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Major Cities of Angola in the continent of Europe

AmbrizAnduloBailundoBalomboBaía FartaBenguelaBibalaBimbeBiulaBungoCabambaCabinda (Kabinda)CaboledoCacoloCacondaCaculamaCacusoCafunfoCahamaCaiengueCaimbamboCalandalaCalenga (Kalenga)CalondaCalucingaCaluloCaluquembe (Kalukembe)CamabatelaCamacupa (General Machado, Vila General Machado)Camanongue (Buçaco, Kamenongue)CamaxiloCambambeCambongueCambundi (Nova Gaia, Catembo)Camissombo (Veríssimo Sarmento)CandjimbeCangamba (Vila de Aljustrel)CangandalaCangumbeCapelongo (Cubango, Kuvango)Capenda CamulembaCapuloCassanguide (Cassanguidi)CassongueCatabola (Katabola, Chissamba, Nova Sintra)CatacanhaCatchiungo (Katchiungo, Katchungo, Cantchiungo)CatumbelaCaungulaCaxita CameiaCaxitoCazaje (Cazage)CazomboCaála (Kaala, Kahala, Robert Williams, Vila Robert Williams)CelaChiange (Gambos)ChibandaChibembaChibiaChicalaChingufoChipindoChissambaChitadoChitemboCoembaColui (Candingo)CondaCotaCoutadaCuangarCuango-Luzamba (Kwango, Luzamba, Cuango)CuasaCubalCuchiCuiloCuimaCuimbaCuito CanavaleCuvelaiDalaDambaDidimboDombe GrandeDondoDongoDundo (Chitato)Ekunha (Vila Flor)FolgaresFundaGabelaGaloGandaGolungo AltoGuriHuambo (Nova Lisboa)HumpataJambaJambaKuito (Bié, Silva Porto)LeúaLobitoLombeLongaLongonjoLuacano (Dilolo)Luanda (Loanda, São Paulo de Loanda)LuauLuau (Vila Teixeira de Sousa)Lubango (Sá da Bandeira)LucalaLucapa (Lukapa)LucusseLuena (Lwena, Luso, Vila Luso)LuianaLuimbale (Londuimbali)Luma CassaoLumbala (Lumbala N'guimbo)LumejeLuremoLuxiloLândana (Cacongo)Malanje (Malange)MalemboMaludiMarimbaMarimbanguengoMassangoMatalaMavingaMbanza-Congo (M'banza-Kongo, São Salvador, São Salvador do Congo)Menongue (Vila Serpa, Pinto, Serpa Pinto)MuchindaMuconda (Nova Chaves)MucumboMucussoMucussuejeMugingaMulondoMungoMunhangoMussendeMusserra (Mafuca)MussucoN'dalatando (Ndalatando)N'zeto (Nzeto, Ambrizete)Namacunde (Santa Clara)Namibe (Moçâmedes)NegageNhareaNóquiNzagi (Andrada)OndjivaPinheiroPorto Amboim (Gunza)QuelaQuibala (Kibala)QuibaxeQuicombo (Kikombo)QuilenguesQuimavongoQuimbangoQuimbeleQuipungo (Gambos)QuirimaQuimavongoQuimbangoQuimbeleQuipungo (Gambos)QuirimaSacomar, (Saco-Mar, Saco Mar)SamunonaSaurimoSavate (Candingo)SavungoSongoSoyo (Santo António do Zaire)Sumbe (N'gunza, Ngunza)Tchindjenje (Quingenge)TchipelongoTechamutete (Chamutete)TentativaTombua (Tomboa, Tombwa, Tombwe, Porto Alexandre)TumbaUku (Vila Nova do Seles)Ukuma (Cuma)Uíge (Uije, Carmona, Vila Marechal Carmona)VianaWaku Kungo (Waku Kundo, Santa Comba, Buandangue, Uaco Cungo)Xangongo (Vila Roçades)Xá-Muteba

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Location of Angola within the continent of Africa
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Map of Angola
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Flag Description of Angola:two equal horizontal bands of red (top) and black with a centered yellow emblem consisting of a five-pointed star within half a cogwheel crossed by a machete (in the style of a hammer and sickle

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Official name República de Angola (Republic of Angola)
Form of government unitary multiparty republic with one legislative house (National Assembly [220])1
Head of state and government President: José Eduardo dos Santos
Capital Luanda
Official language Portuguese
Official religion none
Monetary unit kwanza (AOA)
Population (2014 est.) 19,088,000COLLAPSE
Total area (sq mi) 481,354
Total area (sq km) 1,246,700
Urban-rural population

Urban: (2011) 59.2%
Rural: (2011) 40.8%

Life expectancy at birth

Male: (2012) 53.5 years
Female: (2012) 55.7 years

Literacy: percentage of population age 15 and over literate

Male: (2009) 82.9%
Female: (2009) 57.6%

GNI per capita (U.S.$) (2013) 5,010

1New constitution promulgated on February 5, 2010; the post of prime minister was abolished at this time.

Background of Angola

Angola, country located in southwestern Africa. A large country, Angola takes in a broad variety of landscapes, including the semidesert Atlantic littoral bordering Namibia’s “Skeleton Coast,” the sparsely populated rainforest interior, the rugged highlands of the south, the Cabinda exclave in the north, and the densely settled towns and cities of the northern coast and north-central river valleys. The capital and commercial centre is Luanda, a large port city on the northern coast that blends Portuguese-style colonial landmarks with traditional African housing styles and modern industrial complexes.

Angola at the beginning of the 21st century was a country ravaged by war and the related effects of land mines and malnutrition, and it was often dependent on the international community for the basics of survival. It is a country that is nevertheless rich in natural resources, including precious gems, metals, and petroleum; indeed, it ranks among the highest of the oil-producing countries in sub-Saharan Africa. It is the largest and wealthiest of the Portuguese-speaking African states, and Portuguese influences have been felt for some 500 years, although Angola acquired its present boundaries only in 1891. An anticolonial struggle that began in 1961 finally led to independence in 1975.

In “We Must Return,” a poem he wrote from prison in 1956, the Angolan poet Agostinho Neto, who was also the country’s first president, described Angola as “red with coffee / white with cotton / green with maize” and as “our land, our mother.” Unfortunately, Neto’s happiness with a “liberated Angola—Angola independent” did not last long, and a civil war that went on 27 years left much of the country in ruins. Beginning in 2002, however, with the ending of the war, Angola had more hope for a peaceful future than it had in the previous quarter century.

Geography of Angola


Angola is roughly square in shape, with a maximum width of about 800 miles (1,300 km), including the Cabinda exclave, which is located along the Atlantic coast just north of Angola’s border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Angola is bordered to the far northwest by the Republic of the Congo, to the north and northeast by the Democratic Republic of the Congo, to the southeast by Zambia, to the south by Namibia, and to the west by the Atlantic Ocean.

  • Relief

From a narrow coastal plain, the land rises abruptly to the east in a series of escarpments to rugged highlands, which then slope down toward the centre of the continent. The coastal plain varies in width from about 125 miles (200 km) in the area south of Luanda to about 15 miles (25 km) near Benguela. The Bié Plateau to the east of Benguela forms a rough quadrilateral of land above the 5,000-foot (1,500-metre) mark, culminating at about 8,600 feet (2,600 metres) and covering about one-tenth of the country’s surface. The Malanje highlands in the north-central part of the country are less extensive and lower in elevation, while the Huíla plateau in the south is smaller still but rises steeply to an elevation of approximately 7,700 feet (2,300 metres). The almost featureless plateau that covers the eastern two-thirds of Angola gradually falls away to between 1,650 and 3,300 feet (500 and 1,000 metres) at the eastern border. The highest point in the country is Mount Moco, near the city of Huambo, which reaches an elevation of 8,596 feet (2,620 metres).

