Oil, Diamonds & Unspoilt Coastline — Angola is an eye-opener in many ways. Scarred painfully by years of debilitating warfare and practically untouched by foreign visitors since the early 1970s, the country remains remote, with few observers privy to its geographic highlights and vast cultural riches.
Despite advancements in infrastructure and a dramatically improved security situation, travel in Angola remains the preserve of adventurers, or those on flexible budgets. But with the transport network gradually recovering and wildlife being shipped in to repopulate decimated national parks, the signs of recovery are more than just a mirage.
For outsiders, the attractions are manifold. Chill out on expansive beaches, sample the solitude in virgin wildlife parks or sift through the ruins of Portuguese colonialism. From Luanda to Lubango the nuances are startling.
Official name. Republic of Angola
Capital and largest city. Luanda 8°50′S 13°20′E
Language. Official Portuguese. Recognised national languages: Kikongo, Chokwe, Umbundu, Kimbundu, Nganguela, Kwanyama
Ethnic groups. 36% Ovimbundu, 25% Ambundu, 13% Bakongo, 22% other African, 2% Mestiço, 1% Chinese, 1% European
Government. Unitary presidential republic. President José Eduardo dos Santos
Independence from Portugal 11 November 1975
Area. Total 1,246,700 km2 (23rd)
Population. 2014 census 25,789,024. Density. 20,69/km2 (199th)
GDP (PPP). 2016 estimate Total $194.055 billion (64th). Per capita $7,501 (107th)
GDP (nominal). 2016 estimate Total $98.815 billion (61st). Per capita $3,819 (91st)
Tourist information www.angolamarket.com. For more up-to-date information, go to www.lonelyplanet.com/thorntree or www.angola-today.com.
MONEY – Currency new kwanza (AOA). Exchange rate Sept 2016: 1 US$ = 165 AOA. This has been one of Africa’s more stable currencies.
VISAS. 30-day visas must be obtained in advance. Angolan visa requirements discourage tourism, especially in comparison with other Southern African countries that give many nationalities visa on arrival. Almost all nationalities must get a visa prior to arrival. Travellers need an international yellow fever certificate in order to obtain a visa, as well as (except for tourist visas) a letter of invitation from a private individual, organization or company stating that they will take responsibility for your stay. Namibians don’t need a visa for Angola. Frmo countries to the north, you will often only be issued a five day transit visa for Angola. If travelling by road, this will only give you enough time to get to Luanda where it takes up to four days to get another five day transit visa. If you’re coming into Angola from DR Congo, you may well need an Angolan visa before entering DR Congo.
Angola is a country in Southern Africa. It is the seventh-largest country in Africa, and is bordered by Namibia to the south, the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the north and east, Zambia to the east, and the Atlantic Ocean to west. The exclave province of Cabinda has borders with the Republic of the Congo and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The capital and largest city of Angola is Luanda.
Although its territory has been inhabited since the Paleolithic Era, modern Angola originates in Portuguese colonization, which began with, and was for centuries limited to, coastal settlements and trading posts established beginning in the 16th century. In the 19th century, European settlers slowly and hesitantly began to establish themselves in the interior. As a Portuguese colony, Angola did not encompass its present borders until the early 20th century, following resistance by groups such as the Cuamato, the Kwanyama and the Mbunda. Independence was achieved in 1975 after the protracted liberation war. That same year, Angola descended into an intense civil war that lasted until 2002. It has since become a relatively stable unitary presidential republic.
Angola has vast mineral and petroleum reserves, and its economy is among the fastest growing in the world, especially since the end of the civil war. In spite of this, the standard of living remains low for the majority of the population, and life expectancy and infant mortality rates in Angola are among the worst in the world. Angola’s economic growth is highly uneven, with the majority of the nation’s wealth concentrated in a disproportionately small sector of the population.
Angola is a member state of the United Nations, OPEC, African Union, the Community of Portuguese Language Countries, the Latin Union and the Southern African Development Community. A highly multiethnic country, Angola’s 24.3 million people span various tribal groups, customs, and traditions. Angolan culture reflects centuries of Portuguese rule, namely in the predominance of the Portuguese language and Roman Catholicism, combined with diverse indigenous influences.
Etymology. The name Angola comes from the Portuguese colonial name Reino de Angola (Kingdom of Angola), appearing as early as Dias de Novais’s 1571 charter. The toponym was derived by the Portuguese from the title ngola held by the kings of Ndongo. Ndongo was a kingdom in the highlands, between the Kwanza and Lukala Rivers, nominally tributary to the king of Kongo but which was seeking greater independence during the 16th century.
Early migrations and political units. Khoi and San hunter-gatherers are the earliest known modern human inhabitants of the area. They were largely absorbed or replaced by Bantu peoples during the Bantu migrations, though small numbers remain in parts of southern Angola to the present day. The Bantu came from the north, probably from somewhere near the present-day Republic of Cameroon.
During this time, the Bantu established a number of political units (“kingdoms”, “empires”) in most parts of what today is Angola. The best known of these is the Kingdom of the Kongo that had its centre in the northwest of contemporary Angola, but included important regions in the west of present-day Democratic Republic and Republic of Congo and in southern Gabon. It established trade routes with other trading cities and civilisations up and down the coast of southwestern and West Africa and even with the Great Zimbabwe Mutapa Empire, but engaged in little or no transoceanic trade. To its south lay the Kingdom of Ndongo, from which the area of the later Portuguese colony was sometimes known as Dongo.
