Angola is one of Africa’s major oil producers, however is also one of the world’s poorest nations. Civil strife and international conflict has hindered the growth of the country for the past 50 years and still the political environment remains unstable. Recent oil exports and foreign loans have spurred an economic and reconstructive boom but because of significant barriers, trade remains frustrating. Although the country is experiencing internal conflicts, there is expectation of significant economic growth in the coming years, which makes the country an interesting topic of discussion.
ß Full name: The Republic of Angola
ß Population: 18.5 Million (UN, 2009)
ß Capital: Luanda
ß Area: 1.25m square kilometers (481,354 square miles)
ß Major Languages: Portuguese (official), Umbundu, Kimbundu, Kikongo ß Major Religion: Christianity
ß Ethnic Groups: Ovimbundu 37%, Mbundu 23%, Kongo 14%, Lunda-Chokwe 9%, Nganguela 7%, others 9-10% ß Land Area: 1,246,700 sq. km., of which 6.4% arable, 58.3% forest and woodland, 23% pasture, 12% desert, semi-desert, urban areas and parkland ß President: Jose Eduardo dos Santos (since 1979)
ß Ruling Party: Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) ß Life Expectancy: 45 years (men), 49 years (women) (UN)
ß Monetary Unit: kwanza
ß Main Exports: Oil, Diamonds, Minerals, Coffee, Fish, Timber ß Main Imports: Industrial and Agricultural Machinery, raw materials, consumer goods, transport vehicles, medical goods ß GNI per capita: US $3,450 (World Bank, 2008)
The Republic of Angola is located in southwest Africa and is bordered by Namibia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Zambia, and the Atlantic Ocean. Angola was colonized by the Portuguese from the 16th century, as an ‘overseas territory’, until the country gained its independence in 1975. After which a 27 year civil war ensued, from 1975 to 2002 that took the lives of up to 1 million people and displaced close to 4 million. At that time a peace treaty led to elections, but the losing side rejected the outcome and resumed the war. The UN tried sending in peacekeepers but they withdrew because of the dangerous conditions, leaving behind a country rich in natural resources, the second largest petroleum and diamond producer in Africa, but littered with landmines and the ruins of war. During the Portuguese occupancy the African nation took on many European customs and even adopted the Portuguese language as its own. Portuguese motives in occupying were concerned with easily linking European trade with India and Southeast Asia. The Portuguese would establish several settlements, forts and trading posts along the coastal strip of current-day Angola, which relied on slave trade, commerce in raw materials, and exchange of goods for survival . Within the Portuguese Empire, most black African slaves were traded to Portuguese merchants who bought them to sell as cheap labor for use on Brazilian agricultural plantations. This trade would last until the first half of the 1800s. Over time the Portuguese regime began to see factions of revolutionaries demand liberation, but the Portuguese refused to accede to the nationalists' demands of separatism, provoking an armed conflict that started in 1961 when black guerrillas 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 were the MPLA (Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola), founded in 1956, the FNLA (National Front for the Liberation of Angola), which appeared in 1961, and UNITA (National Union for the Total Independence of Angola), founded in 1966. After many years of conflict, Angola gained its independence on November 11, 1975, after the 1974 coup d'état overthrew the Portuguese regime. However, even after gaining independence the fighting was far from over. These same groups that...