Angola, "Failed" yet "Successful"

7 May 2009
Angola has topped the list of 'failed states' for decades, but its government has recently managed to put an end to 40 years of violent conflict and its economy is growing as the situation stabilises. European and other international decision-makers might look afresh at notions of state weakness in general, and their relevance to the case of Angola in particular, argues David Sogge.

Portuguese

Angola has topped the list of 'failed states' for decades, but its government has recently managed to put an end to 40 years of violent conflict and its economy is growing as the situation stabilises. European and other international decision-makers might look afresh at notions of state weakness in general, and their relevance to the case of Angola in particular, argues David Sogge.

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For years, as a former Cold War battleground, Angola has stood out on world league tables of ‘failed’ or ‘failing’ states. Yet its army has a formidable record of domestic and foreign combat. Its national oil company is of world class. In recent years its economy has grown at a feverish annual rate of 18 percent. Its government has successfully ended 40 years of violent conflict, consolidated its political base and negotiated profitable deals with major public and private bodies of the United States, Europe and China. For such a country, how valid is the label ‘failed state’?

In light of this seeming paradox, this paper addresses several critical questions. What are the historical roots of conflict in Angola, and of its weak and uneven state and political institutions? How deeply is Angola’s political economy integrated into international systems, and what aspects of that integration help explain both the weaknesses and strengths of state and political institutions? What formal and informal forces and incentives are at work in Angola’s territorial political economy that affect state and political resilience and weakness?

It concludes by suggesting ways European and other international decision-makers might look afresh at notions of state weakness in general, and their relevance to the case of Angola in particular.

FRIDE - Fundación para las Relaciones Internacionales y el Diálogo Exterior


David Sogge, a Fellow of the Transnational Institute, has been working in the field of development aid for over thirty years. Amongst his recent publications are "Give and Take. What's the Matter with Foreign Aid?", Zed Books, 2002 and a contribution to Selling US Wars 2007.

About the authors

David Sogge

Based in Amsterdam, David works as an independent researcher and writer. As an associate of the Norwegian think-tank NOREF, he currently focuses on public control over transnational flows affecting societies on the global periphery. Professional activities since 1970 provided a basis for books and articles on the politics of foreign aid, and on Africa, particularly Angola and South Africa. Evaluative research assignments have taken him to Vietnam, Eastern Europe and countries of the former Soviet Union. Trained at Harvard, David earned his graduate degrees from Princeton and the Institute of Social Studies in The Hague.

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