Portuguese colonization. The region now known as Angola was reached by the Portuguese explorer Diogo Cão in 1484. The year before, the Portuguese had established relations with the Kingdom of Kongo, which stretched at the time from modern Gabon in the north to the Kwanza River in the south. The Portuguese established their primary early trading post at Soyo, which is now the northernmost city in Angola apart from the Cabinda enclave. Paulo Dias de Novais founded São Paulo de Loanda (Luanda) in 1575 with a hundred families of settlers and four hundred soldiers. Benguela was fortified in 1587 and elevated to a township in 1617.
The Portuguese established several other settlements, forts, and trading posts along the Angolan coast, principally trading in Angolan slaves for Brazilian plantations. Local slave dealers provided a large number of slaves for the Portuguese Empire, usually sold in exchange for manufactured goods from Europe. This part of the Atlantic slave trade continued until after Brazil’s independence in the 1820s.
Despite Portugal’s nominal claims, as late as the 19th century, their control over the interior country of Angola was minimal. In the 16th century Portugal gained control of the coast through a series of treaties and wars. Life for European colonists was difficult and progress slow. A great famine occurred on average every seventy years; accompanied by epidemic disease, it might kill one-third or one-half of the population, destroying the demographic growth of a generation and forcing colonists back into the river valleys.
Amid the Portuguese Restoration War, the Dutch occupied Luanda in 1641, using alliances with local peoples against Portuguese holdings elsewhere. A fleet under Salvador de Sá retook Luanda for Portugal in 1648; reconquest of the rest of the territory was completed by 1650. New treaties with Kongo were signed in 1649; others with Njinga’s Kingdom of Matamba and Ndongo followed in 1656. The conquest of Pungo Andongo in 1671 was the last major Portuguese expansion from Luanda, as attempts to invade Kongo in 1670 and Matamba in 1681 failed. Portugal also expanded inward from Benguela, but until the late 19th century the inroads from Luanda and Benguela were very limited. Portugal had neither the intention nor the means to carry out a large scale territorial occupation and colonization.
Development of the hinterland began after the Berlin Conference in 1885 fixed the colony’s borders, and British and Portuguese investment fostered mining, railways, and agriculture based on various forced-labour and voluntary labour systems. Full Portuguese administrative control of the hinterland did not establish itself until the beginning of the 20th century. Portugal had a minimalist presence in Angola for nearly five hundred years, and early calls for independence provoked little reaction amongst the population who had no social identity related to the territory as a whole. More overtly political and “nationalist” organisations first appeared in the 1950s and began to make demands for self-determination, especially in international forums such as the Non-Aligned Movement.
Road to Independence. The Portuguese régime, meanwhile, refused to accede to the demands for independence, provoking an armed conflict that started in 1961 when freedom fighters attacked both white and black civilians in cross-border operations in northeastern Angola. The war came to be known as the Colonial War. In this struggle, the principal protagonists included the People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), founded in 1956, the National Front for the Liberation of Angola (FNLA), which appeared in 1961, and the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA), founded in 1966.
Independence and civil war. After the 1974 coup d’état in Lisbon, Portugal’s new revolutionary leaders accepted independence for its former colonies abroad. With the support of the United States, Zaïre and South Africa intervened militarily in favour of the FNLA and UNITA with the intention of taking Luanda before the declaration of independence. In response, Cuba intervened in favor of the MPLA. After the conflict weakened all the insurgent parties, the FNLA, MPLA and UNITA agreed to establish a transitional government in January 1975. Within two months, the country began splitting into zones controlled by each group. With the Cuban support, the MPLA held Luanda and much of the rest of the country and declared independence on 11 November 1975, with Agostinho Neto becoming the first president, though the civil war continued.
Most of the half-million Portuguese who lived in Angola – and who had accounted for the majority of the skilled workers in public administration, agriculture, industries and trade – fled the country, leaving its once prosperous and growing economy in a state of bankruptcy. Up to 300 000 destitute Portuguese refugees — the retornados – were created.
This devastating civil war lasted several decades (with some interludes). It claimed millions of lives and produced many refugees; it didn’t end until 2002. For most of 1975–1990, the MPLA organised and maintained a socialist régime. In 1990, when the Cold War ended, MPLA abandoned its ties to the Marxist–Leninist ideology and declared social democracy to be its official ideology, going on to win the 1992 general election. However, eight opposition parties rejected the elections as rigged, sparking the Halloween massacre.
Ceasefire with UNITA. On 22 March 2002, Jonas Savimbi, the leader of UNITA, was killed in combat with government troops. The two sides reached a cease-fire shortly afterwards. UNITA gave up its armed wing and assumed the role of major opposition party, although in the knowledge that under the present regime a legitimate democratic election was impossible. Although the political situation of the country began to stabilize, regular democratic processes were not established until elections in 2008 and 2012 and the adoption of a new Constitution in 2010, all of which strengthened the prevailing Dominant-party system. MPLA head officials are given senior positions in top-level companies or other fields. A few outstanding UNITA figures are given some of the economic as well as the military share.
Angola has a serious humanitarian crisis, the result of the prolonged war, the abundance of minefields, the continued political, and to a much lesser degree, military activities in favour of the independence of the northern exclave of Cabinda, carried out in the context of the protracted Cabinda Conflict by the Frente para a Libertação do Enclave de Cabinda, (FLEC), but most of all, the depradation of the country’s rich mineral resources by the régime. While most of the internally displaced have now settled around the capital, in the so-called musseques, the general situation for Angolans remains desperate.
Drought in 2016 was the worst global food crisis in Southern Africa for 25 years affecting 1.4 million people across seven of Angola’s 18 provinces. Food prices rose and acute malnutrition rates have doubled, with more than 95,000 children being affected. Food insecurity is expected to worsen from July to the end of the year.
