from PEDRO AGOSTO in Luanda, Angola
LUANDA – THE relocation trends between Angola and Portugal is unprecedented and represent a reversal of migration roles between Africa and Europe.
Migration is synonymous with thousands of disillusioned African migrants and refugees leaving in droves, in the process risking precious life on ramshackle vessels through the Mediterranean, in search of greener pastures in Europe since the turn of the millennium.
More than 4 000 have travelled this perilous route since the beginning of this year alone.
Away from the glare of the media and public scrutiny, a new migration trend has been ongoing, marked by an exodus of nationals from a European country to an African nation.
It is the movement of thousands of Portuguese nationals from their home country to the oil rich former colony, Portugal.
This trend is attributed to the European financial crisis that reared its ugly head in 2008. Portugal was not spared the downturn.
Coincidentally, Angola’s economy was enjoying a purple patch. However, Angola is no longer rich since 2014 when the global price of oil crashed.
It is estimated at the peak of this migration as many as 100 000 to 150 000 Portuguese had moved to the former colony. This represents the highest number of migrants that moved from a former European colonial power to a former African colony.
The trend has been maintained financially.
Figures from the Bank of Portugal indicated Angolan investments in Portugal increased from €645 million to €1,53 billion between 2010 and 2014.
In 2013 alone, Portuguese expatriates in Angola sent back over €300 million back home.
To Angola, the Portuguese were moving the a country which, while endowed with resources, placing it among the top five economies in Africa, has an unenviable reputation for being one of the most corrupt.
And with former colonial power also mentioned in the same breath as graft, it is a case of birds of the same feather flocking together.
Critics believe the trend is deepening an already serious crisis in Angola: corruption.
Thus, after dominating the Southern African country for four centuries, until 1975, under the yoke of colonialism, Portugal is now exacerbating graft in Angola and is complicit as it plunders itself.
Corruption lies in Portuguese elites who became rich in Angola.
It is most pronounced at political economy level. Influential businesspeople with links to the Angolan economic and political elite also exacerbated the problem.
Reportedly, close to 30 former Portuguese officials have earned lucrative positions on the boards of Angolan companies.
Over 100 others have secured plush positions within the Portuguese economy, thanks to Angolan capital.
The corruption narrative would be amiss without the mention of a certain Manuel Vicente, the former Vice President (2012-2017) one time chairperson of the state-owned Sonangol and perennial controversy magnet.
A former deputy to ex-president, Jose Eduardo dos Santos, and current advisor to President Joao Lourenco, he is arguably the richest man in Angola.
He is infamous, for among other things, allegedly offering Portuguese prosecutor, Orlando Figueira $850 000, and a position in an Angolan-owned bank, if the prosecutor swept under the carpet some allegations of corruption against him during his time at Sonangol.
Attempts by Portugal to try Vicente drew the ire of Angola and threatened diplomatic relations after Lourenco’s government alleged this to be an act of neo-colonialism.
It is highly unlikely Vicente will ever be tried.
All these controversies fly in the face of a crusade, dismissed as a gimmick by critics, by Lourenco’s administration to eradicate corruption in Angola.
At labourer level, corruption is commonplace in the issuance of the work permits that are in demand among the Portuguese.
Sources report the document can be as high as US$13 000.
With the document beyond the reach of many, it most of the Portuguese-born migrants are undocumented, leaving them at the mercy of unscrupulous police soliciting for bribes.
Raids by law enforcers have been reported.
Angolan entrepreneurs have also been fingered in illicit payments to secure with the Angolan government.
Back in Portugal, the country is reeling from a string of sleaze.
In 2019, Portugal ranked below the European Union (EU) average in Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index.
Former Prime Minister, Jose Socrates, who held the post from 2005 to 2011, was arrested for corruption, money laundering and tax evasion after leaving office.
“The real obstacle that needs to be overcome in order to improve relations between Angola and Portugal is the corruption and complicity that has allowed Angolan officials to bring shady money into the Portuguese economy – including at-risk sectors such as the banking system and real estate,” Amnesty International stated.
– CAJ News