The Porto de Luanda is the biggest city, main seaport, and capital of Angola. With a population of almost five million (in 2007), Porto de Luanda is being largely reconstructed, and several major developments are underway that will change the city’s skyline dramatically.
Porto de Luanda is an important industrial center where beverages, automotive products, and cement are manufactured. Oil was discovered there in 1955, bringing a refinery to the north of Luanda Bay. Agriculture and cattle are important to the area, and crops include coffee, sugarcane, cotton, palm oil, oilseeds, and grains.
Porto de Luanda was founded by Paulo Dias de Novais in 1576 and settled by Portuguese colonists. In 1627, it became Portugal’s administrative base for the colony. The port was an important outlet for slave traffic to Brazil from 1640 to 1648. Until Brazil became independent in 1822, its influence on Porto de Luanda was strong. The Mbundu people, the second largest ethnic group in Angola, consider the area their home region.
During the 1800s, when it was still ruled by Portugal, Porto de Luanda had an economic revolution. The slave trade was abolished in 1836. In 1844, the country’s ports were opened to foreign trade. Porto de Luanda was one of the most developed cities in the Portuguese empire by 1850. With many trading companies, exports of palm and peanut oils, copal, timber, wax, ivory, coffee, cotton, and cocoa brought riches to the city. During the mid-1800s, a merchant class had emerged. When an aqueduct was opened in 1889, bringing water to a formerly parched city, growth accelerated.
Unaffected by the Portuguese Colonia War that lasted from 1961 to 1974, growth and development in the region surrounding Porto de Luanda reached an all-time high. A 1972 report named Porto de Luanda the “Paris of Africa.”
When Angola won independence in 1975, Porto de Luanda had become a modern city with a huge Portuguese population. But the Angolan Civil War was long and hard, spanning 1975 to 2002, and most of the Protease escaped to Portugal and South Africa. The Portuguese exit left a gap of knowledge and skills needed for managing and operating the city, and many skilled Cubans were sent to help the new government restore and maintain city services. Major reconstruction started in 2002 when the civil war ended and oil and diamond production brought new wealth to the city.
Porto de Luanda has an excellent natural harbor and a busy building industry that have produced an economic boom for Angola. While extraction of oil is the largest contributor to economic growth, the government is focusing on diversifying the economy to assure they are not dependent on oil in the future.
While Porto de Luanda has a strong economy and a modern look, the outlying districts are plagued by poverty. Refugees from the civil war flooded the city, particularly after 1992, putting extreme pressure on the city’s infrastructure. Public services like clean water, sewage treatment, and garbage collection are hard-put to keep pace with population, and outbreaks of cholera and other diseases resulting from lack of safe water have been frequent.