At 1,246,620 km2, Angola is the world’s twenty-third largest country, comparable in size to Mali, or twice the size of France or Texas. It lies mostly between latitudes 4° and 18°S, and longitudes 12° and 24°E.
Angola is bordered by Namibia to the south, Zambia to the east, the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the north-east, and the South Atlantic Ocean to the west. The coastal exclave of Cabinda in the north, borders the Republic of the Congo to the north, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the south. Angola’s capital, Luanda, lies on the Atlantic coast in the northwest of the country.
Climate. Angola has three seasons, a dry season which lasts from May to October, a transitional season with some rain from November to January and a hot, rainy season from February to April. April is the wettest month.
POLITICS. Ironically, Angola’s motto is Virtus Unita Fortior, a Latin phrase meaning “Virtue is stronger when united”. For decades, political power has been concentrated in the presidency. The legal system is based on Portuguese and customary law but is weak and fragmented, and courts operate in only 12 of more than 140 municipalities.
After the end of the Civil War the regime came under pressure from within as well as from the international community to become more democratic and less authoritarian. Its reaction was to implement a number of changes without substantially changing its character.
Angola is classified as ‘not free’ by the Freedom House 2014 report. The August 2012 parliamentary elections, in which the ruling Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola won more than 70% of the vote, suffered from serious flaws, including outdated and inaccurate voter rolls. Voter turnout dropped from 80% in 2008 to 60%.
Angola scored poorly on the 2013 Ibrahim Index of African Governance (uses a number of variables to compile its list which reflects the state of governance in Africa). It was ranked 39 out of 52 sub-Saharan African countries, scoring particularly badly in the areas of participation and human rights, sustainable economic opportunity, and human development.
The new 2010 constitution further sharpened the authoritarian character of the regime. In the future, there will be no presidential elections; the president and the vice-president of the political party which wins the parliamentary elections automatically become president and vice-president of Angola. Through a variety of mechanisms, the state president controls all the other organs of the state, so that separation of powers is not maintained. As a consequence, Angola no longer has a presidential system in the sense of the systems existing, e.g., in the USA or in France. In terms of the classifications used in constitutional law, its regime is considered one of several authoritarian regimes in Africa.
In 2015, Angola became, for the second time, a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council for two years. It also took on the leadership of the
Military. Total manpower is about 110,000. Its equipment includes Russian-manufactured fighters, bombers, and transport planes.
Justice. In 2014, a new penal code took effect in Angola. The classification of money-laundering as a crime is one of the novelties in the new legislation.
Angola is divided into eighteen provinces (províncias) and 162 municipalities. With an area of approximately 7,283 square kilometres, the province of Cabinda is unusual in being separated from the rest of the country by a strip, some 60 kilometres (37 mi) wide, of the Democratic Republic of Congo along the lower Congo river. Cabinda borders the Congo Republic to the north and north-northeast and the DRC to the east and south. The town of Cabinda is the chief population center. In the 1995 census, Cabinda had an estimated population of 600,000, approximately 400,000 of whom live in neighboring countries. Consisting largely of tropical forest, Cabinda produces hardwoods, coffee, cocoa, crude rubber and palm oil. The product for which it is best known, however, is its oil, which has given it the nickname, “the Kuwait of Africa”. Cabinda’s petroleum production from its considerable offshore reserves now accounts for more than half of Angola’s output. Most of the oil along its coast was discovered under Portuguese rule by the Cabinda Gulf Oil Company (CABGOC) from 1968 onwards.
Ever since Portugal handed over sovereignty of its former overseas province of Angola to the local independence groups (MPLA, UNITA, and FNLA), the territory of Cabinda has been a focus of separatist guerrilla actions opposing the Government of Angola and Cabindan separatists. The Front for the Liberation of the Enclave of Cabinda-Armed Forces of Cabinda (FLEC-FAC) announced a virtual Federal Republic of Cabinda under the Presidency of N’Zita Henriques Tiago. One of the characteristics of the Cabindan independence movement is its constant fragmentation, into smaller and smaller factions.
A booming economy due to oil revenues and stable politics, Angola has seen an increase in its international trading sector. Angola has a rich subsoil heritage, from diamonds, oil, gold, copper, and a rich wildlife (dramatically impoverished during the civil war), forest, and fossils. Since independence, oil and diamonds have been the most important economic resource. Smallholder and plantation agriculture have dramatically dropped because of war, but have begun to recover after 2002. The transformation industry that had come into existence in the late colonial period collapsed at independence, because of the exodus of most of the ethnic Portuguese population, but has begun to reemerge with updated technologies, partly because of the influx of new Portuguese entrepreneurs.
Overall, Angola’s economy has in recent years moved on from the disarray caused by a quarter-century of civil war to become the fastest-growing economy in Africa and one of the fastest in the world, with an average GDP growth of 20 percent between 2005 and 2007. In the period 2001–10, Angola had the world’s highest annual average GDP growth, at 11.1 percent. In 2004, the Eximbank approved a $2 billion line of credit to Angola. The loan was to be used to rebuild Angola’s infrastructure, and also to limited the influence of the International Monetary Fund in the country. China is Angola’s biggest trade partner and export destination as well as the fourth-largest importer. Bilateral trade reached $27.67 billion in 2011, up 11.5% year-on-year. China’s imports, mainly crude oil and diamonds, increased 9.1% to $24.89 billion while China’s exports, including mechanical and electrical products, machinery parts and construction materials, surged 38.8%. The oil glut led to a local unleaded gasoline “pricetag” of £0.37 per gallon.
