For the first time in 38 years, many an Angolan will finally get a chance to vote a new president after Jose Eduardo Dos Santos chose not to contest in today’s election.
Dos Santos’ move leaves Movimento Popular de Libertação de Angola (MPLA) with a new flag bearer in Joao Lourenco, the current minister of defense and his long time crony.
It’s a move that critics believe will still leave Dos Santos with as much influence as he’s always had, seeing as he’ll remain MPLA party president.
Dos Santos leaves at a time Angola’s oil reserves are still estimated to be in excess of seven billion barrels, perhaps enough to last the nation another twenty years.
The 74-year old has probably had enough, having allowed his relatives, cronies and political allies considerable leeway to plunder one of the country’s major resources (oil overtook Agriculture as the leading export since 1973).
Isabel dos Santos, his daughter and firstborn with an estimated net worth of over $3.5 billion, was appointed as head of the state oil company – Sonangol – in 2016, while Jose Filomeno – his son – is the chairman of Angola's sovereign wealth fund.
Despite its oil wealth, most of Angola's 22 million people still live in abject poverty. The gulf between the two classes is best epitomized by the largely unoccupied Nova Cidade de Kilamba, a residential estate consisting of 750 eight-storey apartment buildings and sitting on 5,000 acres.
Kilamba has since been christened the ghost city because majority of the Angolan populace simply cannot afford the property rates in the area. This was worsened by credit access complexities in the former Portuguese colony.
It’s a situation Dos Santos tried to manage in 2013, when he launched a state-backed mortgage scheme to help middle class Angolans access credit to buy their own homes and prompt price drops in the empty city. The properties range from $100,000 - $200,000.
Such a gulf, perhaps, is one of the biggest reasons many of the impoverished Angolans living beyond the confines of country’s elite will be rooting for UNITA, formerly a rebel outfit founded by Jonas Savimbi and now headed by Isaias Samakuva.
Whereas Dos Santos may have reached his satiety point at 74, a certain peer of his to the far North East restively awaits the start of commercial production of "his" (thick) oil before he can call it a day.
After 38 years, the country that gave the world Sam Mangwana, Cabo Snoop (music), William Carvalho, Rio Mavuba, Manucho (football) will finally give its people a new president.