Ghost Towns in Angola
Angola has had a chequered history, it was a Portuguese colony from the 16th century until 1975. The Portuguese mainly developed the coastal strip and the capital Luanda to help further the slave trade in the Portuguese Empire. This became very lucrative in the 17th and 18th centuries.
Eventually though the tide turned against imperialism in Africa and along with many other African states, Angola was given its independence in 1975.
Unfortunately, as was the case in many African countries, the inhabitants came from many separate tribes who each wanted to rule the country. Several alliances were formed and then broken but the overall effect was to bring about a devastating and long civil war beginning almost immediately after independence and finally petering out a decade ago.
During this time much of the agriculture and industry of the country was destroyed along with much of the country’s infrastructure, leading to a refugee crisis and evacuation and desertion of many towns and villages.
Finally tiring of conflict, a treaty was agreed in 2002 to end the war and work began with outside agencies and international companies to rebuild the country using its wealth of natural resources, notably oil and diamonds.
Modern methods of extraction and production has led to Angola becoming a member of OPEC and also becoming a leading exporter of diamonds. The wealth generated from this enabled the next decade to see the highest level of growth in GDP of any country in the world but whilst the country became rich, corruption ensured that much of the population remained impoverished. The startling difference can be seen mainly in the cities such as Luanda where a very wealthy class consisting of politicians, industrialists, military and civil servants own up to 85% of the wealth. There is a small but developing middle class, earning from the spending habits of the rich but the poor of the cities have no chance of improvement and remain some of the poorest people on earth.
This pattern is repeated in rural areas where farming barely supports families who tend the land whilst those who have access to modern farming techniques and the right connections are gaining in wealth. This has led to forced acquisition of fertile land enhancing the wealth of the large landowners whilst making the original owners homeless and without a means to support themselves.
Angola is another country which can expect demonstrations and possible revolution if conditions aren’t improved for the poor and we may yet see a return to the bloody conflicts of the seventies.