The Economist reported in 2008 that diamonds and oil make up 60% of Angola’s economy, almost all of the country’s revenue and are its dominant exports. Growth is almost entirely driven by rising oil production which surpassed 1.4 million barrels per day (220,000 m3/d) in late 2005 and was expected to grow to 2 million barrels per day (320,000 m3/d) by 2007. Control of the oil industry is consolidated in Sonangol Group, a conglomerate owned by the Angolan government. In December 2006, Angola was admitted as a member of OPEC. Diamond mines include partnerships between state-run Endiama and mining companies such as ALROSA. The economy grew 18% in 2005, 26% in 2006 and 17.6% in 2007. However, due to the global recession the economy contracted an estimated −0.3% in 2009. The security brought about by the 2002 peace settlement has led to the resettlement of 4 million displaced persons, thus resulting in large-scale increases in agriculture production.
Although the country’s economy has developed significantly since it achieved political stability in 2002, mainly thanks to the fast-rising earnings of the oil sector, Angola faces huge social and economic problems. These are in part a result of the almost continual state of conflict from 1961 onwards, although the highest level of destruction and socio-economic damage took place after the 1975 independence, during the long years of civil war. However, high poverty rates and blatant social inequality are chiefly the outcome of a combination of a persistent political authoritarianism, of “neo-patrimonial” practices at all levels of the political, administrative, military, and economic apparatuses, and of a pervasive corruption. The main beneficiary of this situation is a social segment constituted during the last decades, around the political, administrative, economic, and military power holders, which has accumulated (and continues accumulating) enormous wealth. “Secondary beneficiaries” are the middle strata which are about to become social classes. However, overall almost half the population has to be considered as poor, but in this respect there are dramatic differences between the countryside and the cities (where by now slightly more than 50% of the people live).
In the rural areas roughly 58% must be classified as “poor”, according to UN norms, but in the urban areas only 19%, while the overall rate is 37%. In the cities, a majority of families, well beyond those officially classified as poor, have to adopt a variety of survival strategies. At the same time, in urban areas social inequality is most evident, and assumes extreme forms in the capital, Luanda. In the Human Development Index Angola constantly ranks in the bottom group.
According to The Heritage Foundation, a conservative American think tank, oil production from Angola has increased so significantly that Angola now is China’s biggest supplier of oil. China has extended three multibillion dollar lines of credit to the Angolan government; two loans of $2 billion from China Exim Bank, one in 2004, the second in 2007, as well as one loan in 2005 of $2.9 billion from China International Fund Ltd. Growing oil revenues have also created opportunities for corruption: according to a recent Human Rights Watch report, 32 billion US dollars disappeared from government accounts from 2007 to 2010. Furthermore, Sonangol, the state run oil company, has control of 51% of Cabinda’s oil. Due to this market control the company ends up determining the profit given to the government and the taxes paid.
Before independence in 1975, Angola was a breadbasket of southern Africa and a major exporter of bananas, coffee and sisal, but three decades of civil war (1975–2002) destroyed fertile countryside, left it littered with landmines and drove millions into the cities. The country now depends on expensive food imports, mainly from South Africa and Portugal, while more than 90% of farming is done at the family and subsistence level. Thousands of Angolan small-scale farmers are trapped in poverty.
The enormous differences between the regions pose a serious structural problem for the Angolan economy, illustrated by the fact that about one third of economic activities are concentrated in Luanda and neighbouring Bengo province, while several areas of the interior suffer economic stagnation and even regression.
One of the economic consequences of the social and regional disparities is a sharp increase in Angolan private investments abroad. The small fringe of Angolan society where most of the accumulation takes place seeks to spread its assets, for reasons of security and profit. For the time being, the biggest share of these investments is concentrated in Portugal where the Angolan presence (including that of the family of the state president) in banks as well as in the domains of energy, telecommunications, and mass media has become notable, as has the acquisition of vineyards and orchards as well as of touristic enterprises.
Sub-Saharan Africa nations are globally achieving impressive improvements in well-being. Angola has upgraded critical infrastructure, an investment made possible by funds from the nation’s development of oil resources. Slightly more than ten years after the end of the civil war, Angola’s standard of living has overall greatly improved. Life expectancy, which was just 46 years in 2002, reached 51 in 2011. Mortality rates for children fell from 25 percent in 2001 to 19 percent in 2010 and the number of students enrolled in primary school has tripled since 2001. However, at the same time the social and economic inequality that has characterised the country since long has not diminished, but on the contrary deepened in all respects.
With a stock of assets corresponding to 70 billion Kz (6.8 billion USD), Angola is now the third largest financial market in sub-Saharan Africa, surpassed only by Nigeria and South Africa.
Angola’s economy is expected to grow by 3.9 percent in 2014 said the International Monetary Fund (IMF). According to the Fund, robust growth in the non-oil economy, mainly driven by a very good performance in the agricultural sector, is expected to offset a temporary drop in oil production and low oil prices in 2015 and onwards.
Agriculture. Agriculture and forestry is an area of opportunity for the country. Angola requires 4.5 million tonnes a year of grain but only grows about 55% of the corn it needs, 20% of the rice and just 5% of its required wheat but less than 3 percent of Angola’s abundant fertile land is cultivated and the economic potential of the forestry sector remains largely unexploited. From this fact we can appreciate the capacity that Angola has to increase production not only for the national market but also for the international one. Investing in this sector can help reduce unemployment and more specifically in the rural areas. This will undoubted have consequences on the living standard of rural civilians.
Transport. Transport in Angola consists of: Three separate railway systems totalling 2,761 km (1,715 mi), 76,626 km (47,613 mi) of highway of which 19,156 km (11,903 mi) is paved, 1,295 navigable inland waterways, 8 major sea ports, 243 airports, of which 32 are paved.
