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A country of south‐central Africa bounded by the Atlantic on the west, the Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaïre) and Zambia on the north and east, and Namibia on the south. While most of Angola lies south of the Congo River, the Cabinda province lies north of the Congo and is separated from the rest of Angola by a section of Congo.


Most of the country lies on a high plateau; but there is a coastal plain which, starting near the mouth of the River Congo, is broad and fertile until, southward, it becomes drier and narrower as it approaches the Namib desert.


Potentially Africa's richest country, Angola has a wealth of mineral deposits, including the oil produced offshore from Cabinda, on which the economy is heavily dependent, diamonds, and iron ore. Exports include crude oil, petroleum products, coffee, diamonds, and mahogany hardwoods. Agricultural crops include sugar cane, bananas, palm oil, and tobacco. Industry is limited to food‐processing and metal‐refining. Electricity is generated mainly from hydroelectric dams. The economy has suffered major disruption from the civil war, which has caused widespread migration, famine, and destitution; it is badly in need of investment in infrastructure.


The kingdoms of Kongo and Ndongo were flourishing when the coastal strip was colonized by the Portuguese in the 16th century. Increasing Portuguese involvement in the slave trade led to conflict and the Ndongo kingdom was destroyed. In the 19th century, following wars with the Ovimbundu, Ambo, Humbo, and Kuvale, the Portuguese began to exploit the mineral reserves of the hinterland. In 1951 Angola became an Overseas Province of Portugal. In 1954 a nationalist movement emerged, demanding independence. The Portuguese at first refused, but finally agreed in 1975 after a protracted guerrilla war, and 400,000 Portuguese were repatriated. Almost total economic collapse followed. Internal fighting continued between guerrilla factions. The ruling Marxist party, the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), was supported by Cuba, the Soviet Union, and East Germany, and its opponent, the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA), by South Africa and the USA. Punitive South African raids took place from time to time, aimed at Namibian resistance forces operating from Angola. In 1988 a Geneva Accord proposed a solution to the conflict. UNITA leader Jonas Savimbi at first refused to accept its terms, but the MPLA's adoption of more democratic policies, together with the withdrawal of South African aid, led to a peace treaty in 1991 and multiparty elections in 1992. The MPLA won the elections but UNITA disputed the results and fighting broke out again. In 1997 UNITA agreed to participate in a government of national reconciliation, but negotiations collapsed in 1999 and fighting resumed. Savimbi was killed in 2002, and shortly afterwards a ceasefire ended Angola's 27‐year civil war.

Source: MAPS IN MINUTES™ © RH Publications (1997)




1,246,700 sq km (481,354 sq miles)


11,827,000 (2005)


1 kwanza = 100 lwei


Roman Catholic 68.7%; Protestant 19.8%; traditional beliefs 9.5%


Subjects: History — African Studies.

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