In 1998, according to one estimate, the population of the Angolan republic amounted to 12,092. 000 residents and it tended to grow at a very fast pace. The pressure on resources is very strong and the level of economic and social development is particularly low: it is estimated that more than 60 % of the population lives below the poverty line. The worsening of the social and economic crisis is closely linked to the lack of political stability, which not even the formation of a government of unity and national reconciliation (April 1997) was able to restore.
Angola is potentially one of the richest countries in Africa south of the Sahara. Until the mid-1970s it was self-sufficient for all major food products, as well as a net exporter of corn, the fourth largest producer of coffee and third of sisal in the world. Although the civil war (which lasted from 1975 to 1991) has long since ended, agriculture has not yet risen above subsistence level.
According to PETSINCLUDE, Angola is forced to appeal to international aid to feed not only the city and its internal refugees (600. 000 in 1990), but also the rural population in many areas, starving, even for the dire state of the network of roads communication and for the deconstruction of commercial networks. Today the resources on which the hopes of recovery of the Angolan economy are based are mining (oil, diamonds) and the production of hydroelectric energy. The oil (26. 500. 000 t extracted in 1995) is the resource, representing about 90% of exports to the Angola, ensured the survival of the regime in the crucial years between 1976 and 1990, as it allowed it to finance a war that otherwise could not have gone on for so long. The extraction activity, largely concentrated in the submarine fields off the coast of Cabinda, sheltered from guerrilla attacks, is conducted by a US company, Cabinda Gulf Oil in association with SONANGOL (Sociedade Nacional de Combustíveis de Angola), an Angolan state company. Diamonds have long been Angola’s great wealth, but production plummeted after 1974, when they were exported 2, 1million carats. In 1994, the official production was just 300. 000 carats, due to the continuing control of the diamond zone by UNITA (União Nacional para a Indipendência Total de Angola), which feeds a strong clandestine production destined for smuggling. Another resource destined to revitalize the Angolan economy, once it has regained its stability, is the production of hydroelectricity, which has an immense potential which has not yet been exploited. A grandiose project on the Middle Cunene, in Ruacana, near the border with Namibia, financed by South Africa, has been paralyzed since 1974. The same fate suffered technical and financial cooperation agreements with the then Soviet Union – promoted during the 1980s – which included, among other things, the construction of a gigantic dam on the Cuanza river.
A vast country, the Angola possessed a relatively good road network (72. 300 km of roads, of which 8300 unsurfaced, in 1974), but the destruction of the bridges, the lack of maintenance and the insecurity of large regions have considerably reduced their usefulness. This also applies to the railways, of which only one (Luanda-Malange) is still used from time to time. The historic Benguela railway, which in the past ensured an outlet to the sea to Katanga (today Shaba) and to Zambia, now fulfills only a local role on some trunks. In this precarious situation, it is air transport that ensures connections between Luanda and the provincial capitals with a certain regularity. The trade balance is active, but the main economic problem is the worsening of the balance of payments deficit. External debt was estimated at over 10,612 in 1996 millions of dollars: among the biggest creditors are the Russian Federation and Cuba.