Travel on highways outside of towns and cities in Angola (and in some cases within) is often not best advised for those without four-by-four vehicles. While a reasonable road infrastructure has existed within Angola, time and the war have taken their toll on the road surfaces, leaving many severely potholed, littered with broken asphalt. In many areas drivers have established alternate tracks to avoid the worst parts of the surface, although careful attention must be paid to the presence or absence of landmine warning markers by the side of the road. The Angolan government has contracted the restoration of many of the country’s roads. The road between Lubango and Namibe, for example, was completed recently with funding from the European Union, and is comparable to many European main routes. Completing the road infrastructure is likely to take some decades, but substantial efforts are already being made.
Transport is an important aspect in Angola because it is strategically located and it could become a regional logistics hub. In addition Angola has some of the most important and biggest ports and so it is vital to connect them to the interior of the country as well as to neighbouring countries.
Telecommunications. In October 2014, the building of an optic fiber underwater cable was announced. This project aims to turn Angola into a continental hub, thus improving Internet connections both nationally and internationally. In 2015, Angola had the first telecommunications operator in Africa to test the High Speed Internet technology (LTE-Advanced with speeds up to 400Mbit/s); It has a mobile penetration rate of about 75%; There are about 3.5 million smartphones in the Angolan market; There are about 25,000 kilometres (16,000 miles) of optical fiber installed in the country.
The first Angolan satellite, AngoSat-1, will be ready for launch into orbit in 2017 and it will ensure telecommunications throughout the country. The satellite will provide telecommunications services, TV, internet and e-government and will remain into orbit “at best” for 18 years.
Angola has a population of 24,383,301 (2014 census), the first one conducted since 1970.
Ethnic Groups. It is composed of Ovimbundu (language Umbundu) 37%, Ambundu (language Kimbundu) 23%, Bakongo 13%, and 32% other ethnic groups (including the Chokwe, the Ovambo, the Ganguela and the Xindonga) as well as about 2% mestiços (mixed European and African), 1.6% Chinese and 1% European. The population is forecast to grow to over 60 million people to 2050, 2.7 times the 2014 population. On March 2016, the population was 25.789.024.
It is estimated that Angola was host to 12,100 refugees and 2,900 asylum seekers by the end of 2007. 11,400 of those refugees were originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo, who arrived in the 1970s. As of 2008 there were an estimated 400,000 Democratic Republic of the Congo migrant workers.
Since 2003, more than 400,000 Congolese migrants have been expelled from Angola. Prior to independence in 1975, Angola had a community of approximately 350,000 Portuguese, but the vast majority left after independence and the ensuing civil war. Angola has recovered its Portuguese minority in recent years; currently, there are about 200,000 registered with the consulates, and increasing due to the debt crisis in Portugal and the relative prosperity in Angola. The Chinese population stands at 258,920, mostly composed of temporary migrants. Also, there is a small Brazilian community of about 5,000 people.
The total fertility rate of Angola is 5.54 children born per woman (2012 estimates), the 11th highest in the world.
Languages. Angola is a member of CPLP – Community of Portuguese-speaking nations. The languages in Angola are those originally spoken by the different ethnic groups and Portuguese the official language, introduced during the Portuguese colonial era. The most widely spoken indigenous languages are Umbundu, Kimbundu, and Kikongo, in that order. Portuguese is.
Mastery of Portuguese is more extended in Angola than it is elsewhere in Africa, especially in everyday life: In the Portuguese “bridgeheads” Luanda and Benguela, Portuguese was spoken by a significant number of Africans. Schooling in Portuguese increased from 1961–1974, so all children had access to Portuguese. When the legal discrimination of blacks was abolished, jobs for Africans increased, on condition that they spoke Portuguese. As a consequence, the African “lower middle class” formed in Luanda and other cities began to prevent their children from learning the local African language, so that Portuguese was their native language. At the same time, the white population neglected African languages. The MPLA had the highest proportion of native Portuguese speakers and the FNLA and UNITA, given their regional constituencies, came out in favour of the African languages, and as the FNLA favoured French over Portuguese.
The dynamics of the language situation were fostered by the massive migrations triggered by the Civil War. Ovimbundu, the most populous ethnic group and the most affected by the war, went to the Luanda area. Many Bakongo who had fled to the Democratic Republic of Congo in the early 1960s, returned to Angola, but mostly did not return , but in the cities—and again above all in Luanda. As a consequence, more than half the population is now living in the cities which, from the linguistic point of view, have become highly heterogeneous. This means, of course, that Portuguese as the overall national language of communication is by now of paramount importance, and that the role of the African languages is steadily decreasing among the urban population—a trend which is beginning to spread into rural areas as well.
Christian. There are about 1000 mostly Christian religious communities in Angola. Estimates have it that more than half of the population are Catholics and a quarter Protestant: Congregationalists in the Ovimbundu of the Central Highlands and the coastal region to its West, Methodists on the Kimbundu speaking strip from Luanda to Malanje, the Baptists almost exclusively among the Bakongo of the Northwest and dispersed Adventists, Reformed and Lutherans.
Islam. The U.S. Department of State estimates the Muslim population at 80,000–90,000, while the Islamic Community of Angola puts the figure closer to 500,000. Muslims consist largely of migrants from West Africa and the Middle East (especially Lebanon), although some are local converts. The Angolan government does not legally recognize any Muslim organizations and often shuts down mosques or prevents their construction.
