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How to Exploit and Rob a Country: Rich Countries Turned Poor by Corrupt Leadership

Just the other day, there was this news doing the rounds on international mainstream media about the daughter of one African president who was facing charges of corruption and embezzlement.

The daughter in question was Isabel dos Santos; the country, Angola.

The accusations came off the back of an undercover investigation by investigative journalists who shared more than 700,000 leaked documents (dubbed the Luanda Leaks) revealing the fraudulent dealings of her business undertakings through the years.

Now, in case the name doesn’t ring bells, Isabel dos Santos is said to be the richest woman in Africa.

With an estimated net worth of a little over $2 billion, the woman who’s currently in her late 40s is the first-born daughter of former president of Angola, Jose Eduardo dos Santos, who was at the helm for just under 40 years (1979-2017).

Despite her claims to the contrary, everyone and their neighbour knows it is this association to the country’s presidency for the better part of her lifetime that has put her into this position of wealth and power.

Because for those who don’t know, Angola is one of the richest countries in the world in terms of mineral deposits. The West African country is one of Africa’s top three producers of both diamonds and oil, with plenty of other precious minerals to boot.

And herein lies the problem.

Impact of Leadership

For far too long, many third-world countries endowed with an abundance of rich natural deposits like oil, gold and diamonds have flattered to deceive when it comes to translating this wealth amongst their people.

Angola, and many countries like her have suffered from poor leadership for far too long that have left them punching well below their weight, and it’s sad just thinking about it.

A tiny clique of corrupt individuals holding entire countries captive by pillaging resources and looting funds that should be going towards helping them eradicate the poverty plaguing their people.

This just doesn’t happen in Angola, but most third world countries with natural resource galore.

We saw it in oil-rich Libya under Gaddafi, we have seen it for decades in the DRC, an ever-green country in Central Africa that has every imaginable mineral on earth and is widely considered to be the wealthiest country in the world in terms of natural resources.

We have seen the blatant siphoning of proceeds of oil in oil-rich Equatorial Guinea by the president and his son who were recently accused of channelling their loot to France.

We have also seen the sad stories of blood diamonds in countries like Sierra Leone and Liberia where proceeds from diamonds have been used to fuel civil wars that have led to some of the grimmest crimes against humanity, the horrors of which are being felt to this very day.

What stories like these have managed to do is paint these countries not just in a negative light, but cast them as poor in the eyes of the world.

On the surface it may look so, but in real sense, it is quite the opposite.

So much so that, as highlighted above, a country like the Democratic Republic of Congo ought to be one of the world’s wealthiest countries were it not for decades of plundering of resources and exploitation by a few.

It was actually in the DRC where the term ‘kleptocracy’ was coined to describe a political period of official corruption as was witnessed under former leader Mobutu Sese Seko who died as one of the world’s wealthiest men following a period of massive embezzlement amounts to billions of US dollars.

The predecessors have been no better.

Angola, for its part, has always held much promise despite the decades of pilfering under President Jose dos Santos. Ernst and Young, the auditing company, listed the West African country as the world’s fastest growing economy in the 2000-2010 decade.

But the enormous potential held by these countries has never been truly realised due to poor leadership characterised by grand corruption.

While not perfect, countries like South Africa – which itself has had issues especially under President Jacob Zuma and his infamous cahoots like the Gupta family – and Botswana – Top 3 least corrupt countries in Africa for many years now – have shown what good leadership can achieve.

Like Angola and Congo, these two are also endowed with the most coveted natural resources.

South Africa, the world’s second-largest gold producer, boasts some of the largest diamond, platinum, palladium and coal deposits in the world. Botswana, the second-largest diamond producer in the world, is not far behind.

Matter of fact, the economic success of these two countries is directly tied to strong political (and economic) institutions that have turned them into some of the continent’s richest.

The impact of leadership.

Turning a Leaf

With good and accountable leadership, there is no denying that the livelihoods of hundreds of millions of people in countries like we have touched on in here can be changed for the better.

It is amazing to think characters like Isabel dos Santos, who has been running online PR campaigns to save face, can even contemplate running for president in a country she has played a role in impoverishing.

People like these will always try to argue their case because in many instances, the theft is covered up through businesses that appear legitimate but ones which employ negative tactics to thrive.

Awarding of fat government contracts through nepotism, for example. Or getting to bed with dubious international parties who are willing to turn a blind eye to what is actually happening.

Tax evasion and stashing of illegal proceeds in offshore money havens is also synonymous with such corrupt leaders.

For these countries to make any meaningful strides forward, it is imperative for people like these to be brought to book once found guilty. But that is easier said than done in all honesty. It will take some doing.

For starters, keeping them away from leadership and having accountable leaders in office is a small step in the right direction.

But even that will not be without struggle, as we are witnessing in another country that holds an estimated 20% of global oil reserves: Venezuela.


Jillian Haslam Bio

Jillian is a Motivational Speaker and a coach with distinction, and has had a 20 year career in banking, including working with executives at board level. Bank of England. RBS, Nova Nordisk. McDonalds and The University of Cambridge are some of the names on her impressive list of clients.

Born and raised in abject poverty in Calcutta – Jillian is a truly inspirational and professional keynote speaker. She uses her experience and motivational stories to inspire others to face their fears using the power of resilience, something she calls “He Irrepressible Mind.”. With her motivational words and her warmth, she engages and empathises with her audience. She has received some of the most amazing testimonials from Corporates, universities & schools alike. To review some of these, please visit

Aside from being a successful businesswoman, philanthropist, and conference speaker, she is a published author “Indian.English”. An inspirational story about her life, of finding the road to success, and how she utilises her wisdom and vision is a story that will make anyone take action in their lives.