  • Drainage

The Lunda Divide forms a watershed on the plateau, separating north- and south-flowing rivers. In the northeast, rivers such as the Cuango (Kwango) flow out of Angola into the mighty Congo River, which forms the boundary between Angola and the Democratic Republic of the Congo for the final 90 miles (145 km) of its course. The central part of the plateau is drained by the Cuanza (Kwanza), the largest river entirely within Angola’s frontiers, which is about 620 miles (1,000 km) in length. It runs for roughly half its length in a northerly direction before bending westward through a break in the escarpment between the Malanje highlands and the Bié Plateau, and it flows into the sea about 40 miles (65 km) south of Luanda. The southwestern part of the country is drained by the Cunene River (Kunene), which heads south before turning west and breaking through the escarpment at the Ruacana Falls, after which it marks the boundary between Angola and Namibia to the Atlantic Ocean. Some rivers in the southeast of the plateau flow into the Zambezi River, which itself crosses the Cazombo region in the far eastern extension of the country. Other rivers in this area feed the Okavango Swamps of northwestern Botswana. Small rivers in the south run into the internal drainage system of the Etosha Pan in Namibia, while others, often seasonal in nature, drain the steep western slopes of the escarpment.

  • Soils

The coastal plain consists of alluvia, chalk, and sand, underlain by oil-bearing formations over the northern two-thirds. Crystalline bedrock of Precambrian age (between about 540 million and 4 billion years old) emerges along the escarpment, and mineral deposits sometimes lie close to the surface. Considerable erosion has occurred in this area, and laterite formations are common. Most of the plateau in the eastern two-thirds of the country lies buried under deep deposits of infertile windblown Kalahari sands. The river gravels of the northeast contain diamonds, and rare kimberlite pipes occur in this area.

  • Climate

Angola has a tropical climate with a marked dry season. The climate is largely affected by the seasonal movements of the rain-bearing intertropical convergence zone, the northward flow of the cold Benguela Current off the coast, and elevation. Rainfall is the key determinant of climatic differentiation, and it decreases rapidly from north to south and in proximity to the coast. The Maiombe forest in the northern part of the Cabinda exclave receives the greatest amount of rainfall, about 70 inches (1,800 mm) per year, and Huambo, on the Bié Plateau, receives 57 inches (1,450 mm). In contrast, Luanda, on the dry coast, receives about 13 inches (330 mm), while the southernmost part of the coastal plain gets as little as 2 inches (50 mm). The rainy season lasts from September to May in the north and from December to March in the south. Droughts frequently afflict the country, especially in the south. Temperatures vary much less than rainfall, however, and generally decrease with distance from the Equator, proximity to the coast, and increasing elevation. The average annual temperature in Soyo, for example, at the mouth of the Congo, is 79 °F (26 °C), whereas in Huambo, on the Bié Plateau, it is 67 °F (19 °C).

  • Plant and animal life

Until the late 19th century, parts of Angola were covered with dense rainforest, mainly in the northern part of the Cabinda exclave, the western edge of the Malanje highlands, the northwestern corner of the Bié Plateau, and along some rivers in the northeast. Much of this forest has been greatly diminished by agriculture and logging, and now most of Angola’s surface is covered with different kinds of savanna (grasslands with scattered trees), ranging from savanna-forest mosaic in the north to thorn scrub in parts of the south. Natural or man-made fires occur frequently in savanna vegetation, and tree species are thus usually resistant to fire. True desert is confined to the Namib in the far southwest, which extends north from Namibia and is the home of a unique plant, the tumboa (Weltwitschia mirabilis), which has a deep taproot and two broad, flat leaves about 10 feet (3 metres) long that lie along the desert floor.

The fauna is typical of the savanna lands of Africa. Carnivores include leopards, lions, and hyenas, while the plant-eating animals are represented chiefly by elephants, hippopotamuses, giraffes, zebras, buffaloes, gnu (wildebeests) and various other antelopes, and monkeys. Angola is rich in bird species and has a wide variety of reptiles, including crocodiles. The numerous insects include mosquitoes and tsetse flies, both serious pests that carry disease. There are about a dozen national parks and nature reserves, notably Iona National Park in the southeast corner of the country and Quicama National Park just south of Luanda, but checks on hunting largely broke down with the spread of civil war. The giant sable antelope (Hippotragus niger variani), found in the south, is particularly vulnerable. Other endangered populations include the gorillas and chimpanzees of the Maiombe forest, the black rhinoceros, and the Angolan giraffe. Marine life is particularly rich along the southern coast, because the cold Benguela Current provides nutrients for many temperate-water species.

Demography of Angola


  • Ethnic and linguistic composition

Apart from a few Europeans and isolated bands of Northern Khoisan speakers such as the !Kung (a San group) in the remote southeast, all Angolans speak Bantu languages of the Niger-Congo language family, which dominates western, central, and southern Africa. The largest ethnolinguistic group is the Ovimbundu, who speak Umbundu and who account for about one-fourth of the population. They inhabit the Bié Plateau, having migrated to Benguela and Lobito and areas along the Benguela Railway to the west and east, and live in fairly large numbers in Luanda. The next-largest ethnic group is the Mbundu (Kimbundu), who speak Kimbundu and who also make up about one-fourth of the population. They dominate the capital city and the Malanje highlands and are well represented in most coastal towns. The Kongo (Bakongo, Esikongo)—in the far north, including the city of Luanda and parts of the countries of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Republic of the Congo—speak Kikongo and account for about one-sixth of the population. Lunda, Chokwe, and Ngangela peoples live scattered through the thinly populated eastern part of the country, spilling over into the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Zambia. The Ovambo (also known as Ambo) and Herero peoples in the southwest also live in Namibia, while the closely related Nyaneka-Nkhumbi peoples inhabit only Angola.

The use of the Portuguese language by indigenous Angolan groups dates back hundreds of years; in the Kongo kingdom, some were able to speak and read Portuguese as early as 1491. Beginning in the 1920s, Portuguese colonial policies sought to make Portuguese the only language spoken in Angola; these attempts met with limited success. Portuguese is often the only language spoken in Luanda and in much of the interior extending beyond the city and in other parts of the country; in some areas, however, indigenous languages are used in daily life. Because Portuguese developed as the lingua franca of the country and became the language of the present political leadership, those who did not speak Portuguese were effectively excluded from the political process. Since independence the government has recognized the major African languages, including six that were designated as official languages for educational instruction. However, widespread use of African languages in educational instruction never occurred, and the government continued to employ Portuguese for education, written documents, and official usage. In the years since the end of the civil war, there has been a renewed effort to develop a cohesive national language policy that preserves the country’s indigenous languages and associated cultural histories; these efforts include providing language instruction in schools and offering civic materials in indigenous languages. Other languages spoken in Angola include English and Afrikaans, which are sometimes spoken in the south and east, especially by people who have resided in Namibia and Zambia as workers or refugees, and French and, to a lesser extent, Lingala, which are often understood among the Kongo in the north. Kikongo ya leta, a Creole based on Kikongo, is also spoken in the north.

  • Religion

Angola’s population is overwhelmingly Christian. About three-fifths of the population is Roman Catholic, about one-sixth is Protestant, and the remainder adhere to traditional beliefs or other religions.

The current religious makeup of Angola has its roots in the country’s history. In precolonial times, Angolans of various groups followed broadly similar religious traditions that revolved around venerating ancestors and worshipping territorially oriented deities under a creator high god (often known as Nzambi or Suku). That religious system continues in some form in many places today. The Portuguese introduced Christianity into the Kongo kingdom in the 15th century; since the mid-16th century, most Kongo have regarded themselves as Christians, although their practice has often mixed Christian and traditional beliefs. When the colony of Angola was established in 1575, the Portuguese continued to spread Christianity in the regions inland of Luanda and in the surrounding areas.