In a study assessing nations’ levels of religious regulation and persecution with scores ranging from 0 to 10 where 0 represented low levels of regulation or persecution, Angola was scored 0.8 on Government Regulation of Religion, 4.0 on Social Regulation of Religion, 0 on Government Favouritism of Religion and 0 on Religious Persecution.
Foreign missionaries were very active prior to independence in 1975, although since 1961 the Portuguese colonial authorities expelled Protestant missionaries and closed mission stations based on the belief that the missionaries were inciting pro-independence sentiments. Missionaries have been able to return to the country since the early 1990s, although security conditions due to the civil war have prevented them until 2002 from restoring many of their former inland mission stations.
The Catholic Church and some major Protestant denominations mostly keep to themselves in contrast to the “New Churches” which actively proselytize. Catholics, as well as some major Protestant denominations, provide help for the poor in the form of crop seeds, farm animals, medical care and education.
Portugal has been present in Angola for 400 years, occupied the territory in the 19th and early 20th century, and ruled over it for about 50 years. As a consequence, both countries share cultural aspects: language (Portuguese) and main religion (Roman Catholic Christianity). The substrate of Angolan culture is African, mostly Bantu, while Portuguese culture has been imported. The diverse ethnic communities – the Ovimbundu, Ambundu, Bakongo, Chokwe, Mbunda and other peoples – maintain to varying degrees their own cultural traits, traditions and languages, but in the cities, where slightly more than half of the population now lives, a mixed culture has been emerging since colonial times – in Luanda since its foundation in the 16th century. In this urban culture, the Portuguese heritage has become more and more dominant. An African influence is evident in music and dance, and is moulding the way in which Portuguese is spoken, but is almost disappearing from the vocabulary. This process is well reflected in contemporary Angolan literature, especially in the works of Pepetela and Ana Paula Ribeiro Tavares.
Leila Lopes, Miss Angola 2011, was crowned Miss Universe 2011 in Brazil on 12 September 2011 making her the first Angolan to win the pageant.
Health. Epidemics of cholera, malaria, rabies and African hemorrhagic fevers like Marburg hemorrhagic fever, are common diseases in several parts of the country. Many regions have high rates of tuberculosis and HIV. Dengue, filariasis, leishmaniasis, and onchocerciasis (river blindness) are other diseases carried by insects that also occur in the region. Angola has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the world and one of the world’s lowest life expectancies. A 2007 survey concluded that low and deficient niacin status was common in Angola. Demographic and Health Surveys is currently conducting several surveys in Angola on malaria, domestic violence and more.
In 2014, Angola launched a national campaign of vaccination against measles, polio and for vitamin A supplementation.
A yellow fever outbreak in Angola began in December 2015. Nearly 4000 people were suspected of being infected as of August 2016 when the outbreak began to subside. As many as 369 may have died from yellow fever. The outbreak began in the capital of Luanda but spread to at least 16 of the 18 provinces in the country. This is the worst outbreak of Yellow Fever in the southern African country in three decades.
Education. Although by law education in Angola is compulsory and free for eight years, the government reports that a percentage of students are not attending due to a lack of school buildings and teachers. Students are often responsible for paying additional school-related expenses, including fees for books and supplies.,
The gross primary enrolment rate was 74 percent In 1999 and 61% in 1998. These do not necessarily reflect actual school attendance with significant disparities in enrolment between rural and urban areas. In 1995, 71.2 percent of children ages 7 to 14 years were attending school. It is reported that higher percentages of boys attend school than girls. During the Angolan Civil War (1975–2002), nearly half of all schools were reportedly looted and destroyed, leading to current problems with overcrowding.
20,000 new teachers were hired in 2005. Teachers tend to be underpaid, inadequately trained, and overworked. Land mines, lack of resources and identity papers, and poor health prevent children from regularly attending school. The education system in Angola continues to be extremely under-funded.
The adult literacy rate in 2011 was 70.4% – 82.9% of males and 54.2% of women. Since independence from Portugal in 1975, a number of Angolan students continued to be admitted every year at high schools, polytechnical institutes, and universities in Portugal, Brazil and Cuba through bilateral agreements; in general, these students belong to the elites.
In 2010, the Angolan government started building the Angolan Media Libraries Network, distributed throughout several provinces, each with bibliographic archive, multimedia resources and computers with Internet access, as well as areas for reading, researching and socializing.
Sports. Angola is the top basketball team of FIBA Africa, and a regular competitor at the Summer Olympic Games and the FIBA World Cup. The Angola national football team qualified for the 2006 FIFA World Cup, as this was their first appearance on the World Cup finals stage. Other sports are women’s handball, summer Olympics for seven years, roller hockey and the martial art “Capoeira Angola” and “Batuque” which were practiced by enslaved African Angolans transported as part of the Atlantic slave trade.
Angola is a country in Central Africa rich in natural resources. It has large reserves of oil and diamonds, hydroelectric potential, and rich agricultural land. Despite this, Angola remains very poor, having been ravaged by a bloody civil war from 1975 to 2002.
It’s bordered by Namibia in the south, Zambia in the east and the Republic of Congo, as well as the Democratic Republic of the Congo in the north.
The people of Angola are stoics. They have a deep understanding of patience, and avoid blaming the difficulties the country faces on the fact that there was war. In fact, Angolans behave as if there was no war, although it is deeply rooted in every Angolan. Music is the heart and soul of every Angolan, and can be heard everywhere with anything used as an excuse to party. Angola has a wide range of music, mainly Kuduro, Kizomba, Semba, and Tarrachinha, the latter being more sensual than all the others. All n all, it is safe to say that Angolans are fun loving people with a thirst for more of what life has to give.
