The word “Angola” derives from the title used by the rulers of the Ndongo state. The title ngola was first mentioned in Portuguese writings in the sixteenth century. A Portuguese colony founded on the coast in 1575 also came to be known as Angola. At the end of the nineteenth century, the name was given to a much larger territory that was envisaged to come under Portuguese influence. These plans materialized slowly; not until the beginning of the twentieth century did Portuguese colonialism reach the borders of present-day Angola. In 1975, this area became an independent country under the name República Popular de Angola (People’s Republic of Angola). Later the “Popular” was dropped.
Angola may not classify as either a country or a culture. Since 1961, war has destroyed cultural institutions, forced people to flee, and divided the territory between the belligerent. Thus one cannot speak of a single national culture. It is difficult to obtain reliable information because the war precludes research in many areas.
All foreign nationals wishing to enter in Angola must possess a valid passport. Entry visas are required for non Angolan nationals from countries with which Angola has no reciprocal agreement regulating the rights of entry. The Angolan authorities issue transit visas, short term visas, ordinary visas, tourist visa, privilege visa work visas, residence visas, temporary residence permit, study permit and medical treatment permit
All foreign workers performing duties in Angola shall obtain visas after justification is made for their stay. If the workers are hired by an Angolan company or allocated to a permanent establishment of a foreign company, they should also obtain work permits.
Foreign citizens are not permitted to engage in employment until work permits are issued. Non Angolan nationals wishing to take up a residence in Angola must apply for residence permits. Applicants must initially apply for the visas at the Angolan Embassy or Consulate in their area of residence in the home countries
In 2012, the rules for exporting currency out of Angola changed. Both residents and non-residents can take up to 50,000 kwanzas in local currency, worth roughly USD $500, out of the country. In addition, residents can take out of Angola the equivalent of USD $15,000 (in USD or another non-kwanza currency) and non-residents can take out up to USD $10,000. Police officials at the Luanda airport regularly search departing passengers for currency and will confiscate amounts over those limits.
When entering Angola, residents must declare any type of currency worth more than the equivalent of USD $15,000 and non-residents must declare any type of currency worth more than the equivalent of USD $10,000.
Location and Geography
Angola is a country of 482,625 square miles (approximately 1.25 million square kilometers) in western Africa, south of the Equator. There are great variations in climate and geography, including rain forests in the north, drier coastal lands, the fertile central highlands, sandy soils in the east, and desert zones in the Kunene (Cuene) and Kuando Kubango provinces. Apart from large rivers such as the Zaire, Kwanza (Cuanza), Kunene, Kubango (Cubango), Zambezi, and Kuando, there are many smaller rivers, some of which are not perennial. The climate is characterized by a rainy season and a dry season whose timing and intensity differ in the various regions. Angola borders Namibia to the south, the Atlantic Ocean to the west, Zambia to the east, and the Republic of Congo to the north. The oil-rich enclave of Cabinda lies north of the Zaire river.
Because of the ongoing war, it is difficult to obtain reliable population figures. Also, the numbers fluctuate as people attempt to flee when the fighting is intense and return when the fighting has calmed down. It is estimated that in May 2000, 350,700 Angolans lived outside the country and another 2.5 million to 4 million were displaced within the national borders. About a million residents have died because of the war. Nonetheless the population has increased considerably. In 1973 there were 5.6 million residents; by 1992 that number had risen to 12.7 million. Despite a high annual growth rate, in the beginning of 2000 the population was estimated at 12.6 million. Since a census has not been held since 1970, the figures are difficult to evaluate. Angola has a young population, over 45 percent of which is below fifteen years of age. The population density varies greatly by region. Over the years, the urban population has grown strongly and more than half the people now live in towns. The capital, Luanda, has drawn in many immigrants—a quarter of all residents now live there.
The official language is Portuguese. Many Angolans are bilingual, speaking Portuguese and one or several African languages. In nearly all cases this is a Bantu language; those speaking a Khoisan language number less than 6,000. Six of the Bantu languages were selected as national languages: Chokwe, Kikongo, Kimbundo, Mbunda, Oxikuanyama, and Umbundu. Many people are able to understand one or more of the national languages, but some forty languages are spoken.
The political culture is highly militarized, and in both the National Union for the Total
Liberation of Angola (UNITA) and the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) many symbols stem from the military tradition. Parades, uniforms, and flags are prominent during many political meetings. The national flag is red and black with a yellow machete, a star, and a cogwheel segment. UNITA is symbolized by a crowing cockerel.
There is no single national identity. The country is divided along many lines: Ethnic, religious, regional, racial, and other factors interact in the conflict. However, the notion of being Angolan is strong. The Portuguese language sets Angola apart from its neighbouring countries and has created long-standing ties not only with Portugal but also with Brazil, Mozambique, and other Portuguese-speaking countries.
