Election in Angola: New hope or status quo?

For the third time in its history, Angola went to the polls Friday (Aug. 31). It was an election marred by complaints of irregularities and one that saw the current president and ruling party retain power.

Experts predicted a comfortable victory for the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola, or MPLA. Once officially announced the winner, the party’s leader — incumbent President Jose Eduardo dos Santos — will assume a five-year term as Angola’s president. This would extend dos Santos’ 33-year rule, which is already the second-longest term for any African ruler after Equatorial Guinea’s Teodoro Obiang.

Angola used to be among the largest aid recipients in Africa following the resolution of a 27-yearlong conflict war there in 2002. The country — now a lower middle-income economy — continues to receive aid from both bilateral and multilateral sources.

In 2010, it received $238.23 million in official development assistance, according to Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development data. Of this, members of OECD’s Development Assistance Committee contributed $149.62 million in bilateral aid, while multilateral sources provided $85.29 million. Non-DAC donors and private foundations gave the rest.

The top 10 DAC donors to Angola in 2010 were the United States, Japan, the European Union, South Korea, the United Kingdom, Norway, Germany, Spain, France and Finland.

The United States committed some $54.82 million to programs in health, governance, democracy and economic growth in 2010. Japan has a similar list of priority sectors. It spent the bulk of its $37.62 million budget for Angola in 2010 on social infrastructure programs and governance-related projects.

The European Union, meanwhile, allocated $24.39 million. In line with its 2008-2013 country paper strategy for Angola, the bloc focused its assistance on governance, economic and institutional reform, and social development initiatives.

The United Kingdom disbursed $16.88 million for health, conflict prevention and resolution, and governance and civil society projects. This assistance was channeled through the Department for International Development’s office in South Africa. DfID closed its office in Angola in 2008 and ended its programs there in 2011.

Outside the DAC donor’s club, China is a big investor in Angola. It’s hard to quantify China’s actual spending in Angola since the emerging donor does not provide information on its development programs. But like in other African countries, China’s engagement in Angola revolves around infrastructure, particularly the construction of roads and buildings.

These donor priorities are mostly in line with Angola’s most-pressing development challenges. The country is, after all, one of the least developed countries in the world — ranking 148 out of 187 countries in the 2011 Human Development Index of the U.N. Development Program. This is despite being the third-largest economy and the second-biggest oil producer in sub-Saharan Africa.

UNICEF did note that Angola is making some progress in five of the Millennium Development Goals: education, gender balance, malnutrition, child survival, malaria and HIV. But the country lags in maternal mortality goals, the U.N. agency said.

The business climate in the country is in a similarly bad shape. Angola ranks a mere 172 out of 183 economies when it comes to ease of doing business, according to the World Bank’s Doing Business 2012 report.

OECD cites a long list of factors in an attempt to explain Angola’s situation, but attributes it mainly to the slow pace of structural reforms and weak and inefficient governance. It also cited lack of adequate infrastructure, abuses by state-owned companies, and low priority given to basic services like health and education. In addition, a postwar transitional environment also means limited space for civil society organizations.

Whether dos Santos’ new term will bring the sweeping changes needed to address these challenges remains to be seen, but to be sure, Friday’s election has brought Angola’s situation back on map — at least for now.

Read more development aid news online, and subscribe to The Development Newswire to receive top international development headlines from the world’s leading donors, news sources and opinion leaders — emailed to you FREE every business day.

About the author

  • Ivy Mungcal

    As former senior staff writer, Ivy Mungcal contributed to several Devex publications. Her focus is on breaking news, and in particular on global aid reform and trends in the United States, Europe, the Caribbean, and the Americas. Before joining Devex in 2009, Ivy produced specialized content for U.S. and U.K.-based business websites.

Join the Discussion