Straddling the Atlantic Ocean in the west, Angola, officially the Republic of Angola, is a country in southwestern Africa. Despite its beautiful landscapes and fame as a top minerals and petroleum exporter, Angola is seldom visited and little is known about this intriguing nation. Here are some interesting facts about Angola.
Facts about Angola
1. Angola is the 22nd largest country in the world.
Angola has an area of 1,246,700 km² (481,400 sq mi), which makes it nearly twice the size of the US state of Texas and France.
2. Angola shares a land border with four countries.
It is bordered by Namibia (1,427 km) to the south, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (2,646 km) to the north, Zambia (1,065 km) to the east. Through its exclave Cabinda, Angola also shares a border with the Republic of Congo (231 km).
3. Angola has a 1,600 km long coastline.
All of Angola’s coastline along the Atlantic Ocean in the west of the country.
4. The capital of Angola is Luanda.
Located on Angola’s northern Atlantic coast, Luanda is Angola’s largest city and chief seaport. It is also the political, economic, and cultural center of the country.
Luanda is one of the oldest colonial cities of Africa having been founded in 1576 and is home to scattered remnants of Portuguese colonial history. Luanda also consistently ranks as one of the most expensive cities in the world for expatriates.
5. The name Angola derives from the title “Ngola.”
The name Angola comes from the title “Ngola” of the Kings of Ndongo, a vassal state of the historic Kingdom of the Kongo located east of Luanda.
6. Angola’s highest point is Mount Moco.
Located in Huambo Province in the western part of the country, Mount Moco rises to an elevation of 2,620 m (8,600 ft) above sea level. It is a popular destination among hikers, bird enthusiasts, and paragliders.
7. The currency used in Angola is the Angolan Kwanza (AOA).
The Kwanza was first used in 1977 replacing the colonial escudo. Due to inflation, four different currencies using the name kwanza have circulated since 1977. The Angolan Kwanza is a closed currency meaning that it is not freely available outside of the country.
8. Angola doesn’t observe daylight-saving time.
Daylight saving has never been observed in Angola.
9. The official language of Angola is Portuguese.
Portuguese is the first or second language for roughly three-quarters of Angolans. It serves as a lingua franca among the various ethnic groups.
10. Angola is home to a cornucopia of ethnic groups.
The three main ethnic groups in Angola are the Ovimbundu, the Ambundu, and the Bakongo. Together, these three ethnic groups account for approximately three-quarters of Angola’s population.
What’s interesting is that of the major ethnicities, there are generally certain regions where one of the ethnic groups tend to dominate the population. For example, the Ovimbundu are mostly based in the country’s central southern highlands and along the southern coast; the Ambundu are highly concentrated in Luanda and are well represented in most coastal towns and the Malanje highlands in the north-central part of Angola; whereas the Bakongo inhabit the far north of the country and dominate the Cabinda province.
The remainder of Angola’s population is composed of various smaller ethnic groups such as the Chokwe, the Ovambo, the Ganguela, and the Xindonga. There are also smaller communities of mestiços (mixed European and African), Europeans, and Chinese.
11. A wide assortment of regional languages are spoken in Angola.
Umbundu, Kimbundu, Chokwe, Kikongo, Nhaneca, Nganguela, Oshiwambo, Fiote, Kwanhama, Muhumbi, and Luvale are the main regional languages spoken in Angola. Besides these, there is a slew of other languages spoken in the country.
12. Angola has been inhabited for a long time.
Little is known of the earliest inhabitants of Angola during the paleolithic and neolithic eras. Angola is known to have been first settled by nomadic hunter-gatherer Khoi and San tribes, collectively known as Khoisan, from around 1000 to 500 BC.
About 5000 Khoisans still live in southern Angola today and are famous for their unique click consonant language. They were later displaced by the Bantu speaking peoples who migrated into the area from western-central Africa, and now form the majority of the country’s population.
13. Angola was once part of the central and west African Kingdom of Kongo.
Established by Bakongo speaking people and formed around the great city of Mbanza Kongo, the Kingdom of Kongo was probably the most famous of the kingdoms which incorporated much of present-day northern Angola.
14. The Portuguese were the first Europeans to set foot in Angola.
In 1484, the Portuguese explorer Diogo Cão was the first European to explore Angola.
15. Angola was a Portuguese colony for over 300 years.
From the 16th century until 1975 when Angola achieved independence, it was a Portuguese colony. The Portuguese colony of Angola was founded in 1575 with the arrival of colonizer Paulo Dias de Novais with a hundred families of colonists and four hundred soldiers. Its center at Luanda was granted the status of city in 1605.
16. Angola was briefly a Dutch colony for seven years.
Motivated by the desire to control valuable natural resources, the quest for national prestige, and religious missionary zeal, European powers were regularly engaged in a competition to colonize African nations. Angola was no exception to this struggle and became a Dutch colony for a brief time starting in 1641 until the Portuguese won it back in 1648.
17. Angola was once a significant slave-trading base.
From the 16th to 19th centuries, Angola was a significant Portuguese slave-trading base. The exact number of African slaves trafficked from Angola to the Americas will never be determined, but it probably numbered in the millions.
18. Angola gained full independence in 1975.
Angola finally gained full independence on 11 November 1975 after the brutal Angolan War of Independence, fought from 1961 to 1974.