Angola is generally a cash-only economy; neither traveler’s checks nor credit cards are used outside the capital of Luanda. In Luanda, credit cards are accepted in extremely limited circumstances, namely at large hotels. Despite a major campaign to expand credit card acceptance, this effort has yet to expand beyond the capital city. In general, Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) are only accessible to those individuals who hold accounts with local banks. While dollars are generally accepted for most commercial transactions in Luanda and in all provincial capitals, please note that new government policies dictate that all transactions should take place in Angolan Kwanza. You should carry a sufficient supply of money with you during your travels. Only the newer series U.S. dollar bills are accepted. U.S. dollars can be converted to local currency at exchange businesses authorized by the Angolan government.
Hotels are limited in Angola and demand for the limited number of rooms is high. Hotels are often booked months in advance, especially in Luanda. Only a few large hotels in Luanda accept credit cards; hotels in the provinces generally do not accept credit cards. Adequate hotels are found in most provincial capitals, but some provide limited amenities.
Medicine and Health Care
Medical facilities and services are available in Angola but are limited. Despite government efforts to extend basic health care services, most people do not have access to medical assistance. Many hospitals face an extreme lack of personnel and do not have the most basic equipment. Only a tiny minority of the population can afford good medical care. For the majority of people, life expectancy is below fifty years. Poverty-related diseases such as cholera, tuberculosis, and measles are a problem in overcrowded urban areas and refugee camps. Many deaths are a direct consequence of malnutrition and undernourishment. The number of people with AIDS is increasing; malaria is common in some areas, especially during the rainy season. One in three children dies before reaching his or her fifth birthday. Angola is one of the few countries where maternal mortality is increasing. A number of health problems are a direct consequence of the war. Over 10 million land mines
Traffic Safety and Road Conditions
Since the end of the civil war in 2002, overland access to the interior has improved considerably. Nonetheless, highways in some areas remain poor and the infrastructure for travelers is poor or nonexistent.
Road travel can be dangerous, especially during the rainy season (October – March), which can cause large potholes and erosion. Landmines remain a problem on some secondary roads in more remote areas. Road conditions vary widely outside the capital from acceptable paved surfaces to virtually impassable dirt roads, particularly secondary routes. Many secondary roads, including secondary roads in urban areas, are impassable during the rainy season. Overloaded, poorly marked, and disabled vehicles, as well as pedestrians and livestock, pose hazards for motorists. Ground travel in rural areas should be undertaken during daylight hours only.
Traffic in Luanda is heavy and often chaotic, and roads are often in poor condition. Few intersections have traffic lights or police to direct vehicles. Drivers often fail to obey traffic signals and signs, and there are frequent vehicle breakdowns, a problem exacerbated by missing manhole covers. Itinerant vendors, scooters, and pedestrians often weave in and out of traffic, posing a danger to themselves and to drivers. Avoid most public transportation, including buses and van taxis, as the vehicles are generally crowded and may be unreliable.
Food and Economy
Food in Daily Life
Over half of the population is unemployed, and it is estimated that 70 percent of the people live below the poverty line. Hunger is a threat in many areas. As the usual economic activities are impossible in many regions, local food habits are hardly distinguishable. Coastal people include much seafood in their diet, southwest rely mostly on dairy products and meat, and farmers eat maize, sorghum, cassava and other agricultural crops. Especially in urban areas but also in the drier rural areas, gathering water and firewood is often time-consuming. Salt is a highly prized product in many areas.
Small retail trade is very important in people’s survival strategies. Women are especially important in selling food and firewood, and men predominate in trade in arms, diamonds, and spare parts. Most of the people who work in the transport and building sectors are men. Local commercial activities are largely situated in the extensive candonga system, the name for the second economy. The new kwanza, the national currency, is subject to high inflation rates. As the war often makes transport impossible, crafts and repair have become increasingly important again.
In general, dress codes are not strict. In some areas, women are supposed to wear long-hemmed skirts, but this rule is not strictly applied. In many communities, people do not look each other in the eye while speaking. Younger people are expected to address elders politely. The ability to speak well is a highly admired trait, in both men and women. In some communities, men do not eat with women and children.
Especially in the coastal regions, Christianity dates back a long time. A Christian church was established in the Kongo region by the end of the fifteenth century. It is unclear how many residents are Christian; the Roman Catholic Church figures range from 38 percent to 68 percent. Another 15 to 20 percent belong to Protestant denominations, such as Methodist, Baptist, and African churches. For many people there is no contradiction between Christian faith and aspects of African religions. Thus, religious specialists such as diviners and healers hold an important position in society. The government, with its socialist outlook, has been in frequent conflict with religious leaders. Because the Roman Catholic Church has great influence and was associated with Portuguese colonialism, relations with that faith have been especially tense. Since the move toward a more liberal political system, relations with the established churches have eased considerably, although troubling incidents continue to occur. An unknown number of residents do not profess any religion.
On 11 November 1975 Angola became an independent country. This day is celebrated every year. Apart from Christian holidays, a wide range of occasions are commemorated, such as the founding of the MPLA, the beginning of the armed struggle, and the anniversary of Neto.
Crafts such as wood carving and pottery are sold in neighbouring countries. Luanda has a number of museums, including the Museum of Anthropology.
Angolan music, with its ties to Brazil, has received international attention. The most popular spectator sports are soccer and basketball.