BBC World Service

Portugal’s prime minister seeks help in Angola

Louise Redvers Nov 17, 2011

Kai Ryssdal: If you’re tired of all the debt and credit gloom-and-doom coming out of Europe, allow me to recommend some of Europe’s former colonies to you. Brazil got a credit upgrade from S&P today. The one-time Portugese posession is doing all the right things, S&P said.

Over in Africa, another former Portugese colony is booming while Lisbon is busy selling off state assets and getting bailed out by the IMF. Today, the Portugese prime minister finds himself in Angola, looking for business. 

Louise Redvers from the BBC reports from Luanda.

Louise Redvers: Portugal’s fortunes may have fallen, but Angola’s star is on the rise. Once ravaged by decades of war, it now expects 12 percent growth next year. Angolan companies, already own extensive holdings in the banking, energy and telecoms sectors. Some analysts see the changing relationship between the two countries as an intriguing role reversal.

Carlos Feijo is Angola’s minister of State and presidential chief of staff.

Redvers: People are talking about a sort of reversal of roles.

Carlos Feijo: I heard about that.

Redvers: So Angola used to be the colony and now it’s buying up it’s former master.

Feijo: No, no, no. What I can assure you is that I think each country is getting its interest in this, just following its interest in this. So i cannot say that you are reversing the situation. No, this is not the case.

It is true that since the end of Angola’s civil war in 2002, economic ties between the two countries have been strong. Angola is now Portugal’s fourth biggest trade partner and its largest outside Europe. More than 100,000 Portuguese people now live in Angola, which offers jobs and opportunities that long ago dried up at home. Here’s Angolan Minister Carlo Feijo again:

Feijo: And Portugese people, a lot of business people, are in Luanda just making business. So it is a reciprocity, which is something good for both countries.

But while there are clearly benefits in the trade ties, some Angolans are wondering why the money being invested in Portugal isn’t being spent instead at home. Two-thirds of Angola’s people still live in poverty — many without access to water or electricity.

Angolan anti-corruption campaigner Rafael Marques believes the rush to get cash out of the African banking system and into Europe suggests money laundering.

Rafael Marques: There is no clear demarcation of government officials investing in Portugal — private money; and government officials investing in Portugal — state money.And that’s why it’s quite important to continue to investigate — and also for the Portugese authorities to take the matter more seriously — to prevent a recurrent case of Portugal being used as a laundromat for Angolan ill-gotten gains.

Despite those concerns, while Portugal remains cash-strapped and Angola grows more powerful, few analysts think the flow of Angolan funds to Portugal will stop anytime soon.

From Angola, I’m the BBC’s Louise Redvers for Marketplace.

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