In his professional and political career, Alcino dos Prazeres Izata Francisco da Conceição, whom replaced Ricardo Viegas Abreu in July as Secretary for Economic Affairs at the president´s cabinet, climbed to power with the support of two of the most influential figures in the current Angolan political context – Manuel Vicente, former vice-president and current “eminence grise” of the regime, and Ana Dias Lourenço, first lady and “informal” adviser of President João Lourenço.
After completing a post-graduate degree in Economics and Finance at the University of Amiens, France (1998), he joined the Ministry of Planning. Here, Izata´s impressive skills quickly led him to be promoted to head of the Department of Multilateral Development Aid. In 2007, he reached the position of head of the Department of Economic Studies and Prospects.
During these roles, he worked closely with Ana Dias Lourenço, who was then a prominent member of the economic team in the Government under the former president, José Eduardo dos Santos.
Izata would again meet with Dias Lourenço in Washington, USA, as advisor to the executive director of the African Constituency (Angola, Nigeria, and South Africa) on the Board of Directors of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) since 2010.
In 2013, Ana Dias Lourenço was given a position as assistant director on the International Monetary Fund´s Board at the neighbouring World Bank. Later, she took on a two-year term of office as the executive director of that institution, replacing the former Minister of Finance of Nigeria, Mansur Muhtar,
Izata did not stay in Washington to see the end of Dias Lourenço´s term in October 2016, since he returned to Luanda in December 2013.
The co-existence between the two in the USA resulted in the distancing between Izata and Dias Lourenço, due to unclear circumstances.
The current first lady, wife of president João Lourenço, has been decisive in his appointment to the IMF.
Upon his return to Luanda at the end of 2013, Izata found the protection of Manuel Vicente, then completing his first year as vice-president, in whose cabinet Izata became an adviser for Economic and Business Affairs.
Their relationship began when Vicente was CEO of Sonangol, the country´s national oil company, while Izata was a young cadre of the oil industry.
With a low profile and a technocratic penchant, the young Izata remained an advisor to the new vice-president, Bornito de Sousa, after the general elections of August 2017. This lasted until he was appointed by João Lourenço to succeed Ricardo Viegas Abreu – who became the new Transport minister.
Izata’s position goes in line with many other choices done by the President for the government in opposition of previous choices of with government officials that are also linked to businesses.
However, both José Lima Massano, appointed by Lourenço to the position of governor of the National Bank of Angola (BNA), and Carlos Saturnino, the PCA of Sonangol, were cadres whose promotion in Angolan business circles was fostered by and is closely linked to Vicente. Similar to these two men, Izata is seen in circles of the regime as a “man” of the former vice-president, whose ascendant became evident last year, to the point of becoming known as the “real vice-president”.
The main sign of Vincente’s growing influence was his direct interference in the dismissal by João Lourenço of Isabel dos Santos, daughter of the former president, from the presidency of Sonangol in November 2017. Followed by her replacement with Carlos Saturnino, a man described as being a “confidant” of the former vice-president.
Isabel dos Santos, who had been very critical in Vicente´s legacy at Sonangol, had dismissed Saturnino from the executive committee of Sonangol Research and Production in December 2016, which was interpreted in political and business circles as indirectly aiming at the management of Manuel Vicente.
In independent circles of Angolan society, a conflict of interest between João Lourenço and Manuel Vicente against Isabel dos Santos is clear.
While for the new president, the public exposure of dos Santos is an example of nepotism and the use of public funds for personal benefit serves political purposes to gain popularity and weaken the former president, in order to force his abandonment of the MPLA presidency. For Manuel Vicente, the close co-operation with João Lourenço has the dual purpose of strengthening his position within the regime and maintaining his influence, while simultaneously retaliating against the former Sonangol executive who had criticized him.
Another important attribution by João Lourenço to Manuel Vicente is the intransigent defense of the former president of SNL EP in the process of targeting him in the Portuguese justice – under the argument that it should be the Angolan court to handle the process – to the point of threatening retaliation, through private channels, against Portuguese interests in Angola and even the lusophone community, CPLP.
With the replacement of José Eduardo dos Santos for João Lourenço at the head of the ruling MPLA party scheduled for 8 September, Vicente´s name has come up in the last few weeks as the most likely candidate for vice-president.