With the help of the state oil company Sonangol's petrodollars, the former enslaved nation is going on a shopping spree in Portugal. The Angolan elites, many with ties to President José Eduardo dos Santos, in power for the last 32 years, are buying up Portuguese government-owned companies that have to be privatized quickly. Portugal's conservative prime minister, Pedro Passos Coelho, spent his childhood in Angola, where his father was a doctor. This connection has prompted Coelho to advocate closer relations between the two countries, "their citizens and their companies." Now Angolans are buying up shares in Portuguese media companies and they are purchasing prime property along the Atlantic beaches as well as luxury real estate in Lisbon and designer clothing. They are also snapping up workers. Close to 150,000 Portuguese have already obtained visas for Angola.
"For every shipwreck in Portugal, there is a lifebuoy in Angola. Here a professional desert, there an oasis," raves the Lisbon weekly magazine Visão. Since the end of the four-decades-long war, Angola has seen frenetic rebuilding. Roads, railways, airports, housing, schools and hospitals need to be built. But the country also needs help organizing its electricity and water supply, developing Internet access and revamping the agricultural sector.
For all of these reasons, headhunter Fonseca sees a new El Dorado for skilled professionals and managers taking shape in the Angolan capital Luanda, which is only a seven-hour flight from Lisbon.
Some 40 percent of the 18 million Angolans are illiterate. Those without education and training are unable to find work, and two-thirds of the population survives on less than €1 a day. Only a small upper class has university degrees, and an even smaller minority has obtained a coveted foreign degree. This -- and the fact that they face no language barriers in an African country where Portuguese is the national language -- explains why teachers, doctors, engineers and agricultural experts from Portugal are in such great demand. Companies draw up the employment contracts for Angola under Portuguese law, and the workers from the motherland are sent to Africa as expatriates.
Heeding the Call
"I can't stand it any more, the constant talk about the crisis here in Portugal," says Marta Gonzaga, 39, standing on the terrace of the chic Bairro Alto Hotel in Lisbon. She gazes through large, round sunglasses at her neighborhood near Camões Square, above the Tagus River. "For many of my fellow Portuguese, things are constantly going downhill." Gonzaga, a single mother with a 12-year-old daughter, loves this part of Old Lisbon, with its tourist magnet, the Café A Brasileira, and she would like to continue living here. But she is heeding the call to Angola because of work. For Gonzaga, the African country offers a "bright outlook."