The Angolan population is 9,385,725 residents (1988 estimate), of which about 30% live in urban areas (14% in 1970). The most important ethnic group is the Ovimbundu (38%), followed by the Kimbundu (19%), the Kongo (11%) and the Lunda (7%); the Portuguese presence has weakened considerably after independence, while the Cubans are more than 30,000. In Angola also live 100,000 refugees, mostly from Namibia.
According to INTERSHIPPINGRATES, the capital Luanda expanded a lot in the 1980s, exceeding one million residents and assuming, at least in the central part, a European aspect with high skyscrapers and wide streets: the city continues to have a great attraction throughout the country, expanding into the neighborhoods. very poor of the suburbs.
Economic conditions. – The economy is regulated by government plans which, due to the civil war that has afflicted the country since its independence, have very little effect.
The productive activities that are directly controlled by the state have enjoyed the greatest investments: above all agriculture has made some progress thanks to a hundred new projects implemented in the 1980s; agricultural cooperatives especially control food production and fishing, while only small-sized activities are allowed to private initiative. Even if all the most important Portuguese companies were nationalized in the 1970s, a specific legislation today tries to attract foreign investments in Angola, without great results.
The primary sector is still in first place for the number of employees (still over 50% at the end of the 1980s), but only 2.8% of the territory is cultivated; the main commercial productions are that of coffee (widespread in the provinces of Uíge, Cuanza Norte, Cuanza Sul, Luanda), which, however, in the last decade has been affected by a serious and constant crisis, and that of sugar cane (330,000 t in 1989), assisted by Cuban technicians.
The difficulty of communications and the insecurity of agricultural territories, however, compromised all development projects for these productions. Other important commercial crops, now in crisis, are that of sisal, affected by the recent drop in the price on the world market, and that of cotton (11,000 t in 1989), which has undergone a drastic reduction after the departure of the Portuguese, as the Soviet experts called to replace them have not been able to improve the situation, so much so that since 1983 the Angola had to resort to imports.
The mining sector, which offers great prospects, has developed poorly since independence. Diamond mining is the monopoly of a state-owned company, and the country exports 8% of the world’s gem production. However, a vast diamond zone is controlled by UNITA (União Nacional para a Indipendência Total de Angola), which has sold its exploitation to the South African company De Beers. The oil areas – for a long time garrisoned by Cuban troops – supply 85% of exports (22.5 million tonnes in 1988). In 1985 the iron mines of Kassinga were reactivated.
The industrial sector has made little progress and mainly concerns some immediate consumer goods in the food and textile sectors. Internal transport is still clearly inadequate and the railway network currently in service is 2952 km.
History. – Due to the divisions dating back to the times of the struggle for liberation from colonialism and the interference of the great powers, independence (11 November 1975) did not resolve the situation of crisis and real internal war. The central power, controlled by the MPLA (Movimento Popular de Libertaçao de Angola), the movement that had most consistently fought Portugal trying to behave as a non-tribalist and non-regionalist party, imposed itself thanks to the help of the USSR and the intervention of Cuban troops, but failed to completely eradicate the armed opposition of UNITA (União Nacional para a Indipendência Total de Angola) by J. Savimbi, with a certain following among the Ovimbundu of the central-southern region and openly backed by South Africa, who wanted to defend himself and Namibia. The government found itself facing a serious economic emergency, having to practically replace all the infrastructures as well as the gaps left by the massive exodus of the 300-400,000 Portuguese. The war – consider it a civil war or a war exported from South Africa – made reconstruction even more difficult. Not even the unity of the MPLA was fully tested. The leadership group gathered around President Angola Neto was implicitly contested by a faction headed by N. Alves, who personified the ” Africanist ” and ” movementist ” soul of the MPLA.
After an extensive purge in the mass organizations, the MPLA strengthened with its first Congress in December 1977: the party proclaimed itself a Marxist-Leninist and took on the new name of MPLA-PT (Partido de Trabalho). Two constitutional amendments were introduced in 1976 and 1980. On 11 November 1980, the fifth anniversary of independence, the first People’s Assembly was inaugurated.
On September 10, 1979, President Neto died in hospital in Moscow. The succession fell to one of his closest collaborators, then Minister of Planning, JE Dos Santos. In the hope of removing its ” sanctuaries ” from the UNITA guerrillas, the Angola it sought dialogue with both Zaire and South Africa. In military terms, however, the alliance with Cuba and the USSR continued to be decisive (a treaty of friendship and cooperation was signed with the Soviet Union in 1976).
An agreement reached in Lusaka with South Africa in 1984 did not put an end to the action of UNITA, a real thorn in the state, production and communications fabric. UNITA also enjoyed the support of the United States, interested in obtaining the withdrawal of Cuban troops by linking the independence of Namibia to it (the so-called linkage policy). A military counter-offensive by the Angolan army and the Cuban armed forces almost led to the defeat of UNITA in 1986, but at the end of the day South Africa – which since 1975, with short pauses, had been keeping units of its army in Angolan territory – brought in the aviation saving Savimbi.
While confirming the Marxist options, the author, whose economy is rather integrated into the world market on the capitalist side, has multiplied in recent years the signs of openness to Europe and the West. In 1985 he joined the Lomé Convention with the EEC, which he had previously opposed branding it with ” neo-colonialism ”. The erosion caused by the war played a certain part in the process of reconsidering the economic objectives, in the sense of a liberalization aimed both at making the market more dynamic and at obtaining contributions from the Western world. Oil is mainly exploited by American companies. Heavy is the drain of currency for the purchase of weapons and the maintenance of the armed forces.
In 1988, with the mediation of the United States, an extensive three-party agreement (A., Cuba and South Africa) was concluded for the end of hostilities, the withdrawal of South African troops, the independence of Namibia and the staggered departure of the Cubans within 1991. In the congress of December 1990 the MPLA pronounced itself for the start of a process of democratization in political and economic life based on the adoption of multi-partyism and on the liberalization of the market. At the same time, with the mediation of Portugal, direct peace negotiations were initiated between the government and UNITA.