Monocolumn: Former Colonies Come To Portugal’s Rescue

It is a special kind of relationship, and one that could prove crucial to Portugal’s recovery. In a reversal of history, the Iberian nation is now relying on the trade and financial support of its former colonies to help it through its worst-ever financial crisis.

Monocolumn is Monocle’s daily bulletin of news and opinion. Catch up with previous editions here.

It is a special kind of relationship, and one that could prove crucial to Portugal’s recovery. In a reversal of history, the Iberian nation is now relying on the trade and financial support of its former colonies to help it through its worst-ever financial crisis.

Brazil is considering buying some of Portugal’s sovereign debt, while Angolan investment has increased by more than 250 per cent in three years. Although Portuguese companies do not usually have the financial clout to compete in emerging markets, a common language and cultural links with other Lusophone countries such as Mozambique and even India could give them an advantage.

Portugal has retained relatively positive relations with its ex-colonies. “Angolans and the Portuguese were actually subject to the same debilitating dictatorship,” says Fernando Jorge Cardoso, co-director of the Institute for Strategic and International Studies in Lisbon. “The overthrow of the regime [by a leftist military coup in 1974] automatically transformed the Portuguese liberators into Angolan allies.”

Angolan assets, spearheaded by President José Eduardo dos Santos, his family and advisers, range from olive groves and vineyards to stakes in leading companies such as GALP Energia and airline TAP. Sonae, one of Portugal’s largest corporations, and Condis, which belongs largely to dos Santos’ wife, have recently signed a deal for the company to enter Angola with hypermarket chain Continente. Portuguese media firms are setting up in Luanda, while Luandan CEOs are buying land in Alentejo, Portugal. Unsurprisingly, Portugal’s ambassador to India, Jorge Roza de Oliveira, said in a visit to Goa – another former colony – that India is the next desired frontier.

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