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Angola Profile (A Brief History)

Updated: Oct 31, 2020

Angola, officially the Republic of Angola, is Africa’s seventh largest country, has Africa’s eight largest GDP of 92 billion dollars, and is the 14th most populous nation in Africa with 24 million people. Located in southwestern Africa along the Atlantic Ocean, the population is centered around major city-centers. The capital and commercial center of Angola, Luanda, a large port city on the northern coast blends traditional African housing styles, Portuguese colonial landmarks, and large industrial complexes.

Early history of Angola

Angola was first inhibited by Central Africans Foragers, also known as Forest People of Central Africa, roughly 90,000 years ago. The earliest of these inhabitants were thought to be migrants from West and East Africa and mostly subsided on a hunter-gatherer lifestyle. The Central Africans were divided in roughly three geographical groups, the Western Bambenga, the eastern Bambuti, and the central and southern Batwa. The Central Africans would reign over Congo Basin until roughly 3,000 years ago when they were absorbed or displaced by the immigration of the Bantu expansion about 3,000 years ago.

Forest People of Central Africa

In anthropological literature they are described as “pygmies” for their short stature, are assumed to be descended from the original Middle Stone Age expansion of anatomically modern humans to Central Africa. Most modern Pygmy groups are only partially foragers and partially trade with neighboring farmers to acquire cultivated foods and other materials. A total number of about 900,000 Pygmies are estimated to be living in the Central African forests and about 60% are believed to be in the Central Republic of Congo.

Various hypotheses have been proposed to explain the short stature of the Forest People of Central Africa, the two most widely accepted include adaptation to significantly lower average levels of ultraviolet light available beneath the rainforest and the lesser availability of protein-rich food sources in rainforest environments.

Bantu Expansion

The Bantu expansion refers to the migrations of the original Bantu speaking group of migrants roughly about 3,500 years ago, from West Africa into Sub-Saharan Africa. In the process the Bantu speaking settlers displaced or absorbed the inhabitants of Central Africa. The primary evidence of expansion lies in the linguistic core of the Bantu languages, which comprises of languages originating from Cameroon and Nigeria, West Africa.

The expansion is believed to have taken place between 3,000 and 2,000 years ago into two main waves, the first proceeding directly east towards East-Africa, and the second and largest went south along the African coast towards Gabon, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Angola and as far south as South Africa.

Kingdom of Mapungubwe

By the 11th century large scale powerful Bantu-speaking states began to emerge, one of the first was the Kingdom of Mapungubwe sometime between 1075 – 1220 AD. The kingdom was likely divided into a three-tiered hierarchy with commoners inhabiting low-lying sites, district leaders occupying small hilltops, and the capital at Mapungubwe hill as the supreme authority. Life in Mapungubwe was centered on family and farming.

Kingdom of Zimbabwe

Roughly around the collapse of the Kingdom of Mapungubwe, around 1000 AD, the Kingdom of Zimbabwe grew to a powerful city-state located in modern-day Zimbabwe. The rulers of Zimbabwe brought stonemasonry traditions of the Mapungubwe and constructed elaborate stone buildings and walls. Just like the Mapungubwe they also had a three-tiered class structure. The Kingdom gained wealth by taxing other rulers throughout the region. The Kingdom at its height had over 150 tributaries, becoming much larger than their predecessors. The Kingdom was the dominant ivory and mined minerals like gold, copper, and iron.

Mutapa Empire

Established roughly around 1400 AD, the Kingdom overtook the Kingdom of Zimbabwe and became a vast empire that covered territories from Zimbabwe, Zambia, Mozambique, through South Africa. The empire had a well-trained army but grew rapidly by inviting other states to join the empire and offered membership to its Great Council of the Empire if they did not resist. The empire had an agricultural economy at its core with mining operations that fueled trade and the empires wealth. By 1450 the empire divided into smaller Kingdoms.

Kingdom of Kongo

Established sometime around 1300 AD, the Mpemba Kasi kingdom was a large Bantu Kingdom to the south of the Mbata Kingdom, they would merge to become the Kingdom of Kongo, a powerful Kingdom that would go on to form a state in modern day Angola. The Kingdom became a highly developed state with an extensive trading network, mostly trading natural resources and ivory. Sometime in the late 15th century the Kingdom began an extensive trading partnership with the Portuguese, which eventually led to Christianity coming to the Kingdom, and by the 16th century the establishment of the transatlantic slave trade. The Portuguese would be allowed to build settlements off the coast of Angola and eventually those settlements would be used to push further into central Angola by the 17th century.

Colonialization of Angola

By the 17th century, Portugal had controlled most of the western coast of Angola and began expanding towards central Angola through a series of wars. Until the Berlin Conference of 1885, which set the borders of Portuguese claims in Angola, the Colonial administration was in constant war with Kingdoms that bordered their colony. By 1920 most of modern-day Angola had come under Portuguese control and the modernization of Angola’s economy began with the building of dirt roads, railways, trucking companies, and establishment retail stores.

Independence of Angola

By 1960 major revolts began all over Angola against the colonial administration for land alienation and forced labor. Three major movements, The Popular Movement for Liberation of Angola (MPLA), The National Front for Liberation of Angola (NFLP), and The National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) began guerilla style attacks against the colonial administration. The battles would continue for the next decade until 1974 when the Portuguese withdrew from Angola leaving the three movements to fight for control of Angola.

This would lead to civil war and international intervention from western countries supporting different factions. The MPLA which was communist based received critical military support from the Soviet Union and Cuba, which lead to the MPLA becoming the dominant political and military power. In May of 1991, the MPLA would reach a peace agreement with UNITA and general elections were held a year later in September of 1992. Results were contested by UNITA and the civil war resumed.

Ten years later in 2002 UNITA would give up its armed struggle and sign another peace accord with the MPLA and general elections were held in 2008 and 2012, in between the elections Angola adopted a new constitution in 2010.

Economy of Angola

Angola’s economy is overwhelmingly driven by its oil sector which makes up the majority of the 92 billion-dollar GDP.


The oil sector accounts for 50% of GDP, more than 70% of government revenue, and 90% of the country’s exports but only 15% of the total workforce. Angola is an OPEC member and is subject to direction regarding oil production levels which can hamper the economy as it is 90% of total exports. The mining of diamonds contributes a moderate 5% to exports.


The agriculture industry accounts for 10% of GDP but accounts for 85% of the workforce. Angola is a producer of bananas, sugarcane, coffee, corn, cotton, cassava, tobacco, vegetables, livestock, and fish products.


The services industry mostly led by telecommunications and banking services accounts for almost 30% of GDP and employs roughly 15% of the population.

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