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Capsule Review

Magnificent and Beggar Land: Angola Since the Civil War

In This Review

Magnificent and Beggar Land: Angola Since the Civil War
Magnificent and Beggar Land: Angola Since the Civil War
By Ricardo Soares de Oliveira
Oxford University Press, 2015, 320 pp. $99.00 Purchase

This engrossing, authoritative account of Angola’s history since 2002, when its three-decade-long civil war finally ended, explains how a Marxist-Leninist government morphed into one of the most corrupt crony-capitalist regimes in the world. Critical to the story are the profits yielded by the close to two million barrels of oil the country pumps daily, but Soares de Oliveira also emphasizes political and sociological factors. He argues that President José Eduardo dos Santos, a petroleum engineer by training, understands that his ability to remain in power depends in no small part on ensuring his personal control over the national oil company, Sonangol. The commodity boom during the last decade provided huge financial resources to this state within a state, much of which dos Santos distributed to a narrow band of loyal elites by allowing them to profit from massive development and infrastructure projects. The book argues that the recent growth is unsustainable, however, because the regime has done little to promote genuine economic development and because the quality of state institutions outside of the oil sector has withered. 

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