge No: F/5/2020 that the accused,, a staff of Fidelity Bank Plc, committed the offence between March and May, 2017 at Ilupeju, Lagos.

Nwosu told the court that the accused tricked the complainant and collected a total sum of N42 million from him to help lobby some officials of the bank to help him secure a one millions dollar import finance loan from the bank knowing full well that there was nothing like that at the Fidelity Bank Plc.

He said that the complainant decided to report the matter to the police when Igwe could not secure the loan facility and did not refund the N42 million back to him.

Nwosu said the offences, the accused committed were punishable under sections 411, 324 and 287 of the criminal law of Lagos State, 2015.

The accused, however, pleaded not guilty to the alleged offence in the court and Chief Magistrate O.O Oshin granted  her N500, 000 bail with two sureties in like sum who must have N1 million in their bank account.

Oshin adjourned the case till 24 February, 2020 for mention and ordered that the defendant be kept at the Kirikiri Correctional facility till she perfected the bail conditions.

Jan 28, 2020

João Lourenço was supposed to be a relatively safe pair of hands.

A liberation party stalwart, a veteran of Angola's long wars, an ambitious but unremarkable Soviet-trained artillery general hand-picked by other generals, a man who would, surely, do nothing to rock the boat.

That, at least, appeared to be the plan.

When he took over as president of the oil-rich country in 2017 - and soon after as leader of the governing MPLA - the expectation was that he would shake things up a little, introduce cautious economic reforms, root out some corruption in a way that would not scare too many wealthy generals, seek to revive the reputation of his ageing party, and leave his predecessor, Jose Eduardo dos Santos and his family, to enjoy their various business empires in peace.

First families fall out

Instead, in office, President Lourenço, 65, has turned out to be - or at least aspires to be - more of a "Gorbachev" figure, throwing caution and precedent to the wind, dragging Angola out of its sluggish, authoritarian past and leading it towards a future that suddenly looks both exciting and precarious.

"He's a bulldozer. Nothing he does is discreet. He goes for the jugular," political analyst and Angola expert Paula Roque told the BBC.

The first, and most prominent, target of that bulldozing instinct has been the Dos Santos family.

Much to the surprise and delight of many Angolans, who had grown tired of watching the former president's family grow staggeringly wealthy, at least in part from government contracts, and who had long feared the prospect of a Dos Santos political dynasty, President Lourenço - or JLo, as he's known to all Angolans - moved fast and aggressively against the former "first family".

Isabel dos Santos was brusquely removed from her job running the giant state oil company, Sonangol. Her half-brother received similar treatment at the state's sovereign wealth fund, and soon afterwards found himself in custody and is now on trial for allegedly trying to smuggle some $500m (£380m) out of the country . José Filomeno dos Santos has denied wrongdoing.

"It feels personal. There is a genuine animus between the two families," said Ms Roque, of JLo's actions.

Then came a series of even more dramatic steps, as Ms Dos Santos' business assets in Angola were frozen by a local court, financial documents from within her empire were leaked to investigative journalists, leading to fresh allegations of corruption and damning global headlines.

Angolan President and The People's Movement for the Liberation of Angola President Jose Eduardo dos Santos and MPLA candidate to the presidency Joao Lourenco hold hands during the closing campaign rally in Luanda, on August 19, 2017.

That was followed, this week, by an announcement that an international arrest warrant would be issued if she did not return home to answer formal accusations of embezzlement.

Ms Dos Santos has called allegations revealed by leaked documents entirely false and said that the Angolan government was engaged in a politically motivated witch-hunt.

In a statement she said that they showed they were part of a "very concentrated, orchestrated and well-co-ordinated political attack, ahead of elections in Angola next year".

Who is Isabel dos Santos?

Isabel dos Santos Forum Ambrosetti in Villa d'Este event, Cernobbio, Italy

  • Eldest daughter of ex-President José Eduardo dos Santos
  • Married to Congolese art collector and businessman Sindika Dokolo
  • Educated in the UK, where she currently lives
  • Reported to be Africa's richest woman, with a fortune of some $2bn
  • Has stakes in oil and mobile phone companies and banks, mostly in Angola and Portugal

Source: Forbes magazine and others

"Going after the Dos Santos family initially seemed like an obvious vote-winner," said Ricardo Soares de Oliveira, an Oxford professor and expert on African politics.

