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Angolan wealth fund gets president’s son on board

Angola will be joining an elite club of resource-rich nations including Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea and Gabon.

Unveiled this week in the capital Luanda, the fundo soberano de Angola (FSDEA)  has pledged to adhere to international standards of transparency, including the generally accepted principles and practices, or "Santiago principles", defined by the international working group of sovereign wealth funds.

But despite these assurances – and a slick PR campaign to support the launch – questions remain about the fund, especially regarding the decision to appoint José Filomeno de Sousa dos Santos, son of long-serving President José Eduardo dos Santos, to its board. There are also doubts about how the money will be managed.

With starting assets of $5-billion, the fund will pursue a mixed portfolio of domestic financing and international projects.

The idea is to direct a ring-fenced portion of Angola's oil revenues, equivalent to 100 000 barrels of oil a day, into global financial markets to build up a savings pot for the future.

Secondary to this goal is a strategic domestic investment programme to stimulate the country's economy, which, despite impressive post-war growth, remains dependent on oil and extremely vulnerable to global price shocks. Oil accounts for 98% of exports and 40% of gross domestic product.

Economic diversification
Focus will be given to the hospitality and infrastructure sectors, regarded as two key areas for job ­creation and economic diversification.

An estimated half to two-thirds of Angolans live in poverty and the country has one of the highest child mortality rates in the world.

The chairperson of the fund's board of directors, Armando Manuel, who is also the secretary of economic affairs, recognised Angola's developmental challenges and said the fund was about making money and investing it for the Angolan people.

"Angola is rich in natural resources, but we understand that these are finite and so it is imperative that the wealth they generate is used to support the social and economic development of the country," Manuel said.

The fund is, in fact, a rebranded version of the Fundo Petrolifero (oil fund) that was formed by presidential decree in March last year.

This earlier fund was set up to receive the revenue equivalent to 100 000 barrels a day for investment in a water and electricity development project. But although the cash was collected, no investments took place.

Eighteen months later, the fund has a new name and logo, its own dedicated headquarters in Luanda  decked out with raw-silk wallpaper, designer furniture and a glass spiral staircase, and $5-billion of assets ready for investment.

Culture of transparency
Angola's main opposition party, Unita, welcomed the idea of investing Angola's oil revenues instead of spending them, but spokesperson Alcides Sakala said there were concerns about how the money would be managed.

"Angola does not have a good record for managing public money and there is no culture of transparency here, so we do have our reservations about how this fund will be supervised," he said.

"We need to know the details of how this will work and members of Parliament should be part of a debate about such an important institution."

Transparency, accountability, commitment and integrity are cited as four core values of the fund and the aim is to earn a rating from the Linaburg-Maduell transparency index, a scale developed by the Sovereign Wealth Fund Institute.

Dos Santos Jr, who previously worked at Glencore, the Anglo-Swiss multinational commodity trading and mining company, has until now kept out of the public eye. But he brushed off claims that he had secured his job through family connections and influence.

He told the Mail & Guardian: "I am here as myself. I do obviously hear these comments and I understand where they come from.

"But, for most of my professional life, I have been involved in business in the insurance sector and in the banking sector and really been doing very similar things to what we are doing in the fund, so I see this more as a progression than a consequence of being a son of a president."

Details about how the fund will work remain sketchy because the final legal framework is still to be ratified, but according to promotional literature it will prioritise investment in the infrastructure and hospitality sectors.

There is also a strong emphasis on social development under slogans such as "growing for our future" similar to the ruling MPLA's winning election pledge of "growing more to distribute better".

Although the president dictates the investment policies, the board chairperson will be the final signatory for the fund, which is overseen by an additional advisory board comprising several government ministers.

The Zurich-based fund Quantum Global Investment Management is managing the liquid assets of the fund, but once it is established in its new legal framework the fund will be opened for tender.

Quantum Global Investment Management's advisory board chairperson, the Swiss-Angolan Jean-Claude Bastos de Morais, is a close friend and business associate of Dos Santos Jr, with whom he part-owns Banco Kwanza Invest, Angola's only dedicated investment bank.

Several other senior figures at Banco Kwanza Invest also have links to Quantum Global Investment Management, but the FSDEA's chairperson said the bank was not involved in the wealth fund in any way.

Marcel Kruse, chief executive of Banco Kwanza, also said the institution had no contract with the fund at present, but he would be interested in working with it if the opportunity arose.

Dos Santos said he had resigned from his position on Banco Kwanza Invest's board and was "in the process" of selling his equity there because it was not "compatible" with his new public role.

Louise Redvers travelled to Luanda as a guest of the fundo soberano de Angola, FSDEA.

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