HUMAN AND ECONOMIC GEOGRAPHY
South-western African state, washed by the Atlantic Ocean. The population, which has grown at a rapid pace (2.8 % per year in the period 2000-2005), in 2005 amounts, according to an estimate, to 15,941,000 residents, Of which just over 30 % live in urban areas. The only real city is the capital Luanda (2.75 million residents, according to 2005 estimates); notable was the modernization process that involved it in the early years of the 21st century: promoted by companies linked to power in association with foreign interests, however, it was mainly oriented towards the realization of grandiose real estate projects, which often reject economically weaker residents. It is estimated that around 75% of the Angolan population live in poverty and only 30% have access to drinking water. The government has enacted rules to encourage the inflow of foreign capital, but rather than bowing to minimum transparency requirements, it has chosen to entrust the recovery of the economy to the oil industry alone: the surge in crude oil prices on international markets has in fact favored the discovery of new reserves and a significant increase in production (over 52 million t in 2004, destined to more than triple within three years). Numerous governments and businessmen have rushed to buy Angolan oil or research rights, and enter the huge reconstruction market. Thanks to oil, the Angola it was also able to continue to borrow from large international banks and renegotiate its foreign debt. The other great wealth of the country is constituted by diamonds, of which the Angola is the sixth largest producer in the world: 7 % of total production, with more than 6 million carats per year. There are no other important economic activities: fishing, despite the territorial waters being abundant with fish, remains at a modest level, while agriculture, prostrated by decades of civil war, is in complete ruin, and the population survives only thanks to aid. international.
According to PROEXCHANGERATES, the death of J. Malheiro Savimbi, leader of UNITA (União Nacional para a Independência Total de Angola), killed in a firefight in February 2002, marked the end of an era and favored an agreement between the Angolan government and representatives of the rebel forces which, signed in Luanda in April 2002, paved the way for an effective national pacification: a road bristling with difficulties, linked both to the economic and social legacy of a thirty-year civil war and to the obstacles placed in the way of an authentic democratization process by the omnipresence of the ruling party (MPLA, Movimento Popular de Libertação de Angola). The agreements essentially resumed the Lusaka protocol of November 1994, which provided, in addition to the ceasefire, the integration of UNITA forces into the national army, the release of prisoners, the dismissal of mercenaries in the service of both sides, the transformation of guerrilla groups into political parties: this protocol, after an uncertain start, it had definitively failed in mid- 1998 due to the re-explosion of the war. Demobilization of UNITA troops began in August 2002, which in June 2003 it was transformed into a party, electing I. Samakuva as leader, and a difficult transition phase opened. The country was exhausted by the long conflict: there were in fact no infrastructures, the territory was littered with mines – almost one per resident – young people knew war or refugee conditions as the only forms of experience, thousands of former guerrillas had to be reintegrated into life civil, overcrowded cities contrasted with almost deserted countryside, and 70% of the population was below the poverty level. To this were added the failures of thirty years of authoritarian and not very transparent when not corrupt political management, which had led to the systematic occupation of all positions of power by the MPLA, and was presented by the latter as an inevitable consequence of war. The MPLA’s resistance to starting the democratic process was confirmed by the systematic postponement of the political elections, which were finally set for September 2006. One of the crucial problems of the country has always been the management and exploitation of its enormous natural wealth: during the war, diamonds and oil had represented an inexhaustible reservoir of money for all the forces in the field and a powerful source of corruption for men. to the government, fueling the conflict and making the intertwining of the country’s events and the interests of the great powers and multinationals that have always been involved in Angola even more complex.
If in the years of the cold war the Angola had been one of the cornerstones of the confrontation between the blocs – the Soviet Union supported the Marxist government of the MPLA and the United States the guerrilla – after the fall of the Berlin Wall, and especially after the mid-nineties, in front of the instability in the Middle East and the Caucasus, the control of Angolan oil resources became even more important in the eyes of the great powers, and in particular of the United States and France, which were the first to understand the strategic value of African oil. The reports of the to. with these two countries they suffered in the early years of the 21stCentury, a profound change: traditional friendly relations with France were loosening, while a strategic understanding seemed to be opening up with the United States (and also with Israel), witnessed by the support for the American positions on the war against ‘Irāq within the United Nations, the meeting between the two heads of state, JE Dos Santos and GW Bush, in May 2004, and finally the renewal of the exploitation license until 2030 of a very rich oil field at the Cabinda Gulf Company, subsidiary of the American Chevron Texaco.
Relations with France were also complicated by the investigation opened in 2000 by the French judiciary on the sale, in the years 1993-94, of a large consignment of arms to the Angolan government, in violation of the embargo, and on the creation of slush funds., an investigation which involved the then Minister of the Interior J. Pasqua and other political figures, and which touched the leaders of the MPLA. It was managed by the French businessman P. Falcone, who was, however, removed from the investigation because he was appointed in 2003 by the Angolan government as permanent representative to UNESCO, a position for which he had acquired the right to diplomatic immunity.
Finally, as regards the neighboring countries, peace seemed to mark a general improvement in relations with Zambia and Namibia, accused for years of tolerating UNITA military bases on their own territory, while in October 2002 the Angola completed the withdrawal from the Democratic Republic of Congo of its troops, intervened during the Congolese civil war, in 1997, in support of President L.-D. Kabila.