As head of Angola's powerful state oil company Sonangol, Manuel Domingos Vicente has long been President Jose Eduardo dos Santos's right-hand man. Now he increasingly looks like his heir apparent.
One month ago, the 56-year-old was posted as minister of state for economic co-ordination, a high-level job created from scratch, to the consternation of some old-timers in the party.
Since then he's made no public appearances or statements, but has become the most-watched man in Angolan politics, amid speculation that he could be nominated as vice president when the ruling MPLA unveils its party list later this year.
His rise is seen by some as Putin-esque, with Dos Santos shoring up his powerbase at the top level of government by bringing in his close ally, but making sure he could retain control should he eventually decide to step down.
"Vicente will allow Dos Santos to rule indirectly even when he has left power, securing the fortunes of his family and the military and political elite so that there is an important buffer between himself and the reformers within the ruling party," she said.
Not everyone is happy about Vicente's arrival in cabinet, without the usual credentials of party or military service.
He is credited with transforming Sonangol from a simple concessionaire into a global investment empire, seen as an island of efficiency in a country the World Bank rates abysmally for ease of doing business.
Luanda born, Vicente is the godfather of the president's eldest daughter Isabel, and according to one report, his stepmother is Dos Santos's sister.
As president of Sonangol he kept his distance from the media. He was rarely seen in Sonangol's Luanda headquarters due to regular overseas trips.
When thrust into public situations, Vicente was always charming. At Sonangol's annual results news conference -- the only time he interacted with media -- he liked to joke with journalists, sometimes giving deliberately enigmatic answers.
He has though found more headlines of late, accused by Angolan anti-graft campaigner Rafael Marques of corruption. US regulators are investigating some of the claims.
Marques believes Vicente could fall as quickly as he has risen.
"Vicente is just a sitting duck at the moment and being used by Dos Santos to manage Sonangol's money and offshore dealings," Marques said.
"He does not yet have the support of the MPLA or the other ministers and there will be opposition to his rapid ascent to the presidency."
He rose rapidly within Sonangol from a chief engineer in 1981. He did a four-year stint at the Ministry of Petroleum as head of the technical department, before being named Sonangol's deputy director general in 1991 and the president of the board in 1999.
Vicente is currently on the board of Portuguese energy company GALP, in which Sonangol has indirect share through a joint venture with Isabel dos Santos, as well as the Angolan bank BAI, of which Sonangol is the majority shareholder.
In his new job, Vicente will "directly assist" the president in the overseeing of all economic policy and decision making.
The scope of his position puts him a notch above Dos Santos' two other ministers of state, and even Vice President Fernando "Nando" Piedade Dos Santos, who at one time had been seen as a succession option.
Source: AFP Global Edition