For Angola's Super Rich, It Is No Longer Cool to Drive a Ferrari
Toward the end of Jose Eduardo dos Santos's rule of Angola, which lasted almost four-decade, BMWs, Porsches, and even Ferrari meandered the streets of downtown Luanda.
Public displays of affluence such as this in one of the unequal nations in the world are becoming less as the government has made the crackdown on graft more intense. Many of the affluent pretended they were never rich or tried to hide their wealth.
A luxury car salesman in the capital of Angola, Kolly Villa, who imports custom-made vehicles to Angola from the US, said, "The market is tough. People aren't buying or using their own luxury cars because they are afraid to go out on the street."
Angola's oil-fired economy grew after the end of a 27-year civil war in 2002. But the profits essentially ended in the hands of a few elites that have close ties with the president. This includes his daughter Isabel. She became the richest woman on the continent with stakes in industries of telecommunications, banking, and diamonds.
Rich Angolans that made their way to Portugal established a reputation for flashy lifestyles. Several bought mansions and apartments in the seaside town of Cascais for multi-million-euro. They were blamed by some residents for inflating real estate prices. "You must think I'm Angolan," slowly turned into a common retort from those that felt they were being overcharged.
In 2017, a former army general, Joao Lourenco replaced Dos Santos and released an anti-corruption drive that targeted many members of the inner council of his predecessor, and a conspicuous display of wealth became less prevalent.
As he began a new five-year term this month, Lourenco pledged to make his campaign more intense and spread wealth more evenly in the nation.
The government says since Lourenco came into power, more than 3,000 money-laundering, corruption, and other commercial probes have been opened and have already seized over $20 billion worth of illicitly acquired assets both in Angola and abroad.
The people targeted include Isabel dos Santos and others. Isabel's assets in Angola and Portugal were frozen after an international media investigation dubbed the Luanda leaks that implicated her in many questionable business deals. She denied wrongdoing and claimed that she is a victim of political vendetta.