In the late 19th century, Protestant missionaries entered Angola and made numerous converts among both the Roman Catholic population and those who still followed traditional religions. Baptists operated in the north, Methodists in the Kimbundu-speaking regions, and Congregationalists in areas of Ovimbundu settlement and in the east. The Protestants were especially effective in the Ovimbundu area, despite the efforts of the Portuguese colonial government, which reinforced and subsidized Catholic missionary activities, sometimes harassed Protestants, and served the many Catholic settlers from Portugal who went to Angola. Since the mid-1950s, African Independent Churches, especially Our Lord Jesus Christ Church in the World (Tocoist church), have evangelized from bases mostly in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In the 1970s the church opposed Angola’s Marxist government and was subsequently banned briefly in the late 1980s.

Nationalist leaders were especially drawn from the Protestant sections of the population, but, when the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (Movimento Popular de Libertação de Angola; MPLA) came to power in 1975, its policy as leader of a Marxist-Leninist state was antireligious. Religious organizations were denounced, Roman Catholics for their collaboration with the colonial state and Baptists and Congregationalists for their role in the leadership of the rival National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (União Nacional para a Independência Total de Angola; UNITA) and the National Front for the Liberation of Angola (Frente Nacional de a Libertação de Angola; FNLA). The Methodist Church, however, from which many MPLA leaders were drawn, was more favourably treated. Religious institutions, hospitals, and newspapers were taken over by the state, though sometimes they were actually run by the religious organizations.

Since the formal abandonment of Marxism and as part of an attempt at national reconciliation, the government has become more tolerant of religious organizations. Formal religious organizations now operate openly again, although there are restraints imposed by official distrust.

  • Settlement patterns

The rural population is largely concentrated in the highlands and along watercourses running off the highlands. The Bié Plateau alone contains about half the total rural population. In the north and centre of the country, people live in villages, whereas in the south, where cattle keeping is important, there is a tradition of dispersed settlement and transhumance in search of pastures. A few !Kung live as nomads in remote areas of the far south. The decades of warfare affected settlement patterns, resulting in an increase in the size of village settlements. Settlement patterns have also been affected by forced labour; a form of this practice existed in the precolonial period, was continued by the Portuguese, and was evident in the manner in which both government and rival armies acquired soldiers during the civil war.

At the end of the colonial period, more than four-fifths of the population was rural, a figure that had declined to about three-fifths by the early 21st century. Continuous warfare and the resultant migration increased the population of Luanda to more than two million by the mid-1990s; conversely, many towns in the east and on the Bié Plateau were destroyed. Farther south along the coastal plain, the historic town of Benguela and the port and industrial centre of Lobito are traditional rivals, while Namibe is the port for the south and the country’s largest fishing centre. Other important northern cities are Malanje, at the eastern end of the Luanda Railway, and the coastal oil towns of Cabinda and Soyo. Inland, M’banza Congo is the historic capital of the Kongo kingdom. Huambo, on the Bié Plateau, is surrounded by a scattering of smaller towns, while Lubango dominates the Huíla highlands.

  • Demographic trends

Angola has never been densely populated, and the export of at least five million slaves between 1500 and 1850 kept the population from growing at a greater rate. At the beginning of the 21st century, the country’s population density was well below the average for Southern Africa, with vast areas in the semidesert coastal strip and the eastern two-thirds of the country almost empty.

During the civil war (1975–2002), it is estimated that warfare killed about a half million people; famine and disease, exacerbated by the conflict, are estimated to have killed an additional half million people as well. However, the population growth rate remained high during this time and later increased after the end of the war. Angola’s birth rate is among the highest in the world; however, so too is the country’s infant mortality rate. Life expectancy is similar to the average for Southern Africa but is among the lowest in the world, and Angola’s population is predominantly young.

It is estimated that about half a million people fled abroad during the anticolonial war (1961–75), mainly Kongo escaping to the Democratic Republic of the Congo and some Chokwe, Lunda, and Ngangela fleeing to Zambia. There was a renewed outflow of refugees in 1975, with the departure of more than 300,000 Portuguese and an unknown number of Africans. The vagaries of warfare have affected both the number of Angolans living outside the country and their situation within the country. Refugee populations both inside and outside Angola have grown during times of war—such as in the mid- to late 1980s, after the elections of 1992, and from 1998 until the end of the civil war in 2002—and such disruptions have also increased internal migrations to cities, especially Luanda.

Economy of Angola

Angola's rich agricultural sector was formerly the mainstay of the economy and currently provides employment for the majority of the people. Food must be imported in large quantities, however, because of the disruption caused by the country's protracted civil war. All areas of production suffered during the fighting that began in 1975. Coffee and sugarcane are the most important cash crops. Sisal, corn, cotton, manioc, tobacco, and bananas are raised, and fishing is also important. Livestock, notably cattle, sheep, goats, and pigs, is raised in much of the savanna region.

Angola has substantial mineral resources and hydroelectric power. Most large-scale industries are nationalized. Oil, chiefly from reserves offshore, is the most lucrative product, providing about 50% of the country's GDP and 90% of its exports. Oil revenues have not done much to improve the economy at large or the everyday lives of Angolans, especially in the interior, because huge sums have been spent on the armed forces and lost due to government corruption; unaccounted losses to government funds were estimated at $32 billion in 2011. Diamond mining is also a principal industry; for many years in the late 20th cent. revenue from the mines supported UNITA rebels (see under Postcolonial History ). Natural gas is produced, and Angola has deposits of iron ore, phosphates, copper, feldspar, gold, bauxite, and uranium. Industries include metals processing, meat and fish processing, brewing, and the manufacture of cement, tobacco products, and textiles.

The Benguela railroad, which carries metals from the mines of Congo (Kinshasa) and the Zambian Copperbelt, was an important source of revenue, but much of the line fell into disrepair during the civil war. Angola's road network and communications system have also been affected by civil strife. In 2005, the government began using a line of credit from China to help rebuild the country's infrastructure; rail lines began resuming service in 2010. Luanda and Lobito are Angola's main shipping ports. The country's main trading partners are the United States, China, South Korea, Portugal, and France. Angola is a member of the Southern African Development Community.

      • The Portuguese government regarded Angola as its overseas crown jewel during the colonial period. It made the colony a target of ambitious settlement schemes and encouraged investment in the economy. As a result of these efforts, the Angolan economy was growing rapidly by the 1970s, with commodities such as coffee, sisal, diamonds, and petroleum the leading exports. Some light industry also developed in the major towns. But this growth was unbalanced, most of the profits being concentrated in the hands of a small settler class, with the majority of the population relegated to forced-labour projects or compelled to sell agricultural goods at artificially low prices to marketing boards. The resultant inequality of income and opportunity played a significant role in the development of the nationalist movements.

There was a large exodus of skilled Portuguese workers at national independence in 1975, and, because the colonial state had failed to adequately develop local educational systems and job opportunities, few Angolans were available to take their place. The loss of capital and skills had an immediate negative impact on economic development. In addition, the new government sought to impose socialist development on a Soviet and Cuban model that included a high degree of state participation in the economy, such as collective and state-run agricultural enterprises. Foreign capital was often nationalized, and exchange rates were set artificially high.

The economy was further crippled by a postindependence civil war, which displaced much of the population, ruined physical plants, and disrupted transportation much more than had the earlier guerrilla war. The combination of economic reorganization and warfare caused a virtual economic collapse, which has scarcely abated since then. In the late 1980s, for example, defense spending constituted almost half of the total budget, while the annual rate of inflation exceeded 900 percent in 1994 and more than 2,500 percent the following year. Food production reached such low levels that food was either imported or provided by foreign aid and humanitarian sources, as famine or near-famine conditions prevailed in much of the country from the mid-1980s until after the end of the civil war in 2002. Other agricultural exports such as coffee effectively ceased to be produced until after the end of the war. Only the petroleum industry, which was not nationalized or regulated and was protected from warfare, managed to produce regular income. The petroleum industry, however, still employs few local people and invests little in the Angolan economy, with most of the royalties going to the state. Diamonds also provided a substantial income, especially to the UNITA forces that controlled many of the diamond mines during the war.

