Angola isn’t the most well-known country in the world, but it has a few things it is famous for. We will explore what is Angola famous for and explain why they are significant and fascinating.
Located on the west coast of Southern Africa, Angola borders Namibia to the south, Zambia to the east, and DR Congo to the north. The exclave Cabinda also borders the Republic of the Congo. Angola is a large country, the seventh largest in Africa and the second largest and second most populous Portuguese-speaking country in the world.
From oil and diamonds to Kuduro, Angola is a captivating country with much more to offer than one might initially think! It has vast sand deserts, impressive waterfalls, some amazing beaches, and much more!
Planning a trip to Angola? Have a look at the 50 things you need to know before traveling to Angola.
But for now, let’s explain what is Angola famous for!
Things Angola is famous for
What is Angola famous for trading? Oil is the most obvious answer. Angola is one of the major oil producers and exporters of Africa and the World. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, Angola produced more than 1.1 million barrels in 2021, making it the 4th largest producer in Africa and 19th in the world. While in 2020, it was the 11th largest exporter in the world with more than 1.2 million barrels.
It is also said that Angola has the second-largest oil reserves in sub-Saharan Africa, only behind Nigeria. The Angolan oil and gas industry is highly modern and sophisticated, contributing hugely to Angolan economic growth in the last decades.
On the downside, the Angolan economy is very dependent on oil production and exports, with over 90% of its exports coming from the oil and gas industry. This means that when oil prices go up, the economy thrives, and when it decreases, there’s always an economic crisis with all the bad things that come with it: poverty, unemployment, and lack of resources to import goods. We explored this subject a few years ago here.
Diamonds are the second leading export for the country behind oil. Despite being a very popular one, it is at a huge distance in importance and value. Overall, Angola is the third-largest diamond producer in Africa, even if it is only exploring 40% of its diamond-rich territory.
Unlike oil and gas, investment in the diamond industry has been more difficult to attract, particularly foreign investment. Corruption, human rights violations, and diamond smuggling are the biggest obstacles.
However, production has been rising, and there are plans to continue boosting diamond mining in Angola. It is expected that Angola will produce about 10 million carats in 2022, up from 8 million in 2020 and 9.3 million in 2021.
Independence and Civil Wars
Angola was at war for a long time, and that is something many people still associate with Angola. Between 1961 and 1974, Angola was one of the theaters of the larger Portuguese Colonial Wars. In this war, Angola fought to be independent of Portugal, which was achieved after the carnation revolution in April 1974.
Portugal left Angola in 1975, but right after this, it started another war, the Angolan civil war, which lasted from 1975 to 2002. This was a power struggle between two former anti-colonial guerrilla movements that had different roots in Angolan society and mutually incompatible leaderships: MLPA (communist) and UNITA (anti-communist).
MLPA ended up winning the war, and it’s the ruling party to the day. However, MLPA is no longer communist. UNITA still exists and is the second party in Angola.
Obviously, 40 years of constant war left a huge toll on the country, both on its infrastructure, culture, and society. Many people were born and lived a large part of their lives during the war. It’s something that takes a long time to heal.
Music and Dancing
What is Angola famous for? Dancing and music. Angolans love their music and dancing. Everyone dances, and there’s a whole culture around music. Children learn how to dance very early, and they are good! Incredibly good, the way they move… is in their blood. Dancing is part of being Angolan. While driving or walking around in Angola, it is perfectly normal to see people dancing in the streets, particularly street sellers.
Internationally, Kizomba and Kuduro are probably the best-known dance and music genres that originated in Angola. There are, however, many other well-known dances like tarrachinha and semba.
Kizomba is a slower and more sensual derivation of Semba that became popular worldwide because of it. In the Kimbundu language, Kizomba means “party.” It has been described as the “African Tango.”
Kuduro is completely different, combining Caribbean music like zouk and soca with African percussion sounds. Kuduro surged in a time of civil unrest in Angola and provided a means of coping with hardship and positivity for the younger generation. In Portuguese, the name of the dance is curious, referring to a peculiar movement in which the dancers seem to have hard buttocks.
Do you want to know how creative Angolans are when it comes to dancing? Have a look at the Jerusalema dance. Yes, the original was created by Angolans.
Isabel dos Santos
Isabel dos Santos is one of the most famous Angolans. She is the daughter of former Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, who ruled the country from 1979 to 2017. Isabel dos Santos is a famous entrepreneur with activities in telecommunications, banking, energy, and retail, mainly in Portugal and Angola.
In 2011 Isabel dos Santos was considered one of the richest persons globally and the richest woman in Africa by Forbes magazine. At that time, she had an estimated fortune of 3 Billion USD. In 2015, she was elected by BBC as one of the 100 most influential women in the world.
The fortune of Isabel dos Santos has been under scrutiny for a few years, with suggestions that her wealth was acquired by taking stakes in companies doing business in Angola due to the power and connections of her family. Since 2018, the Angolan government has been trying to prosecute her for past corruption. She is also one of the most mentioned personalities in the Luanda Leaks scandal.
After these legal issues, Isabel dos Santos has been living in the United Arab Emirates and removed from the billionaire list, as many of her assets were freezed, with little possibility of recovering them. She was also banned from entering the United States for “Significant Corruption” in December 2021.
Although not as famous as other waterfalls in Africa, the Kalandula falls are one of the most famous landmarks in Angola. Considered the second-largest waterfalls in Africa, they have 105 meters (344 feet) high and 400 meters (1,300 feet) wide. They are truly impressive during the rainy season (September to April).
The best way to visit the falls is by car. There’s a road that goes directly to the lookout, where you have amazing views. It is also possible to go to the lower part of the falls, but we would suggest going with a guide as it is not straightforward. Or to ask one of the local kids to take you there and serve as a guide. The descent is fun and adventurous, but it is incredible to go close to the waterfall and feel its power.
The Namib desert is one of the aridest regions in the world and where you will find the unique Welwitschias. It goes from southern Angola to South Namibia and ranges 1600 km. We had the opportunity to explore the Namibian part of the desert during our escapade to Swakopmund and also when we visited Lubango.
The Namib desert not only names one of Angola’s regions (Namibe) but also occupies a vast part of the southern territory. Though, it extends well outside Angolan territory into Namibia, where it is one of its most prominent geographic features. This is primarily a sand desert, consisting of a sea of sand dunes, some of which are huge.
While large, it isn’t the biggest desert in the world; however, with estimated ages between 55 and 80 million years, it is considered the oldest in the world. Besides ancient, the Namib desert also contains some of the world’s driest regions, only challenged by the Atacama desert in Chile on both items.
You may not know who the Himba tribes are, but you’ll almost surely identify them and their red skin if you see a photograph. Both Angola and Namibia are home to the Himba people, and although there aren’t reliable figures, it is estimated that there are 25 000 Himbas in Southern Angola.
The skin of the Himba is not actually red; that color comes from the red ochre cream that they spread on their skin. You should note that only women do this. Men do not use the red cream and thus don’t have “red skin.”
The red ochre cream is made from small ochre stone fragments that are later mixed with butter, heated, and applied to the skin. Apparently, this helps against the scorching sun while keeping the skin clean and moist. It’s even said that it blocks hair growth on the body. So, that’s an idea…