The UK ambassador in Luanda, Jessica Hand, said last year the anti-corruption drive seemed genuine.

"What you have is a president who recognises that corruption is a stigma and a disincentive for foreigners to come here. He's tackling that… and his actions have demonstrated that in spades," she said.

But JLo's moves to tackle corruption is now in danger of being overshadowed, and perhaps even derailed, by the second, key, part of his reform program - the economy.

Angola, Africa's second biggest oil exporter and and also a major diamond producer, is currently wrestling with an abrupt economic downturn - the result, at least in part, of the tough reform package that JLo signed up to in return for a giant $3.7bn loan from the IMF.

"There is a big level of discontent, socially," Ms Dos Santos said, in a recent BBC interview, pointing to soaring unemployment, rising government debt, a currency devaluation, and increasing industrial action. "President Lourenço wants absolute power. But… his track record is very, very poor when you look at what happened in Angola over the last two years."

The corruption allegations against her are, she said, "an attempt of creating a diversion".

Ms Dos Santos' analysis may be self-serving. But that doesn't necessarily make it wrong.

"The economy is now in free-fall. JLo is milking this anti-Dos Santos thing because it's the one thing he's got," said Prof De Oliveira.

"But the population is becoming jaded and cynical. His popularity is wearing off and people are asking why is he not going after others.

"This is a very focused, targeted [anti-corruption] campaign. [Others] who are as bad as the Dos Santos family… are not touched. So, the hypocrisy is registering with most Angolans. My sense is this is more effective internationally than domestically," he said.

And so, Angola's "Gorbachev" suddenly finds himself treading a narrow, difficult path.

Who is João Lourenço?

Joao Lourenço

  • Active in MPLA struggle against Portuguese colonial rule as a teenager
  • Part of first group of guerrillas to enter Angolan territory from Congo-Brazzaville
  • Received military training and studied history from 1978 to 1982 in the former Soviet Union
  • General in the Angolan Armed Forces in post-independence civil war
  • Said to be one of the few Angolan generals and politicians free of allegations of involvement in major corruption scandals

He badly needs to shore up the MPLA's support base - now waning like that of so many African liberation parties - ahead of upcoming local and national elections.

But his own position within the party depends on him striking the right balance between a broader crackdown on corruption (which could help stimulate the economy and lead to the repatriation of billions of dollars in stolen assets) and protecting senior figures within the MPLA.

"There are the protected and the persecuted - those who are politically dispensable," said Ms Roque.

"People ask why some of the worst ones are being protected - those who are just as corrupt, but are part of the new government system and who are necessary for one reason or another, to keep equilibrium inside the party."

A wrestler poses on top of a truck overlooking a crowd attending an electoral meeting by Angolan President and The People's Movement for the Liberation of Angola President Jose Eduardo dos Santos and MPLA presidential Candidate Joao Lourenço

The general assumption is that the MPLA - worn out but still dominant, much like the ANC in South Africa - will retain control of Angola for some years to come by fair means or foul.

But JLo, like South Africa's new President Cyril Ramaphosa, is quickly learning how hard it is to rebuild a brittle, fragmented party from within, and to make any serious headway against corruption when so many key state institutions are rotten to the core.

'Like a tango in the dark'

In this context, the fate of Ms Dos Santos and her business empire (so important to the Angolan economy) could still be settled by negotiations, behind the scenes.

"It's hard to say if this is the endgame. The relationship between the Dos Santos family and JLo is very complicated. It's like a tango in the dark," said Darias Jonker, from the Eurasia Group.

"They do need each other to varying degrees and ways, but they're also in competition. They're frenemies - so to speak."

There's no doubt that JLo - who once compared himself to China's reformist leader Deng Xiaoping - has allowed the winds of change to sweep through Angola.

People are seizing the opportunity to speak out, without repercussion, and to challenge decades of repressive, inefficient rule and staggering inequality.

But, as the Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev discovered to his own cost, truly radical reforms, like revolutions, tend to devour their own.

 

Source: BBC

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