Although economic reforms beginning in 1988 eliminated many of the failed socialist experiments, and foreign interests were allowed to invest capital more freely, the war consistently discouraged such investment and hampered the rebuilding of basic infrastructure in most of the country. However, the Angolan government has focused on reconstruction since the end of the war in 2002. The overall state of the economy has improved since then as well, largely owing to the income generated from the country’s petroleum industry.

  • Agriculture, forestry, and fishing

Colonial policies favoured the growth of large Portuguese-owned estates producing export crops and discouraged production of any but subsistence crops on the small holdings of the majority of the rural population. Rural people were subjected to various schemes of forced and contract labour to provide workers for the estates. Only about 3 percent of the land area was under cultivation, with less than 1 percent irrigated. Coffee was of greatest importance, with production concentrated in the Malanje highlands and along the northwestern margins of the Bié Plateau near the centre of the country. Prior to independence, Angola supplied almost one-fifth of world coffee production, with an annual output of more than 200,000 tons in the early 1970s. Cotton, sisal, and corn (maize) were also important cash crops, while cassava (manioc), millet, sorghum, and rice were grown as subsistence crops, and livestock such as goats, pigs, and chickens were also kept for subsistence.

Estates were nationalized after independence, and the creation of state farms followed. The contract-labour system was replaced by a similar system of forced labour, called voluntary brigades. The ensuing civil war, however, prevented the implementation of a state-run estate system, and agricultural production faltered. Cooperatives replaced marketing boards for the small holders and proved to be just as inequitable, and the flight of Portuguese petty traders broke the distribution system. The transport network deteriorated; insecurity spread throughout the country; the overvaluation of the currency acted as an increasingly heavy de facto tax on exports; and the collapse of manufacturing removed all incentives to sell agricultural commodities to the towns. As a result, the urban population came to depend on imported food.

Fertile agricultural land is limited to a few favoured locations in the highlands and river valleys, and less than one-tenth of the land area is thought to be arable. The combination of poor soils and insufficient rainfall over most of Angola is a severe limitation to crop growing, although the country does contain both temperate and tropical climates. However, the country’s agricultural potential remains underutilized outside the Bié Plateau, the coastal oases, and the Ovambo floodplain on the Namibian border. Although pastoralism is inhibited by infestations of tsetse flies, poor pastures, and the lack of surface water in the Namib zone, the southwestern quarter of the country has favourable conditions. The main subsistence crop is cassava. Commercial food crops such as coffee and sugar are again being grown; the production of palm oil and tobacco increased in the 1990s; and even cotton production has increased slightly. The greatest impediment to agriculture, whether subsistence or commercial, however, is the number of land mines that were buried throughout the countryside during years of conflict.

Prior to independence, timber extraction from natural forests was concentrated in Maiombe in the Cabinda exclave and in Luso on the eastern stretch of the Benguela Railway. Large eucalyptus plantations along the western stretches of the Benguela Railway provided firewood for the steam locomotives and fed the paper-pulp plant near Benguela. Timber exports ceased at independence, and available resources came to be used primarily for fuel. Timber resources remain significant, however, as nearly one-fifth of the country is forested. The Maiombe forest in the north of the Cabinda exclave contains the most-valuable commercial species, notably white tola (Balsamiferum harms) and limba (Terminalia superba). There are also stands of commercial timber along the rivers of the southeast, especially mussibi (Guibourtia coleosperma).

Owing to the beneficial effects of the cold Benguela Current, Angola has some of the richest fishing grounds in Africa, especially along the far southern coast. Sticklebacks, sardines, mackerel, catfish, mullet, and tuna are abundant, as are crabs, lobsters, and prawns. Before independence, about 700 vessels were active in fishing, employing some 13,000 people; by the early 1980s fewer than one-seventh were operational, because most of the vessels had been owned by Portuguese nationals who sailed them away at independence in 1975. Namibe was the centre of this fishing industry, which stretched from Luanda in the north to the Bay of Tigres in the far south. The great majority of the catch was processed in modern factories (which either were destroyed or ceased operating after independence) and exported to Western markets frozen, canned, or as fish meal, while a local and African regional market was supplied through more-traditional fish drying and curing techniques. Foreign boats overfished the region, and production has declined precipitously since the 1970s.

  • Resources and power

Angola’s resources are considerable in comparison with those of most African countries. There are large reserves of petroleum and natural gas, concentrated in the maritime zones off the Cabinda exclave and the Congo River estuary. Production is largely concentrated off the coast of Cabinda, although there is some onshore production near Soyo and Luanda, and prospecting extends as far south as Kuanza Sul. The quality of the crude oil is generally good, with a low sulfur content.

Petroleum was first discovered in 1955. Angola has become one of the largest exporters of petroleum in sub-Saharan Africa, and production has nearly tripled since independence. Because Angola was not a member of OPEC (Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries) until 2007, for many years the country was not subject to any restrictive quotas on its exports. Angola has also benefited from a combination of favourable geologic conditions, a high rate of exploration success, and relatively low operating costs. Natural gas has been found both associated and unassociated with petroleum, but about half of this has been burned off and the rest injected back into oil wells. A state company was set up in 1977 to engage in joint ventures and production-sharing agreements, while management of the oil business was left largely in foreign hands.

Alluvial diamonds occur widely over the northeastern quarter of the country, with a high proportion of gem-quality stones, and there are several kimberlite pipe formations that may be mined. Before independence, Angola was the fourth largest diamond exporter in the world in terms of value, but since that time output has fluctuated. The National Diamond Enterprise of Angola, a parastatal company, is responsible for approving diamond concessions, and it also licenses buyers. In 1992–94 most Angolan diamonds on the market were mined and smuggled from regions controlled by UNITA. The Angolan government gained control of this area in mid-1994 and tried to halt the activities of thousands of illegal diamond prospectors. UNITA retook some diamond regions in the mid- to late 1990s and controlled them until early 2002, when UNITA’s leader, Jonas Savimbi, was killed.

There are large reserves of iron ore in the southwestern part of the country, but they are of low grade. Other minerals—copper, manganese, gold, phosphates, uranium, feldspar, and platinum—are known to exist in commercial quantities in Angola, especially in the area of the escarpment.

Angola’s hydroelectric potential is one of the largest in Africa. Most electricity comes from dams on the Cuanza, Cunene, Catumbela, and Dande rivers, at points where they breach the escarpment to reach the coastal plain. Nonetheless, a large share of the country’s total generating facilities remained out of use into the early part of the 21st century because of attacks by UNITA, although repair, renovation, and new construction of such facilities began after the civil war ended in 2002.

  • Manufacturing

Manufacturing had expanded rapidly prior to independence, but it was severely disrupted after 1975. Nationalization and the loss of skilled labour hit the manufacturing sector especially hard. Industries in Angola produce construction materials, refined petroleum and equipment for the petroleum industry, processed food, textiles, and electrical goods. Output declined severely during the quarter century after independence because of the continuing threat of warfare, raw material shortages, and disruptions of power and the transportation infrastructure. In the 1990s Angola attempted to counteract these problems by privatizing many businesses and industries and by introducing a new foreign investment code. The construction industry saw an increase of activity after the end of the civil war, as reconstruction was a priority of the government.

  • Finance

The National Bank of Angola, which issues Angola’s currency, the kwanza, acts as the central bank. Banks were nationalized after independence, but in 1985 foreign banks reentered the country, and in 1995 the government allowed the formation of private banks. Most savings are held in informal banking structures outside the cumbersome state system. Foreign investment is highly concentrated in oil, diamonds, and fishing, but it is beginning to spread more widely through the economy as liberalization proceeds and nationalized assets are returned to the private sector.

  • Trade

Hydrocarbons account for the largest proportion of exports; more than half goes to the United States and China, where low-sulfur crude oil is sought by refineries. The economy is thus highly vulnerable to shifts in the price of oil. A small quantity of diamonds are also exported. Imports come mainly from South Korea, Portugal, and the United States. Angola imports consumer goods and capital goods and some transport equipment. It generally has a positive balance of trade.

