The Bushmen, who were hunter-gatherers, were the first settlers of Angola. A few years later the northern parts came under the rule of Bantu kingdoms like Ndongo and Kongo. The Portuguese colonists started to trade and settle from the 15th century onwards.
Portugal gradually took control of coastal areas of the territory through a number of treaties during the 16th century. Although the Dutch took control of Luanda for a brief period from 1641 to 1648, Portugal succeeded in recovering its lost territories. In the Berlin Conference of 1885, the territory of the Portuguese colony was delineated and in 1951, Angola became an overseas province of Portugal. Demands for independence started to reflect in the national sentiments soon but the Portuguese turned a deaf ear to these demands. This resulted in the initiation of a guerilla war known as the Colonial War with MPLA, FNLA, and UNITA emerging as the main players. Finally, Angola gained independence on November 11, 1975 through the Alvor Agreement.
Independence did not bring peace and civil war broke out soon after, following the tussle for power between MPLA and UNITA. This continued till 2002, when the ceasefire agreement was signed between the two rival groups. There was also a separatist movement in the Cabinda exclave and a ceasefire treaty was signed in 2006.
Angola is recovering from its turbulent past and has undergone notable transformations in recent years. The agricultural sector which was badly affected during the civil war has resuscitated since 2002. But the country of Angola is still dependent on food imports. Due to its great petroleum and diamonds reserves, Angola is emerging as one of the fastest growing economies in the world. According to the Economist, 2008, 60% of Angola’s income comes from these two sectors.
Angola registered a growth rate of 11.1% during the 2000-2010 periods, the highest average annual growth rate in the globe. Its GDP (PPP) is ranked 64th in the world and GDP (nominal) per capita is ranked 91st .Angola is also focusing on development of infrastructure and in 2004 the Exim bank of China lent the country $2 billion. This is being extensively utilized to boost the country’s infrastructure and grow the economy.
Economic inequality is of high degree as the benefit of growth has remained in the hands of a few as indicated by the high Gini coefficient. Though the country has made much progress on the economic front, the benefits have not percolated through the Angolan society. The life expectancy and infant mortality rates of Angola are among the worst in the world. In the Human Development Index of the UNDP, Angola is ranked 148th. Corruption is also rampant. Another important area of concern is regional inequality as one third of economic activity is concentrated in Luanda and adjoining Bengo region, while the growth in the rest of the country is almost negligible.
There are number of ethnic groups like Ovimbundu, Ambundu, Chokwe and Bakongo which reside in Angola and they have their own distinctive cultural legacies. Angola was a Portuguese colony, the Portuguese influence is evident in the cultural sphere of the country. The official language is Portuguese and in fact Luanda has the third largest population of Portuguese speaking people living in any city of the world. Bantu is another major language apart from various other African languages which are spoken in Angola. As far as religion goes, believers of indigenous religion constitute 47% of the population. Christianity, a religion brought to Angola by the Portuguese, is another major religion.
The music of Angola is influenced by various musical trends and is a mellifluous blend of Congolese,Portuguese and Brazilian music. Luanda is famous for its diverse musical styles and rebita, a musical style comprising of harmonica and accordion originated in IIha oo Cabo, near Luanda. Portuguese influence is also palpable in Angolan Cuisine.
Angola is blessed with incredible natural beauty. Tourism as an industry is relatively new to this country but it has started to make its presence felt. Some major tourist attractions of the country are Cameia National Park, Cangandala National Park, Mupa National Park and Iona National Park. These national parks of are known for their greenery and unique flora and fauna such as the Black Palanca which is found only in Angola. The Cabinda exclave is noted for its green and dense forests and for the presence of gorillas. Welwisthia Mirabilis which is a vegetable species is unique to Cabinda.
Angola has a 1025 mile long Atlantic coastline and has many excellent beaches, especially in Luanda and Benguela. These beaches are frequented mostly in summer and attract many international tourists with a vibrant nightlife.