Disrupted dreams of development: neoliberal efficiency and crisis in Angola


Jon Schubert
Africa, 2022

Thanks to oil revenues, since the end of the war in 2002, Angola has largely eschewed the usual donor conditionalities in its state-led reconstruction process; the 2014 oil price drop, however, revealed the limits of this economic miracle. Coupled with a long-overdue political transition inside the ruling party, this moment of designated crisis has opened up spaces for elites to inject their continued projects of accumulation with the moralizing language of neoliberalism – talk of efficiency, responsibility, and the proverbial tightening of the belt. Based on fieldwork around the recently modernized transport hub of Lobito, the article examines how these tropes have been deployed and adapted, first to position Angola as a ‘business-friendly’ environment, and then to justify largely self-inflicted austerity measures. By examining the everyday working of real existing neoliberalism through the eyes of the port’s users, the article suggests that Angola’s turbulent history provides a fertile ground to advance, in this moment of crisis, agendas of capital capture, cloaking them in the mantle of common-sensical reasonableness and national solidarity.