Jun Sasahara / Angola Textile Plant Project Office, Marubeni Corporation
They say that some four to five million people—nearly 30% of the total population of the Republic of Angola—live in the capital city of Luanda (even Tokyo has only 10% of the total population of Japan). Although the city has originally been built for about 500,000 Portuguese people, it has an excessive population relative to its scale in receiving, and with an increase of cars resulted from the economic development, the narrow roads, and on-street parking as the only way due to the lack of parking lots in the buildings. These situations have synergistically brought traffic congestion in the city to its absolute limit.
With a name that is easily confused with the Republic of Rwanda—featured in the movie “Hotel Rwanda,” depicting the conflict between the Tutsi and Hutu tribes—Angola also struggled with a protracted civil war, lasting 27 years, up to just ten years ago, in 2002. In fact, the large number of refugees from this civil war who flowed into the capital of Luanda is one of the factors that contributed to the concentration in the capital. On the economic front, however, with increasing its oil production to surpass Nigeria, the No.1 country in Africa, Angola has achieved remarkable growth against the backdrop of its crude oil export earnings that is hard to imagine after only about ten years after the conflict. After the production facilities and social infrastructure were destroyed through the long civil war, foreign companies entered the market one after another in order to exploit oil and resources, and the expatriate cost of living ranked top in the world in 2011, while maintaining the inflation rate at a level of about 10%. The rents in particular are so high that they make you feel faint, and it is a lender’s market. Further, a head of cabbage costs about ten dollars, and when I saw that the equivalent of a combo meal at McDonald’s goes for nearly twenty dollars, I couldn’t help feeling that the cost of living must be the highest in the world!
I have only been posted in Luanda for two months, but I am happy to find that it is a young and vibrant city, and the people are broad-minded. The economic growth is remarkable, with buildings under construction throughout the city, and it certainly makes you look forward to seeing it ten and twenty years from now as well. Although there are no world renowned tourist attractions, you can feel substantial energy from the Angolan people and from Angolan cities.
I feel much more appeal in making contact with the powerful and energetic Angolan people, rather than making the rounds at ordinary tourist destinations.
Marubeni Group magazine "M-SPIRIT" VOL.71 (September, 2012)