According to the CIA World Factbook, as of 2008, an estimated 36.6% of the Angolan population lives below the poverty line. Despite this fact, Angola also features ‘Africa’s Richest Woman’ or Isabel dos Santos, with an estimated net worth of 2 billion dollars (Forbes). How can these two facts be reconciled?
While this news would usually seem like something worth celebrating for Angola and the continent as a whole, to display how Africa is on the rise, the truth is more complicated than that. Ms. dos Santos’ legacy has recently come under question due to what is being called the Luanda Leaks. The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) alleges that “two decades of insider deals that made dos Santos Africa’s wealthiest woman and left oil- and diamond-rich Angola one of the poorest countries on Earth” (ICIJ). Ms. dos Santos was also appointed as the head of the state-run oil form Sonangol by her father, who was the president of Angola for 38 years (BBC Panorama).
All of this was at the expense of the Angolan people, as dos Santos also “Pushed a redevelopment project that led to the forced evictions of thousands of poor Angolans from their beachside homes” (ICIJ). The investigation places the culpability not only on dos Santos and her father but also on Western advisory firms who aided dos Santos in her efforts (Forsythe, Gurney, et al). Once again, we find ourselves asking, who is responsible? Through the story of Isabel dos Santos, we see how systematic inequality can be, and the dire effects it has on ordinary people.
“About the Luanda Leaks Investigation.” ICIJ, https://www.icij.org/investigations/luanda-leaks/about-the-luanda-leaks-investigation/. Accessed 29 Jan. 2020.
Forsythe, Michael, Gilberto Neto, et al. “Africa’s Richest Woman Set to Face Charges in Angola Over Embezzlement.” The New York Times, 23 Jan. 2020. NYTimes.com, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/01/23/world/africa/angola-santos-embezzlement.html.
Forsythe, Michael, Kyra Gurney, et al. “How U.S. Firms Helped Africa’s Richest Woman Exploit Her Country’s Wealth.” The New York Times, 19 Jan. 2020. NYTimes.com, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/01/19/world/africa/isabel-dos-santos-angola.html.
“Isabel Dos Santos.” Forbes, https://www.forbes.com/profile/isabel-dos-santos/. Accessed 29 Jan. 2020.
Panorama, B. B. C. “Africa’s Richest Woman ‘Ripped off Her Country.’” BBC News, 19 Jan. 2020. www.bbc.com, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-51128950.