Southern African Regional Poverty Network (SARPN) SARPN thematic photo
Country analysis > Angola Last update: 2020-11-27  

 Related documents

Angola: Options for prosperity

Professor Paul Collier

Department of Economics, Oxford University

May 2006

SARPN acknowledges for this article.
[Download complete version - 45Kb < 1min (9 pages)]     [ Share with a friend  ]


It is now thirty years since the liberation of Angola from colonialism. For nearly all of that time the economy was held back by rebellion. It is not possible to develop in conditions of civil war. At last the society is free of this burden. Times are propitious. Not only is Angola at last post-conflict, it has a new oil bonanza. Where will Angola be in another thirty years? What will the society look like in 2036?

The best way to answer this question is to look at other societies that have faced this combination. The most useful investment the government of Angola can make is to purchase the entire cabinet two sets of airline tickets: one to Nigeria, the other to Malaysia. See where they are now, and then realize that thirty years ago they were where you are now.

Nigeria in 1973 was post-conflict and the oil was starting to flow. What then happened?

By 1983 the first oil boom had been wasted and the government was ousted in a coup d'etat.

By 1993 the second oil boom had been wasted and there had been two further successful coups d'etats.

By 2003 the economy was as poor as it had been before $200bn of oil money, and reform had just started.

Malaysia in 1973 had just emerged from devastating inter-ethnic riots. It was starting to get large natural resource revenues.

By 1983 there was already broad-based prosperity, with explicit arrangements for all ethnic groups to share in the gains from resource revenues.

By 1993 there had been spectacular progress. Malaysia was attracting by far the highest investment inflows per capita in the world.

By 2003 Malaysia was a world-class economy; Kuala Lumpur had the tallest building in the world; and the President was able to hand over power in a smooth and stable transition.

These two countries started more-or-less from where Angola is now and thirty years later could not have been more different. Your choices now will determine which of these routes you follow.

These examples illustrate a more general phenomenon. Both post-conflict periods and oil bonanzas are times when policy choices are far more important than usual and also far more varied. Some societies get them right, others get them wrong, and the consequences are spectacular. The choices that will be made in the next couple of years will shape the society for decades to come, for good or ill.

Unfortunately, the 'default option' is that Angola will follow the path of Nigeria. Lagos now is the best predictor of Luanda in 2036. This is because there are strong economic and political forces that take a society down this route. Nigerians in the 1970s were not fools. It would have taken exceptional skill and foresight for Nigeria to avoid what happened. Your massive advantage over the Nigerians of the 1970s is that you can learn from their mistakes, just as Nigerians have now learnt from them. You do not need to waste the next three decades. So what choices really matter now? Of course, everything matters, but if you try to do everything you will fail at everything. So what really, really matters now? I am going to limit myself to five things.

Octoplus Information Solutions Top of page | Home | Contact SARPN | Disclaimer