Angola's tormented path to petro-diamond led growth

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Angola´s tormented path to petro-diamond led growth

Angola has big potential. This is the message most Angolan politicians and businessmen like to convey about their country. Seen from the outside, this may sound surprising for a nation so often associated with landmines, conflict diamonds and a virtually uninterrupted civil war that has plagued its people since they won independence from Portugal in 1975.

Take a closer look and Angola's potential rapidly becomes apparent. Not surprising for a country forecast to become Africa's No.1 sub Saharan oil producer by 2015. In fact few African countries have such a favorable natural endowment as Angola. Besides the oil industry, which has rapidly become the country's economic lifeline since the first offshore discoveries were made in the sixties, Angola is blessed with extensive stretches of fertile land and some of the largest and mostly unexplored diamond deposits in the world.

But Angola's spectacular rise as a petro-diamond state has also raised the stakes in a civil war that stemmed from a fragmented independence movement in the seventies, to one of the most disputed hotspots of the cold war throughout the eighties. More recently, the wave of democracy that swept across Africa in the 90's coupled with large oil discoveries have given Angola a second chance towards achieving peace and prosperity.
Unlike in most parts of Africa, Angola's colonial rulers did not train an elite capable of running the country's institutions at independence. The collapse of Salazar's regime in 1975 prompted the sudden departure of the Portuguese leaving behind an independent but widely illiterate and divided population.

On 11 November 1975, two opposing parties proclaimed independence, the MPLA (Movimiento Popular de Liberacion de Angola) led by Agostinho Neto (now recognized as the father of Angolan independence) and UNITA (Union Nacional para la Liberracion Total de Angola) led by Jonas Savimbi and his allies of the FNLA (Frente Nacional de Liberacion de Angola).

While the MPLA took control of the country's capital, Luanda, gaining support from the Soviet Union, UNITA carried on fighting for power with backing from the West. Since then, with the collapse of the USSR, foreign intervention has all but disappeared and both sides remain in a virtually uninterrupted state of war that has claimed over 500,000 lives and displaced an estimated 3,8 million people for an estimated population of 12 million.

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© World INvestment NEws, 2002.
This is the electronic edition of the special country report on Angola published in Forbes Global Magazine. February 18th, 2002 Issue.
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