In This Review
Angola at the Crossroads: Between Kleptocracy and Development

Angola at the Crossroads: Between Kleptocracy and Development

By Rui Santos Verde

I.B. Tauris, 2021, 216 pp.

The retirement of long-standing Angolan strongman José Eduardo dos Santos in 2017, because of illness, did not initially seem to promise much change. Dos Santos had placed his daughter Isabel dos Santos at the top of the state oil company (as well as a number of other prominent national firms) and had named his son José Filomeno dos Santos as head of the country’s oil-rich sovereign fund. In addition, his hand-picked successor, João Lourenço, was a party insider with an unremarkable career. Santos Verde offers a well-informed political history of Angola since 2010, examining how the Lourenço government has in fact brought about political change, making a limited but significant attempt to address the massive corruption that has long characterized the country, and has begun a tentative process of political liberalization. For much of the first two decades of the twenty-first century, the Dos Santos family, with Isabel in the lead, was able to privatize state assets for its personal profit. Lourenço initially seemed to accept this status quo but changed course. He moved aggressively against the Dos Santos children, arresting José Filomeno and naming Isabel as a suspect in a criminal investigation. Santos Verde argues that subsequent reforms, including some political liberalization, have been important, even if he concedes that they are selective and may be more motivated by Lourenço’s desire to consolidate power.