  • Services

Although Angola has rural beauty and the economic resources to develop a thriving tourist industry, the long-term civil war prevented the development of this sector. Nevertheless, the country does have a national tourist agency, and some 40,000 tourists entered Angola annually in the late 1990s; in the years following the end of the civil war, that number increased dramatically.

  • Labour and taxation

Several trade unions operate in Angola. Women form the majority of the rural workforce, and as such they have been disproportionately affected by the numerous land mines found throughout the country. Several national women’s organizations exist, and women are theoretically guaranteed equal rights, but, in reality, they are still often discriminated against. Many women, especially rural women, belong to the Organization of Angolan Women, which was founded in the 1960s and has established literacy and social programs. National revenue is derived from taxes on income and on petroleum.

  • Transportation and telecommunications

Angola achieved independence with an excellent transport network for an African country so large and thinly populated, in part because of Portuguese military imperatives after 1961. But this sector of the infrastructure has suffered more than any other from the effects of war and the lack of maintenance. A rehabilitation plan, backed by foreign aid, was launched in the last decade of the 20th century. Since the end of the civil war in 2002, other rehabilitation and reconstruction plans have also been initiated to improve the country’s transportation infrastructure.


A grid of roads links the major geographic centres of economic activity, although only about one-fourth of these roads are paved. Numerous bridges were destroyed during the civil war, and travel on the roads generally was possible only in convoys with armed escorts. In 1997 a state agency responsible for road construction and maintenance estimated that four-fifths of the roads and bridges needed repair. Another challenge was the lack of spare parts available to repair the country’s limited number of motor vehicles. Both of these issues began to see some improvement after the war ended, although in the case of road repair, the progress was slow moving.


The Benguela Railway is the longest of the country’s railways, extending from Lobito on the coast to the Congolese frontier. Owned partly by foreign interests, it once provided sea access for landlocked Zambia and transported minerals from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, on which the railway’s profitability depended; but, after the start of the civil war, it did not function east of Huambo and often was completely out of use. The Luanda Railway, which was nationalized in 1918, depended on coffee and cotton for its traffic. The Namibe Railway, which has been owned by the state from the outset, depended on the shipment of iron ore. Both railways have functioned only episodically since independence, owing to disruptions from the civil war. Since the end of the war, sections of all three railways have undergone repairs and some have reopened for use; construction has also been initiated on new railway lines.


Lobito is the finest and best-equipped port in the country, but it has been underutilized since corn exports from the Bié Plateau and mineral traffic from the Republic of the Congo ceased, with traffic reduced to about one-fifth of preindependence levels. Although Luanda has a good harbour, it has been poorly managed and by the end of the 20th century handled less than half the cargo it did before 1975. Following the end of the civil war in 2002, renovation began on Luanda’s port facilities. Since the cessation of iron ore shipments, Namibe’s activity has been based essentially on its role as the country’s major fishing port. Cabinda is the major port for loading petroleum shipments; Malongo and Soyo have also grown in importance with the oil boom, although they have much poorer natural harbours. The lower Congo River is used by seagoing vessels up to Nóqui on the Congolese frontier, and small craft ply the lower Cuanza River for about 140 miles (225 km).


Travel by air was the only safe means of transport during the civil war, and the network of airfields left by the Portuguese has been intensively used. The national airline (Linhas Aéreas de Angola; TAAG) travels to Africa, Europe, South America, and the Caribbean, while air-cargo services are the main focus of Transafrik International. There is an international airport in Luanda, and several domestic airports are located throughout the country.


Like other parts of the country’s infrastructure, the telephone system was badly damaged by war. In the late 1990s, domestic and foreign investment repaired and expanded Angola’s communications infrastructure. The state monopoly on telecommunications ended in 2001, the same year a new cellular communications system became operational in the country. Mobile cellular phones have existed in Angola since the mid-1990s, and use has skyrocketed. Broadband Internet service has been available in Angola since 2003, although access is extremely limited beyond the city of Luanda.

Government and Society of Angola


Angola is governed under the constitution of 2010. The executive branch is headed by the president; the leader of the party or coalition that receives the most votes in the National Assembly elections is elected to the office. The president, who serves as both head of state and head of government, may serve two five-year terms. The unicameral National Assembly has 220 members who are elected by proportional vote on a national (130) or provincial (90) basis for four-year terms. Adminstratively, the country is divided into 18 provinces.

Bibliography See B. Davidson, In the Eye of the Storm (1972); G. J. Bender, Angola Under the Portuguese (1978); P. M. Martin, Historical Dictionary of Angola (1980); K. Akpau et al., Alvor and Beyond: Political Trends and Legal Issues in Angola (1988); J. C. Miller, Angola: A Way of Death (1988).

  • Constitutional framework

Portugal granted independence to Angola on Nov. 11, 1975, without establishing a new government. The Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (Movimento Popular de Libertação de Angola; MPLA), led by Agostinho Neto and based in Luanda, took power, an act that was internationally, though not universally, recognized. The constitution of 1975 established a one-party state headed by a president who was also chairman of the MPLA, which declared itself a Marxist-Leninist vanguard party in 1977. The positions of prime minister and deputy prime minister were abolished in 1978, with a prime minister not appointed again until 1991; a National People’s Assembly was created in 1980. President Neto died in Moscow in 1979 and was replaced by the minister of planning, José Eduardo dos Santos. Early in 1990 the government proposed separating the offices of chairman of the party and president of state, a division already mandated by the constitution.

A new constitution, essentially an extensively amended version of the 1975 document, was promulgated in 1992. Prepared with the acquiescence of the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (União Nacional para a Independência Total de Angola; UNITA), it provided for a multiparty system with a directly elected president as the head of state and government, assisted by a prime minister. The constitution abolished the death penalty and emphasized the rights of the people.

The country’s current constitution, promulgated in 2010, eliminated the post of prime minister, added the post of vice president, and strengthened the role of the president. It eliminated the direct election of the president and instead provided for the presidential post to be filled by the leader of the party with the largest share of the vote in legislative elections. The president is limited to two five-year terms. Legislative power is vested in the National Assembly, whose members are elected to four-year terms.

  • Local government and justice

Angola is divided into 18 provinces, each of which is headed by a governor appointed by the central government. Provinces are further divided into councils, communes, circles, neighbourhoods, and villages.

The judiciary consists of municipal and provincial courts, with the highest body being the Supreme Court. Operations of lower courts were disrupted by the civil war, and, in the years immediately following the end of the war, the majority of municipal courts were still not functioning.

  • Political process

The major parties in Angola are the MPLA, UNITA, the National Front for the Liberation of Angola (Frente Nacional de a Libertação de Angola; FNLA), the Liberal Democratic Party, and the Social Renewal Party. The FNLA was one of three groups that fought for the independence of Angola beginning in the 1960s. Its leader, Holden Roberto, left Angola after 1975 and did not return until 1991. Until 1992 the MPLA was the only legal political party in the country. Multiparty elections in that year gave seats in the National Assembly to representatives from 12 political parties, including UNITA. In the early 21st century, women made up about 15 percent of the National Assembly. They have served as ministers in the Angolan government, and a woman has also held the office of vice president of the Supreme Court.

The Organization of Angolan Women came under the control of the MPLA in the late 1970s but still maintained some degree of independence. It served as an outlet for female participation in society, because MPLA membership was overwhelmingly male. The Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola–Youth Movement served as a conduit to party membership in the late 1970s.

  • Security

Angola’s military, the Armed Forces of Angola (Forças Armadas de Angolanas; FAA), includes the army, navy, and air force. The army is by far the largest segment of the FAA, with the navy and air force maintaining far fewer troops. The FAA was created by a 1991 agreement between the Angolan government and UNITA and was to draw equally from existing government forces (largely the armed branch of MPLA) and those of UNITA; the agreement has been abrogated and resumed several times since then. Following the end of the civil war, more than 5,000 UNITA forces were integrated into the FAA.

