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Brief History

The Republic of Angola gained its independence from former colonial power Portugal in November 1975. It is recovering and rebuilding its country after 27 years of war that ended in 2002 when UNITA commanders issued a joint communiqué with the Angolan army (FAA) confirming a cessation of hostilities and reiterating unequivocal support for a political settlement based on the 1994 Lusaka Peace Accord. A peace accord between the government and UNITA followed in April. President Dos Santos held legislative elections in September 2008 and, despite promising to hold presidential elections in 2009, has since made a presidential poll contingent on the drafting of a new constitution.

Geography

Angola is a country in south-central Africa covering an area of 1,246,700 square kilometers. It is bordered by Namibia to the south, Democratic Republic of the Congo to the north, and Zambia to the east. The exclave province of Cabinda has a border with the Republic of the Congo and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Angola's capital city, Luanda, lies on the Atlantic coast in the north-west of the country. The country has two seasons, a dry season between May and October and a hot and rainy season between November and April. Local heavy rainfall causes periodic flooding on the plateau. Petroleum, diamonds, iron ore, phosphates, copper, feldspar, gold, bauxite, uranium constitute Angola’s natural resources.

People

Angola has a population of 13,068,161 of which 80% speak Portuguese, the country’s official language. Other languages include Bantu and other African languages. Its literacy rate is 67.4% and its main religion is Christianity, 38% Roman Catholic, 15% Protestant, in addition to other religions such as 0.6% Muslims and 47% followers of indigenous beliefs.

Government

The government of Angola is subject to a multi-party democracy with a strong presidential system. The President of Angola, José Eduardo dos Santo, who is Angola’s second and current president, is both head of state and head of government. The executive branch of the government is composed of the President, the Prime Minister (currently Paulo Kassoma) and Council of Ministers. The Constitutional Law of 1992 establishes the broad outlines of government structure and the rights and duties of citizens, but this constitution is to be replaced by a new one will be ready in 2010. Its legal system is based on the Portuguese civil law. Its official currency is the Angolan Kwanza (Kz) which is equivalent to US$0.01.

Economy

Although still in recovery phase, Angola’s economy is one of the fastest evolving economies in the world, which is driven by its oil sector and high international oil prices. Oil production and its supporting activities contribute about 85% of GDP. The global recession and lower prices led to a contraction in GDP in 2009 to a figure estimated as US$114.4 billion. Angola is a potentially rich country of abundant natural resources such as oil and gas resources, diamonds, hydroelectric potential, and rich agricultural land; however, Angola remains poor having more than 65% of the urban population living below the poverty line, and 85% of the population relying on subsistence agriculture. Angola’s rich resources such as gold, forest products, fisheries, iron ore, coffee, and fruits await development, mainly due to corruption and public sector mismanagement. Much of the country's infrastructure is still damaged or undeveloped from the 27-year-long civil war. With revenues booming from oil exports, the government has started to implement ambitious development programs in building roads and other basic infrastructure for the nation.

Since 2005, the government has used billions of dollars in credit lines from China, Brazil, Portugal, Germany, Spain, and the EU to rebuild Angola's public infrastructure. Although consumer inflation declined from 325% in 2000 to under 13% in 2008, the stabilization policy proved unsustainable and Angola abandoned its currency peg in 2009. Its Gross National Income (GNI) per capita is estimated to be US$3,446.75. Angola became a member of OPEC in late 2006 and in late 2007 was assigned a production quota of 1.9 million barrels a day (bbl). Corruption, especially in the extractive sectors, is a major challenge.


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