Republic of Angola

President: José Eduardo dos Santos (1979)

Prime Minister: position abolished (2012)

Total area: 481,350 sq mi (1,246,699 sq km)

Population (2012 est.): 18,056,072 (growth rate: 2.78%); birth rate: 39.36/1000; infant mortality rate: 83.53/1000; life expectancy: 54.59; density per sq mi: 25

Capital and largest city (2009 est.): Luanda, 4,511,000

Other large cities: Huambo, 979,000; Lubango, 136,000

Monetary unit: New Kwanza

National name: Republica de Angola

Current government officials

Languages: Portuguese (official), Bantu and other African languages

Ethnicity/race: Ovimbundu 37%, Kimbundu 25%, Bakongo 13%, mestico (mixed European and Native African) 2%, European 1%, other 22%

Religions: Indigenous 47%, Roman Catholic 38%, Protestant 15% (1998 est.)

Literacy rate: 67.4% (2011 est.)

Economic summary: GDP/PPP (2011 est.): $115.9 billion; per capita $5,900. Real growth rate: -0.6%. Inflation: 14.3%. Unemployment: 8% (2012 est.). Arable land: 2.65%. Agriculture: bananas, sugarcane, coffee, sisal, corn, cotton, manioc (tapioca), tobacco, vegetables, plantains; livestock; forest products; fish. Labor force: 8.24 million; agriculture 85%, industry and services 15% (2007 est.). Industries: petroleum; diamonds, iron ore, phosphates, feldspar, bauxite, uranium, and gold; cement; basic metal products; fish processing; food processing, brewing, tobacco products, sugar; textiles; ship repair. Natural resources: petroleum, diamonds, iron ore, phosphates, copper, feldspar, gold, bauxite, uranium. Exports: $65.63 billion f.o.b. (2011 est.): crude oil, diamonds, refined petroleum products, gas, coffee, sisal, fish and fish products, timber, cotton. Imports: $24.76 billion f.o.b. (2011 est.): machinery and electrical equipment, vehicles and spare parts; medicines, food, textiles, military goods. Major trading partners: U.S., China, Taiwan, France, Chile (2006)

Communications: Telephones: main lines in use: 303,200 (2011); mobile cellular: 8.909 million (2011). Radio broadcast stations: AAM 21, FM 6, shortwave 7 (2001). Television broadcast stations: 6 (2000). Internet hosts: 20,269 (2011). Internet users: 85,000 (2011).

Transportation: Railways: total: 2,764 km (2011). Highways: total: 51,429 km; paved: 5,349 km; unpaved: 46,080 km (2011). Waterways: 1,300 km (2007). Ports and harbors: Cabinda, Luanda, Soyo. Airports: 193 (2011).

International disputes: many Cabinda exclave secessionists have sought shelter in neighboring states

Major sources and definitions

Flag of Angola


Angola, more than three times the size of California, extends for more than 1,000 mi (1,609 km) along the South Atlantic in southwest Africa. The Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Republic of Congo are to the north and east, Zambia is to the east, and Namibia is to the south. A plateau averaging 6,000 ft (1,829 m) above sea level rises abruptly from the coastal lowlands. Nearly all the land is desert or savanna, with hardwood forests in the northeast.


Angola underwent a transition from a one-party socialist state to a nominally multiparty democracy in 1992.


The original inhabitants of Angola are thought to have been Khoisan speakers. After 1000, large numbers of Bantu speakers migrated to the region and became the dominant group. Angola derives its name from the Bantu kingdom of Ndongo, whose name for its king is ngola.

Explored by the Portuguese navigator Diego Cão in 1482, Angola became a link in trade with India and Southeast Asia. Later it was a major source of slaves for Portugal's New World colony of Brazil. Development of the interior began after the Berlin Conference in 1885 fixed the colony's borders, and British and Portuguese investment fostered mining, railways, and agriculture.

Peace Does Not Follow Independence

Following World War II, independence movements began but were sternly suppressed by Portuguese military forces. The major nationalist organizations were the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), a Marxist party; National Front for the Liberation of Angola (FNLA); and the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA). After 14 years of war, Portugal finally granted independence to Angola in 1975. The MPLA, which had led the independence movement, has controlled the government ever since. But no period of peace followed Angola's long war for independence. UNITA disputed the MPLA's ascendancy, and civil war broke out almost immediately. With the Soviet Union and Cuba supporting the Marxist MPLA, and the United States and South Africa supporting the anti-Communist UNITA, the country became a cold war battleground.

With the waning of the cold war and the withdrawal of Cuban troops in 1989, the MPLA began to make the transition to a multiparty democracy. Despite shifting ideologies, the civil war continued, with UNITA's charismatic rebel leader, Jonas Savimbi, armed and sustained by his control of approximately 80% of the country's diamond trade. Free elections took place in 1992, with incumbent president José Eduardo dos Santos and the MPLA winning the UN-certified election over Savimbi and UNITA. Savimbi then withdrew, charging election fraud, and the civil war resumed.

Four years of relative peace passed between 1994 and 1998, when the UN, at a cost of $1.6 billion, oversaw the 1994 Lusaka peace accord. In 1997, it was agreed that a coalition government with UNITA would be implemented. But Savimbi violated the accord repeatedly by refusing to give up his strongholds, failing to demobilize his army, and retaking territory. As a result, the government suspended coalition rule in Sept. 1998, and the country again plunged into civil war. Angola’s citizens continued to suffer. The hostilities affected an estimated 4 million people, about a third of the total population, and there were almost 2 million refugees.P

Peace Is Achieved, but Domestic Suffering Continues

On Feb. 22, 2002, government troops killed Jonas Savimbi, and six weeks later, on April 4, rebel leaders signed a cease-fire deal with the government, signaling the end of 30 years of civil war. While peace finally seemed secure, more than a half-million Angolans were faced with starvation.

Angola is the second-largest oil producer in sub-Saharan Africa, yet its people are among the continent's poorest. The corruption under the Dos Santos government bears much of the blame. According to the International Monetary Fund, more than $4 billion in oil receipts have disappeared from Angola's treasury in the last six years.

In Aug. 2006, a peace deal was signed with separatist rebels from the Cabinda region. That clash had been called Angola's “forgotten war.” About 65% of Angola's oil comes from the region.

In Angola's first national elections in 16 years, held in Sep. 2008, the governing Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) won about 82% of the vote. The opposition, the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (Unita), took 10%. The landslide victory gave the MPLA a two-thirds majority in Parliament.

Prime Minister Position Abolished

In early 2012, the position of prime minister was abolished due to the ratification of the 2008 Constitution of Angola. The Constitution transfers the functions of the prime minister to the president. The president must have the approval of the parliamentary majority in the same way as the prime minister did before.

See also Encyclopedia: Angola.
U.S. State Dept. Country Notes: Angola

Information Please® Database, © 2012 Pearson Education, Inc. All rights reserved.

Andorra Countries Antigua and Barbuda