  • Health and welfare

The Portuguese made a major effort to win over African Angolans after 1961 by expanding health and welfare programs, as they had done with education. The MPLA government came to power with even more ambitious schemes, but initial successes were followed by an almost complete collapse of services, especially in the rural areas, owing to the long-term civil war. Many doctors and other medical personnel fled abroad. Those who stayed were reluctant to work in remote and dangerous parts of the country, although traditional doctors remained in most parts of Angola. After the end of the war, the government was faced with the arduous challenge of rebuilding the health care infrastructure and attracting health care workers. Medicines and other medical supplies remain in short supply. Malaria, diarrheal diseases, and severe malnutrition—sometimes bordering on starvation—are rife, and cholera epidemics, owing to unsanitary conditions, frequently occur. Although AIDS is present in Angola, the country has a lower prevalence rate of HIV/AIDS than many African countries, which is attributed to the many years of warfare that kept the Angolan population somewhat isolated.

Urban housing, social conditions, and the health situation in Luanda have declined because of the flood of refugees from the countryside, a situation that did not immediately abate in the years following the end of the war. Unemployment, inflation, acute shortages of water, empty shops, and the collapse of public transport have all contributed to the plight of the poor, while the political and bureaucratic elite have benefited from a network of special shops, good housing, and other advantages financed from the proceeds of the oil economy.

  • Housing

Settlements called musseques house the urban poor in Luanda and other large towns. They became crowded with hundreds of thousands of refugees during the 1980s and ’90s. In the years immediately following the end of the civil war, conditions in the musseques remained poor, especially from a health perspective. Even though residents of musseques made tremendous efforts to keep their immediate living areas clean, mountains of garbage could be found beyond personal living areas because of the sheer amount of refuse generated by the overcrowded housing conditions and inadequate trash disposal efforts of the government; such unsanitary conditions contribute to frequent outbreaks of cholera.

Rural villages tend to be small in size. Housing is generally kept clean and is often constructed of adobe or brick and roofed with sheet metal. More-traditional construction techniques are still known to some, but for the most part, fewer homes are made with the traditional wattle and daub walls and thatched roofs. There is virtually no electricity in smaller rural villages, and most towns only have it intermittently. Running water is also intermittent or unavailable in many areas.

  • Education

Portuguese colonial policy did not favour education for the ordinary African citizens of Angola. Until 1961, when a revised education program was enacted by the colonial administration, most education was left to religious institutions—with the Roman Catholic Church focusing on the Portuguese settlers and a small number of Africans, while Protestants were most active among the African population. After independence, the MPLA’s policy of primary education for all tripled primary school enrollment between 1976 and 1979, although this declined by half during the 1980s. Owing to the many years of civil war, conditions in schools declined dramatically, with an acute shortage of teachers and a lack of even the most basic teaching materials. However, enrollment in secondary schools and in Agostinho Neto University (1963) expanded continuously after 1975. These institutions suffered less than primary schools from political insecurity and conflict. But there was also a severe lack of teachers and teaching materials at these schools, and most faculties in the university were closed for long periods because of alleged political agitation. During this time, it is estimated that recruitment into the armed forces of the MPLA and UNITA had a greater impact than Angola’s school system on the spread of literacy, the increased use of Portuguese, and the acquisition of technical skills. Many Angolans trained abroad, especially in Cuba and the Soviet Union.

Angola’s government continues to provide free education, which is compulsory for eight years. Primary education, beginning at age seven, continues for four years. Secondary education comprises two cycles; beginning at age 11, students complete a four-year cycle, which can then be followed by a three-year cycle. In addition to Agostinho Neto University, higher education in Angola is provided by such institutions as the Catholic University of Angola (1997) and Jean Piaget University of Angola (1998).

Almost three decades of civil war have taken a toll on Angola’s educational system. In the early 21st century, some four-fifths of all schools in the country were thought to be deserted or destroyed, and the vast majority of Angolan children were not able to attend classes. Since the end of the conflict in 2002, an effort has been made to construct more schools and increase the training and number of teachers in the country.

Angola’s literacy rate is lower than that of most neighbouring countries, despite dramatic improvement during the last quarter of the 20th century. At independence, less than one-fifth of the adult population was literate, but by 1990 the rate had more than doubled. In the early 21st century, about three-fifths of the population was literate.

Angola - Language, Culture, Customs and Etiquette

Language in Angola

Portuguese is both the official and predominant language in the black, mesti ço and white populations. About 40% of Angolans speak Bantu languages as their first languages, many more as second language, although younger urban generations and some sectors of the Angolan society are moving towards the exclusive use of Portuguese. The most spoken Bantu languages are Kimbundu, Umbundu, and Kikongo (all of these have many Portuguese-derived words).

Angolan Society and Culture

  • The Angolan People

Although many people when asked may say they are Angolan, most of them will really have their primary sense of identity and loyalty to a tribe. The various tribes and ethnic groups tend to cluster in certain areas of the country each with their own customs, language and history.

The major ethnic groups are the Ovimnumdu, the largest, who live predominantly in the central highlands; the Mbundu who cluster around Luanda province; and the Bakongo who live in the northwest provinces. Other large groups include the Nganguela and the Lunda-Chockwe.

  • Religion

As you might expect in a country that was a Portuguese colony for over 500 years, the majority of the people are either Christian (Roman Catholic) or follow native beliefs. Most incorporate beliefs such as ancestor worship within a more formal religion.

The constitution guarantees freedom of religion. Religious leaders played an important role in the democratic resolution of the civil war and are ardent campaigners for social justice and human rights.

  • Spirit Worship

Traditional Angolan religions believe in a close connection with the spirit of dead ancestors. They believe that ancestors play a part in the lives of the living. Therefore, the spirits of dead ancestors remain prominent members of the community.

Ancestral worship is a common thread through many indigenous religions. It is considered that not revering the dead can jeopardize the living. It is thought that people must appease the ancestors so that they do not harm the living. It is believed that ancestors can bring famine, plague, disease, personal loss, and other catastrophes.

Ancestors are worshiped through ritual performances and ceremonies that often involve the sacrifice of animals.

General Etiquette and Customs

  • Meeting People

o The most common greeting is the handshake. o Close friends may embrace, kiss, or offer a friendly backslap. o As in most African countries, greetings should never be rushed. o It is important to take time to inquire about the person’s family and other matters of general interest during the greeting process. o Always greet elders first. It is also customary to bow when introduced to someone who is obviously older or has a more senior position. o In rural areas, women do not look the other person in the eye, although this practice is less pronounced with younger Angolans and in Luanda.

  • Gift Giving Etiquette

o Gift giving is only really practised in urban areas. o It is not so much a part of Angolan culture and as a result there are not many tips surrounding it. o If you are invited to an Angolan's home, bring fruit, flowers, or chocolates to the host. o A small gift for the children is always appreciated. o Gifts are not always opened when received.

  • Dining Etiquette

o Angolans are extremely hospitable and enjoy entertaining friends and family in their homes. o In Luanda, they may also entertain in restaurants or cafés since they have adopted more Western ideas about socializing. o The Angolan approach to entertaining retains much of the Portuguese influence, including the time of dinner invitations which are often 8 p.m. o Dress as you would in the office. Dressing well demonstrates respect towards your hosts. Shake hands with each guest individually. o Try not to discuss business in social situations. o Food is often served from a communal bowl. o Use the serving spoons to scoop food from the communal bowl on to your individual bowl. o Hierarchy dictates that the eldest person is the first to take food from the communal plate. 0 If offered the last serving of an item, offer an initial refusal and expect your host to then offer the item a second or third time, in which case you may accept.

Business Protocol in Angola

  • Meeting and Greeting

o Greetings are formal and courteous and include a handshake. o Women should avoid making direct eye contact during the greeting process. Although this is less important in Luanda, since many people in the city are from another place in the country, it is a good idea to emulate the behaviour of the person you are greeting. o Greetings often follow the African protocol of polite questions about one’s health and other social pleasantries. It is important not to rush this process. When meeting someone more senior than you in age or position, it is considered polite to bow slightly. o If you know a person’s professional title, you may use the title when conversing. o Government officials may be addressed as “Excellency” or "Excelencia" without using their surname. o Business cards are given without formal ritual. o Although not all Angolans have business cards, they expect expats and business travellers to have them. o Present your card so it is readable to the recipient.

