Angola swears in new president after 38 years

Angola witnesses the first leadership change in 38 years with the swearing in of Joao Lourenco, the former defence minister, as the new democratically elected president.

Lourenco won the election under the umbrella of the People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola – Labour Party (MPLA) with 61.1%, as against the opposition party’s National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) 26.7%. This helped the MPLA secure 150 seats in the 220-member parliamentary seats in the National Assembly. That is 2/3 majority needed to pass any legislation without help from another party.

The MPLA has been the only leadership the country has known since independence in 1975, after emerging from a 27-year-long civil war in 2002. So far, the country has held 3 elections and each time, the MPLA has comfortably beaten its opposition UNITA.

The 63-year-old former defence minister is to take over from Jose Eduardo dos Santos who he has stepped down after 38 years in office, but will continue to lead the ruling MPLA until next year.

Lourenço campaigned on the promise that he would lead the country in a new direction, tackle corruption, reduce the country’s dependence on the volatile oil price, open the country’s economy to the world, also, ensure that the infrastructural development that has turned around Luanda, the Angolan capital city, reaches the rest of the country. He also promised better transparency than his predecessors.

The new president plans to bring in foreign investment to reverse the economic slump caused by the drop in the price of oil, Angola’s main export. Foreign exchange inflows dried up and the economy posted zero growth in 2016 after expanding for 14 consecutive years.

To reduce Angola’s dependence on oil, Lourenco’s government hopes to diversify the economy by investing in agriculture, cattle raising and fisheries.