Unicer: Brewing corruption in Angola

Foreign investors looking for a way into Angolan markets need to follow two fundamental rules, writes Rafael Marques de Morais – partner with powerful figures from the regime, and ignore the relevant legislation. Marques de Morais looks at the route taken by leading Portuguese beverage manufacturer, Unicer.


 Previous investigations have shown how members of the Angolan government went into partnership with the multinationals Castel Group and SABMiller in order to gain control of the drinks market in the country. This article looks at the case of Unicer, the main beverage manufacturer in Portugal.

The multinationals in the drinks sector have developed a keen interest in the Angolan market, which is the third biggest beer consumer in Africa. Foreign investors seeking a way into Angolan markets need to follow two fundamental rules. The first involves setting up business partnerships with powerful figures in the regime; the second involves ignoring the relevant legislation, relying on the impunity of government leaders.

Unicer’s shareholders are the current ministers of industry and of petroleum, respectively Joaquim David and José Maria Botelho de Vasconcelos, as well as the governor of Benguela Province, General Armando da Cruz Neto and the former president of the National Private Investment Agency, Carlos Fernandes.

In an interview with the weekly paper O País, Unicer’s representative in Angola, José Teixeira, announced that the new UNICA (United Angolan Breweries) factory would start operating in May 2011, and would produce 100 million litres of beer each year.

According to the interview, Unicer sold 125 million litres of beer to Angola in 2009, which accounts for 70 per cent of the imported beer market. In 2008 Unicer’s sales in Angola, led by Cristal and Super Bock brands, were worth $US60 million, making it second only to the Angolan brewery Cuca in the national market.

Partnership with political leaders

Unicer has set up a partnership with three Angolan companies to build a new beer factory in Bengo province. The Portuguese company holds 49 per cent of the capital, while the Angolan companies Emprominas, Giasope e Imosil each have 17 per cent, making a total of 51 per cent between them.

The $US84.6 million investment, approved by the Council of Ministers on 23 March 2008, according to Resolution 80/08 of 22 September, has been made ‘in the context of efforts for the development of the country’. In the preamble to the document, the government declares its determination ‘to promote investment projects with a view to pursuing social and economic goals that are in the public interest, namely increasing national production, increasing economic and productive infrastructure, increasing added value for the country, increasing employment and professional training’.

Justifying the approval of the deal, the Council of Ministers stated that the investors were acting freely, ‘in good faith and in their own interests’ in submitting the investment proposal. In terms of Article 33 of Law 11/03 of 13 May, the Council of Ministers authorised the National Agency for Private Investment (ANIP) ‘as a representative of the state, to enter into contracts with the foreign investors’.

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By Rafael Marques de Morais - Pambazuka News

Rafael Marques de Morais is an Angolan journalist and writer with a special interest in Angola’s political economy and human rights