  • Communication Styles

Angolan business people are somewhat formal and business communication tends to be restrained. Angolans strive to please others and as a result have a tendency to say what they think the other person wants to hear. It is often difficult to get definite answers to questions, especially if the response would be negative. You may get a ‘yes’ when the answer is actually ‘no’. It is important to watch for evasions or half statements. Rather than accept assurances at face value it may be prudent to ask for specifics so that both sides have the same understanding of what statements mean.

Since Angolans prefer to do business with those they know and trust, they spend a great deal of time on relationship building. It is important to devote sufficient time to nurturing a relationship before pressing on to the business at hand.

Communication is formal and follows established rules of protocols. Angolans do not interrupt others who are speaking and expect to be afforded the same courtesy in return. Interrupting someone, especially if they are more senior to you in age or position, is a serious breach of etiquette. Angolans use head and arm gestures to emphasize both positive and negative messages and can become very animated at times.

Angolans do not require a great deal of personal space when conversing. If you back away, you may give offense or the person may step forward to close the gap. When speaking with someone at your own level, direct eye contact means that you are sincere.

When speaking to someone who is senior to you in age or position, indirect eye contact demonstrates respect. In general, women do not make direct eye contact when conversing with men, although this is changing.

  • Business Meetings

The first meeting is often used to get better acquainted and business may not be discussed. Angolans prefer to do business with people they know and trust, therefore, the first meeting is often used to determine if you are the type of person with whom they would want to conduct business. This getting-to-know-you conversation is an important part of business and should not be rushed.

Meetings are not always as private as they are in many other cultures. In fact, it may appear that there are several meetings taking place in the same room.

Agendas are not part of the business culture. If provided, they generally act as a starting point for discussions rather than an itemized list of what will be covered. Attempting to rigidly adhere to an agenda is not recommended, unless you are meeting with the petroleum industry.

Meetings have a formal ambiance. It is suggested that you not remove your suit jacket unless invited to do so, as this is seen as too casual. A strong Portuguese influence remains prevalent in Luanda and adhering to such behaviour demonstrates respect to the people with whom you are meeting.

History of Angola

Angola and slaves: 15th-19th century

Little is known about the early history of the Angola region, stretching south from the mouth of the Congo. The inhabitants are living a neolithic existence until the arrival of Bantu migrants from the north, bringing iron technology in the first millennium AD.

When the Portuguese begin trading on the west coast of Africa, in the 15th century, they concentrate their energies on Guinea and Angola. Hoping at first for gold, they soon find that slaves are the most valuable commodity available here for export. But the Portuguese never establish much more than a foothold in either place. In Guinea rival Europeans grab much of the trade, while local African rulers confine the Portuguese to the area around Bissau.

Thousands of miles down the coast, in Angola, the Portuguese find it even harder to consolidate their early advantage against encroachments by Dutch, British and French rivals. Nevertheless the fortified towns of Luanda (established in 1587 with 400 Portuguese settlers) and Benguela (a fort from 1587, a town from 1617) remain almost continuously in Portuguese hands.

As in Guinea, the slave trade becomes the basis of the local economy - with raids carried ever further inland to procure captives. More than a million men, women and children are shipped from here across the Atlantic. In this region, unlike Guinea, the trade remains largely in Portuguese hands. Nearly all the slaves are destined for Brazil.

During the 19th century the western embargo on the slave trade brings to an end Angola's main export. The shipping of slaves from Angola is banned in 1836, but slavery remains legal in the Portuguese empire until 1875. So an attempt is made in Angola to make productive use of slaves who can no longer be sold abroad.

Grants of land are made in regions inland from Luanda. Plantations are established, with coffee, cotton and sugar as the main crops. But this encroachment leads to continual outbreaks of warfare with local rulers of the Kongo, Mbundu and Ovambo peoples. Angola is a most unsettled region when the European scramble for Africa begins in the 1880s. It remains so in most subsequent periods.

Colonial period: 1885-1975

Portugal's colonial claim to the region is recognized by the other European powers during the 1880s, and the boundaries of Portuguese Angola are agreed by negotiation in Europe in 1891. At the time Portugal is in effective control of only a small part of the area thus theoretically enclosed. But work is already under way to open up the interior.

Construction of a railway from Luanda to Malanje, in the fertile highlands, is started in 1885. Work begins in 1902 on a commercially more significant line from Benguela all the way inland to the Katanga region, aiming to provide access to the sea for the richest mining district of the Belgian Congo. The line reaches the Congo border in 1928.

By this time the regime in Portugal has been through two violent transitions, from monarchy to republic in 1910 and then to a military dictatorship after a coup in 1926. The effect of these changes in Angola is a tightening of Portuguese control.

In the early years of the colony there has been a continuation of the almost endemic warfare between the Portuguese and the various African rulers of the region. Now a systematic campaign of conquest is undertaken. One by one the local kingdoms are overwhelmed and abolished. By the 1920s almost the whole of Angola is under control. There is no longer slavery, but the plantations are worked on a system of forced African labour.

In the 1950s and 1960s three rival guerrilla groups are formed to fight for Angolan independence. The first is the MPLA or Movimento Popular de Libertaçcão de Angola (Popular Liberation Movement of Angola), founded in 1956 by members of the banned Portuguese Communist party and supported by the USSR.

In the following year the FNLA or Frente Nacional de Libertação de Angola (National Front for the Liberation of Angola) is set up with aid from the USA. And in 1966 UNITA or União Nacional para a Independencia Total de Angola (National Union for the Total Independence of Angola) is established. UNITA has little foreign aid but considerable tribal allegiance in southern Angola.

Portugal's terminal problems in Angola are not directly caused by any of these guerrilla groups. It is a rebellion of workers, undergoing forced labour in coffee and cotton plantations in the north, which first plunges the country into chaos in 1961.

The government in Lisbon responds vigorously. Large numbers of troops are sent to the colony. The emigration of Portuguese peasants to Angola, to be settled on African farms, is greatly accelerated. Reforms are introduced (improvements in the provision of education and health, and the ending of forced labour) in a belated attempt to appease the African population.

The unrest gives the guerrilla groups their opportunity. Throughout the 1960s and into the 1970s they are actively engaged in a campaign of violence against the colonial power. But they are equally active in fighting among themselves. Civil war accompanies the anti-colonial war.

As a result Angola is ill-equipped to respond positively in the aftermath of a 1974 coup in Portugal. This event, largely prompted by the dire situation in Portugal's three rebellious African colonies, brings to a sudden end the country's long-established right-wing dicatatorship. The change of regime in Lisbon has immediate consequences in Africa.

The new government in Lisbon is disinclined to prop up Portugal's collapsing and by now very expensive empire. All the Portuguese colonies in Africa are rapidly granted their independence.

Portuguese Guinea is the first, in September 1974. Portuguese East Africa follows in June 1975, taking the new name Mozambique. The republic of Cape Verde is established in July. And Angola, in the middle of civil war, becomes independent in November 1975.

Independence: from1975

During 1975, before the official Portuguese withdrawal, the civil war in Angola intensifies. In fighting for control of the capital city, Luanda, the MPLA succeeds in driving out both its rivals. UNITA, which claims to enjoy wider popular support than the other groups, argues that Portugal must fulfil its last colonial duty and supervise elections.

But the Portuguese, eager to leave as quickly as possible, abandon the country without formally handing over control to any succeeding government. The MPLA, in possession of the capital and with guaranteed support from the USSR and Cuba, declares itself the government of independent Angola. Agostinho Neto, a distinguished poet who has led the MPLA since 1962, becomes president.

