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Evidence of How Angola’s Oil Wealth Funds Patronage and Repression

University of Houston

This is why the Angolan government funnels the oil revenue into patronage networks, which help sustain the MPLA’s dictatorship. Expansion of the public sector is a critical channel for this financial distribution. The MPLA relies on inflated salaries and employment opportunities to buy loyalty. As much as 70 percent of the labor force worked for the government in 2019, highlighting the dependence on the culture of patronage to exercise influence (Krawczyk 30). The strategy provides a source of income and power to some people who become politically loyal, thereby forming a network supporting the regime.

Another way in which the MPLA has gained support is through direct payment via cash transfer or informally. The government channels its oil revenues to the core supporters through monthly salaries, creating a business dependent on the regime. For example, traditional leaders and religious figures are bribed to support the MPLA agenda and ensure there is no opposition. Such a practice is also considered as a measure that discourages any criticisms and opposition that may be coming from some parts of society towards the regime.

The last component of the patronage network consists of state contracts for infrastructure projects and resource extraction. The MPLA deliberately gives huge contracts to firms belonging to its associates, thereby ensuring that a few individuals take advantage of the petroleum earnings (Ngovene et al. 533). It increases the wealth of the political allies; hence, political coercion is symbiotic. The MPLA regime has controlled strategically placed patronage networks supported using the nation’s hard cash acquired from oil sales, keeping a tight grip over power in Angola.


The government’s budgeting pattern in Angola indicates an apparent reliance on sustaining patronage networks as one of the critical elements that must be upheld for the Party to maintain its control (Soque). Forty percent of the country’s budget in 2021 went to public administration and social protection, which is indicatiindicates’s efforts to keep its own public ice and social support loyal. The 85% was much higher than the 15% allocated to essential sectors such as education, health and infrastructure. Managing the allocated monies towards specific areas is a calculated effort to strengthen and maintain support from the targeted groups.

Angola’s corruption degree is from its perpetual ranking among the bottom countries on Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index (Vidal 69). A score of 28 percent in 2023 shows that there is too much misuse of the public for private ends. This implies that biased budgetary allocations do not simply represent a culture of patronage but rather reflect deeper corrupt tendencies within the government that the injected oil revenues have promoted.

Many investigative reports by credible institutions like Global Witness and Human Rights Watch also confirm the link between oil prosperity and patronage in Angola. The studies also demonstrate how this patronage has taken advantage of oil money by showing examples of top of top government officialsders to their tied cronies. These investigations yield proof that the regime invested oil revenues in nurturing and maintaining support for its autocratic control in Angola.

Funding Repression of Civil Society

Much of Angola’s oil revenues boost internal security, including police, defense and intelligence. Therefore, this strategic restructuring gives the regime an all-encompassing grip over the nation, facilitating instant suppression of impending challenges to its power (Soque). Secured using the oil wealth, the security army is large and powerful; it stands against any resistance. MPLA uses the oil money to acquire sophisticated spy equipment, internet activities, and silencing free space (Gomes et al.). This encompasses regulating what people can know about and going after journalists and activists. These measure regime uses these measures to any dissidents’ voices and critics, thereby buttressing authoritarianism.

Oil-subsidized security forces of the MPLA regime have brutally suppressed all public demands. Such a systematic use of force produces an environment of fear and terrorism to ensure that the nation does not participate politically or oppose the government.


The commitment that Angola has maintained concerning having a strong military can be seen through continuous defense spending that has consistently exceeded 2% of the GDP, which goes beyond the typical one. This massive amount of money shows that the state government is determined to maintain an intimidating military power against possible domestic rivals for state authority.

In 2023, Angola scored 28 out of 100 in the Freedom in the World Index by Freedom House, depicting low civil liberties and political rights practices (Lippolis 612). This ranking reveals severe limitations for freedoms and citizen engagement in political processes.

Amnesty International has widely reported gross violations of human rights committed by government authorities in Angola (Vidal 58). Systematic Cases of arbitrary arrests, torture, and extrajudicial killings are evidence that systematic brutalities promote authoritarian control and contribute to the disturbing situation in Angola: the well-funded army, restrictions on civil liberties and documented human rights abuses.

Graphical Presentation

Figure 1: Correlation between Oil Revenue and Public Sector Employment in Angola

Correlation between Oil Revenue and Public Sector Employment in Angola

Analysis of the graphical presentation

The trend depicted by this chart shows the significant positive association relating oil revenue and the public service workforce in Angola. This implies that as oil revenue increases, the same is seen in the increase in public sector employees, thereby depicting this government’s utilization of the patronage system.


The proof presented shows that Angola’s MPLA-run government utilizes its oil riches to fund its patronage networks and apparatus of repression. This enables the regime to control power by benefitting the loyalists to keep them supporting it while intimidating the opposition. So long as the MPLA controls the oil revenue, it can stop democratization and retain absolute rule.

Work Cited

Gomes, Catarina Antunes, et al. “Subverting the Constitution and Curtailing Civil Society. Angola’s New Law on NGOs.” CMI Insight 2023.

Krawczyk, Weronika. “AID, GOVERNANCE AND PUBLIC FINANCE FRAUD. EVIDENCE FROM ANGOLA.” Politeja-Pismo Wydziału Studiów Międzynarodowych i Politycznych Uniwersytetu Jagiellońskiego 17.69 (2020): 19-50.

Lippolis, Nicolas. “The logic of authoritarian industrial policy: the case of Angola’s special economic zone.” African Affairs 121.485 2022: 595–622.

Ngovene, Samuel Francisco. “Ethnic Mobilisation in Politics-Machangana Ruling Over.” Journal of Namibian Studies: History Politics Culture 36 2023: 524–538.

Soque, Manuel Antonio. “The Politics of Authoritarian Resilience in Angola from 1992-2017: Co-Optation, Repression, and Service Provision in Five Provinces.” (2022).

Vidal, Nuno Fragoso. “The new wave of international authoritarian populism of the 2010s has also arrived in Africa? The Mozambique and Angolan cases.” Topoi (Rio de Janeiro) 24 (2023): 52-76.


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