With the 2010 Africa Cup of Nations starting this Sunday in Angola, without wanting to create a totally football related post, instead, this is a good opportunity just to point out the challenges and opportunities in Angola today.
Most countries that have been at war for 27 years would be bankrupt entirely and wouldn’t even dream of hosting any sporting event until the coffers were full and living standards en masse improved. Angola however have rich deposits of oil, second only to Nigeria in Africa, and with them joining OPEC in 2005, they have enjoyed thee fruits of high oil prices in the last 5 years.
However with vast revenues, and impressive economic growth rates such as 26% growth in 2006, there is still widespread poverty, no worthy of a nation with such inflows. It has one of the lowest life expectancy of just over 38 years and an infant mortality rate of 180 per 1000 births which is the worst in the world. Poverty is endemic, 60% live under the poverty line (US$2 per day). There is also the cloudy issue of land ownership, particularly in the capital Luanda where there have been forced evictions. Corruption is a big problem as well, according to the International Monetary Fund, around US$4billion went missing from the treasury during the last decade, and with a score of 1.9 in the Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index, it proves this is one of the most corrupt countries in the world.
Late last year, there was the final verdict on the ‘Angolagate’ scandal where arms were sold to the Angolan government through none orthodox means by members of the French business and political elite where around US$800 million was used for arms, and another US$600 million meant to service Angolan debt to Russia went to accounts in tax havens abroad. All these funds could surely have been better used in the country.
However, not all is doom and gloom. They were able to bid successfully to CAF to get the 2010 Africa Cup of Nations, and while football tournaments have in the past been shown to have a detrimental impact on public finances, it has meant that the country has been forced to invest in infrastructure. Roads, power generation, basic services are much better now than they have ever been because of increased investment. The country has been able to rehabilitate former soldiers from the traumas of war, and the government has launched the process of getting an international credit rating with an ambitious bond issue with American Investment Bank giant JP Morgan to head their US$4 billion prospect.
So as we all watch the tournament of football, that hopefully is more secure with the news of the Togo team being attacked by armed assailants that saw the bus driver killed, let us all remember that this is a country that has only emerged from a long internal conflict and if the team does well, it could foster a sense of achievement for the people of Angola.