UNITA and the FNLA set up a rival government in the mountainous region of Huambo, inland from Benguela. Here they enlist the support of South African forces in neighbouring Namibia to oust the Marxist MPLA.

The conflict in Angola thus becomes an extension of the Cold War. The United States sends funds to UNITA and the FNLA and encourages South African involvement. The USSR provides similar support to the MPLA, while president Castro, eager to spread communism in Africa, sends large contingents of Cuban troops to Angola. As early as November 1975 South African and Cuban troops clash in a battle at Ebo, with victory on this occasion going decisively to the Cubans.

South Africa's involvement increases over the years because of the situation in neighbouring Namibia, where the insurgent group SWAPO receives support from Angola's MPLA. From South Africa's point of view, maintaining control in Namibia and fighting communism in Angola become one and the same cause. But in 1988 exhaustion leads to a pact with Cuba. Both sides will withdraw their troops from Angola. South Africa will also pull out of Namibia.

This leaves Angola's civil war as an internal affair. The FNLA has by the late 1980s declined in importance. The rivals now are the MPLA, led by José dos Santos since the death of Neto in 1979; and UNITA, still under the control of its founder, Jonas Savimbi.

From 1989 there are several attempts by the two men to achieve a ceasefire. A solution is made easier when the MPLA decides to give up Marxism-Leninism and the one-party state. An agreement is reached in 1991 on a new constitution, the merging of the two rival armies and the holding of multiparty elections.

The elections duly take place in 1992 and the MPLA beats UNITA into second place. Savimbi refuses to accept this result. Civil war breaks out again, even more violently than before. During two years of fighting, it is calculated that some two million people are driven from their homes (20% of the population). More than 20 million land mines are planted by the warring factions.

In November 1994, under UN mediation in Lusaka, a somewhat shaky peace is agreed. It involves the gradual demobilization of UNITA's forces and the participation of UNITA in government as a political party, with Savimbi as vice-president of the nation.

However progress is far from convincing. The demobilization soon falls behind schedule. Savimbi reconsiders his decision to serve as vice-president. And UNITA proves reluctant to relinquish control over regions which include Angola's valuable diamond mines. (Of the nation's two main sources of wealth, oil has been exclusively in MPLA hands while diamonds have funded UNITA).

All trace of agreement ends in December 1998, with a return to full-scale civil war. During 1999 UNITA wins control of some 75% of the countryside, forcing terrified peasants into government-held cities where starvation and illness threaten the lives of hundreds of thousands. The UN World Food Programme desperately tries to truck in emergency supplies along roads mined and ambushed by UNITA forces. Meanwhile the rest of the world hardly notices, with Kosovo exhausting the available supply of compassion.

No country in the world has had such a continuously appalling start to independence as Angola, potentially so prosperous from its natural resources but suffering from lethal self-inflicted wounds.

Government of Angola

Angola is a unitary Republic with a Presidential form of government. The President is, however, not elected by the people. The President of the most powerful party in parliamentary elections will automatically become the President of the country. As the President enjoys tremendous power the principle of division of power is not practiced in Angola.

  • The executive body of the government consists of the President, Vice President, and Council of Minister.
  • The provinces are headed by Governors who are appointed by the President and whose tenure depends upon the pleasure of the President

Law and Order Law and order situation seems fine during day, though petty theft, snatching, mugging are common at night particularly during festivals. Human rights violation is quite widespread. Human trafficking both internal and transnational is rampant. The victims of human trafficking further become victims of prostitution and forced labor. The government has taken several steps to prevent trafficking and protect the victims. The rate of prosecution is still low.

Culture and Society Several African tribes like Ovibundu, Mbundu, Chowke with unique cultural traits inhabit Angola. They have managed to preserve the distinctiveness of the respective cultures and at the same time have made their contribution towards forming a composite Angolan culture. Portuguese influence is evident in various aspects of cultural life;be it language, religion, art, music , architecture or cuisine.

Art and Entertainment The traditional art of Angola is closely associated with the cultural and religious rites to mark the important events of ones lives like birth, puberty, marriage, and death. The ceremonial masks made of ivory, wood, and ceramic crafted in the distinctive styles of different ethnic groups speak volumes about the ways of life of these people. Besides mask Angola also boasts of beautiful sculptures and other artifacts, the most famous of these being the statue of The Thinker of the Chokwe.

Music is an important part of Angolan life. Traditionally, story telling and music accompanied the use of the ceremonial masks. Contemporary music in Angola is inspired by Portuguese, Brazilian and Congolese music besides being influenced by the music of various ethnic groups. Rebita, a popular musical style originated in Angola.

People, Religion and Ethnic Groups Angola is home to several ethnic tribes. The most prominent of them are Ovimbundu, Ambundu, Bakongo and Chokwe. There is also a small population of Mestico and Europeans. 47% of the people believe in indigenous religions, 38% are Roman Catholic and 15% are Protestants.

National Holidays and Festivals The festivals of different ethnicities living in Angola are celebrated with equal ferver. Luanda Island Festival is one such famous festival that is held in honor of the water god Kianda in November. Christianity is a major religion and festivals associated with it such as the Carnival, Christmas, and Easter are celebrated with great enthusiasm. There are also several important secular events celebrated across the country. The Sumbe Music Festival is held every year in September in Sumbe that is attended by many international musicians.

The commemoration of the Martyrs of Colonial Repression Day (4th January) which marks the beginning of the struggle for Independence is an important day. Angolans also zealously celebrate their Independence Day (11th November) which is also a national holiday. Other important national holidays are Liberation Movement day (4th February), Peace Day (4th April), International Women’s Day (8th March),International Labor Day(1st May), National Heroes Day(17th September) and Memorial Day(2nd November) to name a few.

Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola

Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola, Portuguese Movimento Popular de Libertação de Angola (MPLA), Angolan political party.

The MPLA, founded in 1956, merged two nationalist organizations and was centred in the country’s capital city of Luanda. From 1962 it was led by Agostinho Neto, who eventually became Angola’s first president. It fought the Portuguese for the independence of Angola in cooperation, but often in conflict, with the National Front for the Liberation of Angola (FNLA) and the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA). The MPLA declared the People’s Republic of Angola in November 1975, which was not recognized by all governments. The MPLA, supported by Cuba and the Soviet Union, and UNITA, supported by South Africa and the United States, continued to fight for control of the country; the FNLA pulled out of the struggle in the late 1970s.

At a national congress in 1977, the MPLA refashioned itself as a Marxist-Leninist party and added the words Party of Labour (PT) to its name. Neto died in Moscow in 1979 and was succeeded by José dos Santos, who gradually shifted the party from its Marxist-Leninist stance to one more conducive to establishing relations with Western countries.

The MPLA was the only legal party of Angola until multiparty elections were held in 1992. UNITA continued to battle Angolan government forces until early in 2002. An agreement to end the hostilities was signed in April 2002. The MPLA was victorious in the multiparty parliamentary elections held on Sept. 5–6, 2008, the first since 1992. Although there were some reports of fraud and intimidation, the elections were deemed valid by international observers.

Angola in 2007

Angola Area: 1,246,700 sq km (481,354 sq mi) Population (2007 est.): 12,264,000 Capital: Luanda Chief of state and head of government: President José Eduardo dos Santos, assisted by Prime Minister ...>>>Read On<<<

Angola in 2005

Angola Area: 1,246,700 sq km (481,354 sq mi) Population (2005 est.): 11,827,000 Capital: Luanda Chief of state and head of government: President José Eduardo dos Santos, assisted by Prime Minister ...>>>Read On<<<


This is not the official site of this country. Most of the information in this site were taken from the U.S. Department of State, The Central Intelligence Agency, The United Nations, [1],[2], [3], [4], [5],[6], [7], [8], [9], [10], [11], [12], [13], [14],[15], [16], [17], [18], [19], [20], [21], [22], [23], [24],[25], [26], [27], [28], [29], [30],[31], [32], [33], [34], and the [35].

Other sources of information will be mentioned as they are posted.