Climate. Like the rest of tropical Africa, Angola experiences distinct, alternating rainy and dry seasons. The coastal strip is tempered by the cool Benguela Current, resulting in a climate similar to coastal Peru or Baja California. It is semiarid in the South and along the coast to Luanda. There is a short rainy season lasting from February to April. Summers are hot and dry, while winters are mild. The northern part has a cool, dry season (May to October) and a hot, rainy season (November to April). In the interior, above 3,300 ft (1,006 m), the temperature and rainfall decrease. The interior highlands have a mild climate with a rainy season from November through April followed by a cool dry season from May to October.
The heaviest rainfall occurs in April, and is accompanied by violent storms. The far north and Cabinda enjoy rain throughout much of the year.
Greater Luanda – The population centre of the country and home to the capital Luanda – Benfica Market for Kwanza River.
Northern Angola – Northern area mostly bordering Democratic Republic of the Congo with significant areas of rainforest
Central Angola Highlands – A series of irregular, high escarpments which drop steeply to the Atlantic coast
Southwest Angola – the most arid region of the country with savanna plains and the northern continuation of the Namibian desert
Southeast Angola – Mostly savanna plains interesected by five great rivers
Cabinda – Northern exclave on the Atlantic ocean with a huge proportion of the nation’s oil reserves and an active secessionist movement
Cangandala National Park
Iona National Park
Kissama National Park
Mussulo Island, south of Luanda is famous for its natural beauty and one of the most known tourist attractions in Luanda with: fishermen, modern restaurants, sun tanning, diverse aquatic sports, paradisiac motels, and typical food such as ‘pirão’, funge, and moamba.
Benguela: Baia Azul for beautiful desert beaches. Art deco architecutre in Beguela. Lobito City for the Restinga Penisnula and ice cold draught Cuca beer, the Benguela Rail road, and fantastic scenery
Kwanza Sul – Cubal Canyon, Conde Hot springs and Cachoeiras / Binga Waterfalls, with the Cambambe Dam on River Kwanza. Waku Kungo plains has fantastic scenery
Malange – Kalandula Waterfalls and Pungo n’Dongo Black Stones.
Huila – Serra de Leba, Tunbda Vala Gorge, Mumuila tribes people, fantastic scenery and much more.
Namibe – Arco Lagoon, beaches and a desert, and Mucubais Tribes People.
Huambo – City Tours, Alto Hama hot springs, and fantastic scenery
Cunene – Himba tribes peoople, Ruacana Falls, and fantastic scenery
Lubango – Surrounded by mountains and nestled in a cool central valley, a peaceful city of 200,000 inhabitants, seems a different world from the capital. Relatively unscathed by the 40-year conflict that tore the heart of communities elsewhere, the order and tranquility of Lubango’s central core has more in common with Namibia than with many other Angolan towns. You’ll encounter a handful of adventurous overlanders here, some quirky cafes and some of the country’s most charming hotels. To get a bird’s eye view of Lubango, rent a taxi and motor up to the Cristo Rei , a statue of Jesus (a mini version of Rio’s Cristo Redentor) that overlooks the city. Alternatively you could hike the 5km up from town. Casper Lodge (www.casperlodge.com), set in lush gardens around a cool pool, is a popular choice.
Eco Tur Angola do various bespoke no tours Angola including Kissama with specialist game viewing vehicles.
Talk. A very low percentage of the local population can communicate in English. Travelling therefore requires a basic knowledge of Portuguese, or a local guide/interpreter. Over 39% of the country have Portuguese as their native language and 80% speak some Portuguese. Compared to other African countries, the knowledge of the colonial language in Angola is extremely high, and used as a native language on a far wider scale. Also, due to the fact that many people migrate from neighbouring countries to Angola, it is sometimes possible to use French, Afrikaans, or even English.
Bay of Tigers by Pedro Rosa Mendes: An Odyssey through War-torn Angola. Mendes traveled across the country by train in 1997 while the war was still going on, it’s a very fascinating look at the people and the nature of life there during the war.
A Certain Curve OF Horn by John Frederick Walker: documenting the history of the magnificent and sub species of Antelope unique to Angola – “Palanca Negra Gigante” (Hippotragus níger variani).
Another Day of Life by Ryszard Kapuściński – Another excellent read, a compelling journalistic narrative in which he reports on the chaotic period leading up to Angola’s independence from Portugal in 1975. As one of the only journalists in Angola during this very dangerous period, his perspective is rare and full of insight.
Air. Luanda-4-de-Fevereiro is situated 4km outside Luanda. Reliable taxis are pretty much non-existent. Eco Tur do run reliable airport transfers.
TAAG Linhas Aereas de Angola – between Luanda and Johannesburg), Namibia (Windhoek), Zimbabwe (Harare), Democratic Republic of the Congo (Kinshasa) and the Republic of Congo (Brazzaville). Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo (Brazil).
Emirates – direct from Dubai
Ethiopian Airways – Addis Abeba to Luanda.
South African Airways – Johannesburg to Luanda.
Royal Air Maroc – Casablanca to Luanda.
Air France – Paris and Luanda
British Airways – direct connections between London and Luanda
Brussels Airlines – Brussels to Luanda.
KLM – Amsterdam to Luanda.
Lufthansa – Frankfurt to Luanda.
Sonair – Houston non-stop Express between Angola and the United States.
TAP Air Portugal – daily Lisbon to Luanda.
Iberia – Madrid.
Kenya Airways – Nairobi
Train. There are no railway links between Angola and other nations.
Namibia at the border post near Oshikango(Namibia)/Ngiva(Angola).
