Angola’s Corrupt Building Boom: ‘Like Opening a Window and Throwing Out Money’

Oil Billions for Rebuilding

Since 2002, Angola has spent $120 billion on reconstruction, according to the Center for Studies and Scientific Research. At its peak, spending reached $15.8 billion in 2014.

In the years after the war, new offshore oil fields came online, doubling Angola’s daily production to nearly two million barrels a day and turning its economy into one of the world’s fastest-growing.

From 2002 to 2015, Angola’s exports totaled almost $600 billion, nearly all of it oil. During that period, oil revenue swelled government coffers with $315 billion, according to Catholic University.

Oil also gave the Angolan government a freedom rarely seen in Africa, allowing it to circumvent Western governments and international lenders — and decide exactly how and what to rebuild. With oil-backed loans negotiated with China, Angola outsourced the country’s reconstruction to state-owned Chinese companies and their subcontractors. Companies from other Portuguese-speaking nations, like Brazil and Portugal, also shared in the building boom.

But the Angolan model of oil-for-infrastructure came with serious drawbacks, experts said. The deals between Angola and its foreign partners lacked transparency and often resulted in projects of poor quality, either because of a lack of oversight or outright corruption.

“In economic terms, if we don’t have good quality infrastructure, we can’t ensure the economic returns and social utility,” said Alves da Rocha, an economist and director of the Center for Studies and Scientific Research. “Now we are already rebuilding the reconstruction.”

Like many businessmen, Carlos Cunha, whose company deals in agriculture, distribution and tourism, said the new infrastructure’s poor quality was the greatest impediment to growth. His trucks regularly ply a main highway from the interior to Luanda, transporting tropical fruits for shipment to Europe.

“Our trucks take eight hours…

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