Editor’s Note: April 19, 2019

Angola’s reform story is stumbling

Angola has annulled the awarding of the country’s fourth telecommunications licence, ordering a new tender to be run in the next 30 days, following criticism of the process.

An obscure company called Telstar Telecomunicacoes, reportedly owned by an Angolan general, had secured the licence last week, over interest from 26 other international and local firms.

This raised eyebrows, and questions about the sincerity of pledges by president João Lourenço to promote transparency in Africa’s second-biggest oil producer.

This is part of a an unexpected reform-drive since he took office in September 2017, aimed at cleaning up Angola’s image and boosting foreign investment.

The Telstar incident is not alone to raise questions.

government plan to revamp the national airline – which includes a company linked to the president –  has also come under fire.

In March authorities released José Eduardo dos Santos’s son Filomeno and his business partner Jean-Claude Bastos de Morais – who had been accused of trying to steal $1.5bn from the central bank – without charge.

It all reeks of the kind of nepotism that has long plagued business and politics in Angola, and will fuel suspicions that Lourenço’s reforms have more to do with consolidating power than meaningful change.

It’s too soon to dismiss Angola’s reform story, but this is a good reminder to be vigilant.

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