19. Angola was plagued by a civil war for over 25 years.
Beginning immediately after Angola attained independence, the Angolan Civil War began in 1975 and continued, with interludes, until 2002. The conflict was a power struggle between two former anti-colonial guerrilla movements, the communist People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) and the anti-communist National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA).
Due to the involvement of the Soviet Union, the United States, and their respective allies in the war, the Angolan Civil War is widely considered to be a Cold War proxy conflict. They provided opposing factions with arms, ammunition, funding, and training.
The Angolan Civil War crippled the country’s infrastructure and severely damaged public administration, and the economy. By the time the MPLA achieved victory in 2002, over four million were internally displaced and more than half a million people were killed as a result of the conflict.
20. The Giant sable antelope is the national symbol of Angola.
This elusive subspecies of the sable antelope is endemic to Angola and was thought to be extinct until it was spotted in 2004. However, it still remains critically endangered.
The Giant sable antelope animal is famous for its massive horns and broad stature. It is a national icon and is featured on Angolan stamps, banknotes, and even passports. The Angolan national football team is fondly known as the “Palancas Negras” in honor of this majestic animal.
21. Capital punishment is illegal in Angola.
Formerly legal, capital punishment was abolished in Angola in 1992.
22. The red-crested turaco is the national bird of Angola.
This small frugivorous bird is endemic to Angola and is commonly found along the length of the Angolan escarpment and adjacent forested habitats.
23. Basketball is the most popular sport in Angola.
One of the more unique Angola facts is that basketball, and not football, is the sport of choice in the nation. The Angolan men’s national basketball team has dominated the AfroBasket, the biennial African basketball continental championship.
24. Christianity is the predominant religion in Angola.
Catholics make up about half of the Christian population of Angola. Other Christian denominations include Lutherans, Pentecostals, Baptists, Methodists, Congregationalists, Seventh-day Adventists, and Jehovah’s Witnesses.
25. The national flag of Angola has three colors.
It is split horizontally into an upper red half and a lower black half. It features an emblem in the center that shows a yellow half gear cogwheel crossed by a machete and crowned with a star. The Angolan national flag was adopted in 1975 and it is the only flag the nation has used since its independence.
As explained by the Angolan constitution the red color symbolizes the blood spilled by Angolans during their independence struggles, while the black is for the continent of Africa. The half gear cogwheel represents workers and industry while the machete represents the peasantry, agricultural production, and the country’s armed struggle.
The star symbolizes international solidarity and progress while the emblem’s yellow color stands for Angola’s wealth. The crossed gear and machete on the Angolan flag evoke the image of the hammer and sickle found on the flag of the former Soviet Union. The star was derived from the Soviet Union’s flag, and it was used because the Soviet Union helped to fund Angola’s independence movement.
26. Angolans are sensitive about photography.
In Angola, it is illegal to take pictures or even use binoculars and GPS near government buildings and military structures. Failure to comply could get you fined, your photographic equipment confiscated, and even arrested!
27. Angola is home to two of Africa’s largest waterfalls.
The majestic Kalandula Falls is 105 m high and 400 m wide and considered to be one of the largest waterfalls by volume in Africa (possibly second-largest).
The spectacular Ruacana Falls, located at the Angola-Namibia border, is a wonder to behold. One of the largest waterfalls in Africa both in volume and width, it measures 120 m in height and spans 700 m.
28. Angola has the world’s second-highest fertility rate.
With an average of 5.90 children born per woman, Angola is only second to Niger in terms of fertility rate.
29. The Angolan countryside is littered with landmines.
As a result of the devastating Angolan Civil War, the Angolan countryside is littered with landmines. The nation is still struggling to clear the landmines that have killed and injured scores of people over the country.
30. Angola has one of the youngest populations in the world.
One of the many fun facts about Angola. With a median age of just 15.9 Angola has a very youthful population. Only Niger and Uganda have younger populations.
31. Angola is the largest oil producer in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Angola has the world’s 16th largest proven oil reserves and in 2007 the country became a member of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). Oil accounts for nearly 90% of Angola’s total exports and oil revenue accounts for 80% of the government’s total revenue.
The small exclave province of Cabinda accounts for at least two-thirds of Angola’s oil production Adjacent to Cabinda’s coast lie some of the largest offshore oil fields in the world.
32. Angola is also famous for its diamonds and they make up a significant percentage of the country’s exports.
The Catoca diamond mine, the fourth largest diamond mine in the world, is located in Angola. Unfortunately, most of the revenue from diamond exports is lost through smuggling to warlords.
33. Angola was once the third-largest coffee producer in the world.
Coffee was once a major contributor to the Angolan economy and one of Angola’s largest agricultural products. At its peak under Portuguese rule, Angola was once the world’s third-largest coffee producer.
Unfortunately, years of mismanagement and the Angolan Civil War ravaged virtually all of the country’s coffee plantations. Today, coffee’s contribution to the Angolan economy is negligible.
34. The national dish of Angola is Muamba de galinha.
This scrumptious dish is an oily stew prepared with chicken, red palm oil, garlic, okra, and gindungo – a variety of Angolan hot chile pepper.
35. Angola is home to only one UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The town of Mbanza Kongo, the political and spiritual capital of the once-mighty Kingdom of Kongo is Angola’s only UNESCO World Heritage Site.