How does one of the poorest countries produce one of the richest women?

Angola's court froze the assets of Africa's richest woman, 46-years-old Isabel dos Santos, daughter of the country's former president José Eduardo dos Santos who was in power from 1979 to 2017. The move by the courts was in an attempt to recover state funds.

Nicknamed "princess" by poor people of Angola, Forbes estimates she is worth $2.2 billion. Isabel has already said she had been victimized and that she amassed her fortune with "hard work" during her father's rule, which was mired in corruption, nepotism, and authoritarianism. Even her 41-years-old half-brother, José Filomeno dos Santos, is on trial accused of embezzling $1.5billion when he was head of the sovereign wealth fund in Angola.

The princess is also accused of using her previous position in the state-owned oil company to move money out of the country. She has since been fired from that role she was appointed to when her father stepped down from power. The princess owns homes in London, Monaco, and Portugal.

According to Bloomberg, allegations made by the Angolan Attorney General include that:


- "The state, through its diamond-marketing company Sodiam and oil company Sonangol, transferred large sums of foreign currency to foreign companies -- of which the ultimate beneficiaries were the individuals facing the court order -- without securing the expected returns.

- Sonangol paid 75.1 million euros ($83.8 billion) to buy a stake in Galp Energia indirectly held by Dos Santos and her husband. Shortly before Dos Santos was fired as Sonangol’s chairwoman in 2017, she tried to repay the consideration received for the stake in Angolan kwanzas, but Sonangol’s new board returned the money and asked that payment be made in euros. It was never received.

- Dos Santos and her husband entered a 50-50 joint venture with state-owned diamond company Sodiam to invest in Geneva-based jewelry maker De Grisogono. Sodiam ended up paying most of the initial 120 million-euro ($133m) loan that was taken to fund the investment.

- Former President Dos Santos ordered Sodiam to sell diamonds to companies related to the individuals notified in the court order at below-market prices. They then sold the gems abroad and generated hefty profits.

- The three individuals sought to hide assets bought with state funds by transferring them to other entities. Almost all of their assets were alleged to be held outside of Angola.

- Portuguese police blocked a 10-million-euro ($11.1m) bank transfer from a Portuguese bank to Russia that Dos Santos tried to carry out through her business partner Leopoldino Fragoso do Nascimento.

- Dos Santos tried to sell her 25% stake in Unitel to a foreign investor."


But let's now examine the wealth of Angola to work out how this "hard-working" princess would have amassed such fortune:


Angola, whose population is 31.8 million, is one of the poorest nations in Africa. Despite its oil and diamond wealth, it is mired in corruption. It is ranked 149th out of 186 on the poverty scale, and 94% of rural households are considered poor. The country is also ranked as one of the most corrupt countries in Africa, where power and wealth are in the hands of a politically connected elite.

For decades, during and after the 27-year civil war, which ended in 2002, the country has been receiving foreign aid from the U.S. Here are the U.S. Foreign Aid contributions to Angola since 2001 as published by USAID:

Oil exports earned, the country staggering US$11.1 billion in tax revenue in 2018. And yet the country still enjoys tax-funded Foreign Aid from the West despite it being more than capable of financing itself with oil and diamond profits. According to the BBC, the UK stopped sending direct foreign aid to Angola in 2011.

But the reason many countries continue to turn a blind eye and fill the bank accounts of corrupt politicians and their "hard-working" children is so they can have access to the country for their interests and promotions of their policies. Britain has been doing that for years in India, and when it stopped financing the country, it continued to give money to local NGOs, so it works on issues favorable to the British government. That is the same with the U.S. whose foreign aid supports leaders and governments that are preventing Angola from being taken down the wrong path.

And while the Foreign Aid is a well-imagined finance machine meant to help the country, according to the Borgen Project, it is meant to help:


“…fund programs in Angola to increase credit access to citizens and governmental bodies, create fair and healthy economic conditions for trade and business expansion and create land registration systems to help prevent turf wars and property theft.”

It hardly goes there. Instead, it ends up in the pocket of corrupt politicians and their offsprings like Angola's princess, especially when one thinks that 94% of the poor live in the rural areas, as mentioned above, and it is one of the poorest countries in the world. Surely with the amount of oil exported, the money should go into the country, but it seems it is practicing the Venezuela model of enriching the power while it starves the people.

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