Angolan President Appoints Daughter as Head of National Oil Company

President Jose Eduardo dos Santos appointed his daughter, Isabel dos Santos, as head of state oil company Sonagaol after disbanding the old board, according to Reuters. The president wishes to improve oil production as the economy struggles, and he believes his daughter has the necessary business savvy to excel in the post. Angola became OPEC’s largest oil producer in Africa as Nigeria undergoes cutbacks stemming from militant attacks.

Critics have accused the first family of using Sonagoal as a private investment vehicle to enrich personal fortunes, with none of the money returning to state coffers. Sonagoal is Angola’s largest revenue stream, and 90% of Southern African country’s foreign exchange derives from oil.

Many believe that the president’s appointment is a classic case of nepotism and symbolizes everything that’s wrong in Angolan politics. Jose Eduardo dos Santos served since 1979, and although he oversaw Angola’s oil boom in recent years, the public has benefited little from the rewards.

The president’s daughter may have experience, but she attained her wealth on the backs of taxpayers. She has been accused of using public funds to expand her personal fortune by using a separate company not affiliated with Sonagaol to siphon public funds. Isabel is Africa’s richest woman, holding $3.3 billion in total, with much of her wealth originating from stocks and other investments.

She has long maintained that she achieved her fortune on her own, but critics and analysts contend otherwise, and some legal experts argue that she should face prosecution for a variety of charges, ranging from corruption to embezzlement. Angola is ranked as one of the most corrupt nations on the planet.

Moreover, the government has failed to pour vital resources into infrastructure and medical investments in the form of hospitals and medical training programs, and many children needlessly die from malnutrition, notesThe New York Times. Angola is among the richest in Africa in terms of oil and diamonds, but retains some of the extreme poverty levels in Africa.

The nation’s elite live in isolated in enclaves, while villagers are forced to contend with scant infrastructure and an extremely low standard of living.

Angola was once in the throes of economic advancement, as a thriving middle class rose and infrastructure increased in the cities, but lower oil prices and corruption are among many factors hampering success.  Angola was once a place where immigrants from Portugal came looking for opportunities, but the president’s failure to instill policies that would secure long-lasting growth has left the economy in disarray.

Now Angola is a nation with stark inequality, and leadership has no intention of innovating or diversifying the economy. The president intends to step down in 2018, but there is no word on a potential successor.