From the North – Luvo, a small town on the Kinshasa-Matadi ‘road’. If you want to drive through Angola, it’s a real experience. Off the beaten track, road conditions might not be quite what you are used to so be prepared, particularly during the rainy season where potholes, livestock and the overloaded vehicles.
Since 2006 there has been extensive road building by China, so travel is getting smoother, but construction has not always been the best quality.
Travelling by road from anywhere will need: a 4 x 4 vehicle with documents: Police clearance from country of origin, original registration certificate, licence discs or insurance that is up to date. Make certified copies. Make copies of your passport and the entry stamp. Have a passport sized photo and a colour photo of you car front, rear and driver´s side. If you do not have these documents, your car will not be allowed into the country. If you are not the owner of the vehicle, have an original (and copy of the original) letter from the owner clearly stating (your name, passport number and driver´s license) that you have been authorised to drive the vehicle into Angola.
This applies if you are a foreigner and not a resident. If you are Angolan or a resident foreigner – you will not be allowed to drive into Angola in a vehicle that is more than 3 years old and not a left hand drive!
Bus. There are bus lines between Angola and Namíbia
Boat. There are no official ferry links between Angola and other nations. Small passenger ferry from Rundu, Namibia used by Angolans for the purposes of acquiring food and other supplies in Namibia. Ferries from Cabinda to Luanda useful to avoid the unstable DRC. They carry cars, run twice a week and take 14 hours.
Train. Angola’s train system is finally being restored with the help of Chinese firms after more than 30 years of disuse. There are three main lines which are not connected to each other: Northern line – Caminho de Ferro de Luanda (CFL) between Luanda to Malenje, Middle line, Caminho de Ferro de Benguela (CFB) between Lobito, Cubal and Huambo with the intention of reaching Luau at the border to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Southern route, Caminho de Ferro de Moçâmedes (CFM) between Namibe, Lubango and Menongue.
Just south of Luanda, the Benfica Handcrafts Market offers the best prices for handcrafts and souvenirs. This is an open market where local artists and artisans display their products, and bargaining is recommended. The products range from sculptures and paintings to jewellery, batik cloths and accessories.
Generally, eating and dining out is not very easy in Angola, even in Luanda as food is expensive and restaurants have poor hygiene. Angolan cuisine is varied and tasty, with local dishes based mainly on fish, cassava products and spicy stews. Angolan seafood is abundant and very good for lobster. Tropical fruit in Angola is also a treat, for artisanal means of production have maintained organic methods, and rich fruit flavors, unusual to the Western palate accustomed to industrially produced tropical fruits. In Luanda, recommended Ilha de Luanda where beach-restaurants serve most foreign needs. Generally, all restaurants accept US dollars in cash. Credit cards will not be accepted.
Due to the oil boom, costs can be extremely high and this includes hotels. Cheap hotels are hard to find and dirty.
World class hotels include the Tropico Hotel, the Alvalade Hotel, Le President Meridien Hotel, the Continental Hotel, and the Palm Beach Hotel, among others. Because of power problems, if you plan to rent a house, you for sure should rent a house with a generator. Power outages are quite frequent.
In general, you shouldn’t travel within Angola without the assistance of qualified personnel. However, if you follow some basic rules, travelling in Angola isn’t dangerous. First of all, travelling after dark and alone is never a good idea. If possible, join with several cars of the same make and model because of the possible need for spare parts. Carry a satellite telephone in the case of a breakdown or other emergency. Be aware, that while Iridium satellite phones have global coverage, Thuraya satellite phones have coverage in most of Angola, but may not have coverage in the southern parts of the country.
For the city of Luanda, other rules apply. Stay in your car (with the doors locked) while you’re outside reach of security personnel, which you will find at all hotels and restaurants.
Avoid using your camera in front of police (dressed in blue uniforms). Photography will result, at best, in a very heavy fine, but could also have more dire consequences. Throughout Angola, taking photographs of sites and installations of military or security interest, including government buildings, may result in arrest or fines and should be avoided.
Never step beyond the red and white HALO Trust posts. These denote mine fields. In fact, beware of anything surrounded by any kind of red stones or similar markers.
Due to the high rate of HIV in the country, all forms of prostitution are illegal, and punishments are severe.
Water in Angola is untreated and therefore not safe.
Malaria is endemic, avoid mosquito bites by using insect repellent and repellent-impregnated bed nets.
Risk of being bitten by the tse-tse fly which causes sleeping sickness. Consult a doctor immediately if you start having insomnia.
AIDS and HIV is prevalent among adults in Angola at 4.0% or 1 in 25.
RESPECT. Smiling around natives is incredibly important. It shows respect. Also, avoid criticism on the way Angola is or talking about the war around natives.
Antonio Agostinho Neto. Immortalised in street names and bespectacled busts across the country, António Agostinho Neto ia a much-loved figure in Angolan history. Neto was a founding member of the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) and the country’s first president, leading Angola towards independence in 1975. Despite the ensuing civil war, Neto is fondly remembered by most, and his birthday is marked with a national holiday, labelled National Heroes’ Day (17 September). Born in 1922, Neto moved to Portugal to practise medicine but spent much of his time avoiding (or sometimes succumbing to) arrest for revolutionary acts. During his 15-year exile he forged lasting ties with Che Guevara and Fidel Castro and gained huge support from an array of high-profile intellectuals. Although largely remembered for his politics, Neto was also an accomplished poet and many statues depict him as an academic, holding a pen and paper in one hand while gripping his Kalashnikov in the other. Neto never saw his country at peace; he died in 1979 in the USSR.
CONTACT. Telephone connections, cellular and landline, are heavily overloaded, making communication difficult at times. International lines are, however, often better.