The US pressed Angola into asking financial assistance to the IMF, plain and simple. Angola, much like many other oil producing countries, accommodated itself and did not prepare for future political and economic shifts, therefore it is now paying a heavy price sending everybody (from the common citizen to the elites) in a spiral down uncertainty. Nevertheless, why did the US decide to re-kindle its pressure on Luanda?
The US Objectives for Angola
“U.S. foreign policy goals in Angola are to promote and strengthen Angola’s democratic institutions, promote economic prosperity, improve health, and consolidate peace and security, including maritime security.” (source)
The US takes its values very seriously, especially the power of the people (i.e Democracy); therefore, in spite of Angola's democratic processes – e.g. Free elections – this country is anything but democratic: the political system is oligarchic, there's hardly a free press, dissent is not tolerated, the same family has ruled the country since 1979 and the people (as a whole) do not benefit from the country's wealth. Such characteristics may have been tolerated by the US in the past (when America juggled between its interests and values) but today there's less tolerance for them, when the States seem to put its values first and then its interests. Furthermore, due to the Western world's decreased reliance on oil, states do not feel they have to compromise their basic values in exchange for the black gold; therefore, they will exert pressure on Angola till it bends.
Notwithstanding, the pressure should not be exerted exaggeratedly to the point of breaking that African country into pieces as it would undermine regional security – when we take into account Angola's role in DRC and Congo-Brazzaville, with far-reaching consequences for central Africa.
Lack of Business Diversification
Angola should have diversified its line of business, but it didn't. This country has huge reserves of natural gas that are not being explored despite the interest expressed by investors.
Much of Angola's deep and ultra-deep water areas are considered to be highly prospective and remain to be explored – Natural Gas Resources
It is true that any country relying solely on one source of income will eventually suffer an economic crisis when the price and demand of its main exported product fluctuate. Oil accounts for 95% of Angola's exports; and now the country is paying the price for not having diversified its industry (as Nigeria did when it developed its agricultural sector for export and its natural gas industry). Angola, like South Africa and Namibia, could be a major Diamond hub but this area also remains underdeveloped:
Charles Skinner, head of group exploration at De Beers, estimated that 90 percent of the prospective area in Angola remains unexplored - Angola, 100 years later
Is it so because of the country's oligarchic system spearheaded by President José Eduardo dos Santos' daughter – Isabel dos Santos? Maybe. Or maybe it is because the diamond business, nowadays, requires more transparency than the oil industry. Moreover, oil has been high on demand and yielding quicker profit, enriching thus the whole Oligarchy in a much faster pace.
Angola's foreign currency problems started when Bank of America decided, back in 2014, to cut the supply of dollars. The American financial institution did not explain the reason behind such decision but we are guessing it was a political retaliation – one that went far beyond the simple lack of a true democratic behaviour.
Angola has a very rich interventionist foreign policy history: it has successfully managed to change unfriendly regimes in Zimbabwe (1980), Namibia (1990), South Africa (1994), Zaïre (now the DRC, in 1997), and Congo-Brazzaville (1998). Still today it proceeds interfering in the internal affairs of the countries in the region surrounding it, especially in the DRC and Congo-Brazzaville. So far so good: it's all part of the political game. However, what really seems to have upset the US was the intel that Angola (like Saudi Arabia) plays a double game: it supported Islamic terrorist groups in DRC and beyond (running thus contrary to the AFRICOM mission), while at the same time assisting Kabila and serving American interests in the region.
Surely the US had already warned Angola about these subversive activities that went against the American, and most of the world's, fight against Global Jihad and the maintenance of International Peace & Security (to ensure global prosperity). But the Angolan leadership seems to either have ignored the warnings or failed to admit the situation had spiralled out of its control (in order not to admit weakness, in a time it sought to project itself as a regional power). So now, the Obama Administration destabilised Angola's economy and social equilibrium (that can easily lead to a political crisis towards regime change) as a warning.
Food for thought: is the Angolan crisis a sub-product of the interference by Nigeria (who is now its main direct competitor), by South Africa (who having lost its rank to Nigeria, is not in the mood of being surpassed by Angola as well) or by the DRC and Congo-Brazzaville – countries that have been visiting Washington a lot of late?
Whatever the answer is, it can be said that Angola is experiencing Political Karma. Unfortunately, the Angolan people will once again pay the price until the problem is dealt with.
[The views expressed in this publication are solely those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of Dissecting Society]