Reportage | Angola

Energy development also passes through here

Country Insight by Giancarlo Strocchia

The road to democracy

After independence in 1974, the country experienced bitter internal battles before achieving stability under the presidency of Dos Santos, President of Angola until August 2017, when João Lourenço was elected. Today, despite substantial foreign investments, many social divides remain in the country


Angola gained independence from Portuguese rule in 1974, when, following the Carnation Revolution, the process that led to the proclamation of autonomy from Lisbon was launched. Since the early ‘80s, the Angola’s fortune was represented by its oil fields, especially those of the enclave of Cabinda. Most of the revenues obtained from oil served to continue the civil war that struck the country over the subsequent years. Civil clashes were the expression on the field of the two factions that were later also political and which imposed themselves in the country: the MPLA supported by the USSR and Cuba, whose leader, Agostinho Neto, became president of Angola in 1976 (on his death, in 1979, he was succeeded by José Eduardo Dos Santos) and the FNLA and UNITA, supported by the United States and South Africa.

The Dos Santos presidency

Between 1990 and 1991 a cautious liberalization policy was implemented by President Dos Santos, who introduced a multiparty system and certain elements of a market economy. In March 1991, reflecting the changed political climate, UNITA abandoned its armed conflict and became a political movement whilst awaiting the free elections. These, held in 1992, were won by the MPLA, but the result was not acknowledged by UNITA, which resumed the civil war. The signing of a peace agreement in 1994 and the sending of a UN expeditionary force were unable to put an end to the internal conflict. Angola continued to experience extreme social and political instability until multi-party elections were held in 2008, the first to have taken place since 1992, which achieved widespread support for the MPLA and even led to approval of the new constitution in 2010. In 2012, the MPLA returned to government and José Eduardo dos Santos, in power since 1979, was re-elected President of the country for a further five years. On August 25, 2017, the Dos Santos era ended and the country elected João Lourenço, a general under the previous premier, marking a historic change.

Recent history

The recent Angola’s socio-political path alternates between ups and downs. An important milestone was reached when the country became a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council representing the continent of Africa. Its application was the result of the work of the Angolan government that has decisively focused on improving international relations. The relations that Angola benefits from with strategic countries, including the United States and China, specifically concern the commercial front, especially oil exports. Between 2001 and 2013, these alliances allowed significant foreign investment to flow into the country, which initially led to a growth in GDP and economic progress, while at the same time creating such a serious economic imbalance that the current cost of living, particularly in the capital Luanda has become unsustainable for the population, which remains prevalently poor. Another issue on which the country has to maintain its focus is the oil price, considering the extent to which the Angolan government’s income depends on oil barrel sales.

Following the presidential elections of August 25, 2017, internal tensions in the country increased, particularly because of relations between the new president João Lourenço and his predecessor José Eduardo dos Santos, who remains chairman of the MPLA, owing to various attempts made by Lourenço to undermine the power of the former president and his family.