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Country profile - Angola

Before the onset of a 27 year-long civil war, Angola was the world's fourth largest coffee producer, a top exporter in sisal, sugarcane, banana and cotton, and self-sufficient in all food crops except wheat. During the civil war, plantations and fields were abandoned as millions were displaced, infrastructure was damaged, crops and livestock were destroyed or stolen, irrigation systems fell into disrepair and the rural economy collapsed. Agricultural production came to a near stand-still.

Driven by the oil sector, Angola is now Africa's fastest growing economy and in 2008 surpassed Nigeria to become Africa's biggest oil producer. Oil and diamonds account for 90 per cent of exports and 60 per cent of GDP, but most of this wealth is concentrated in the hands of a small elite. Angola has a dismal life expectancy of 38, half of the population is under 15 years old, and two-thirds live on less than US$2 a day. In order to diversify the economy and improve the livelihoods of the rural poor, the Angolan government is investing heavily in agriculture, and encouraging private investors to do the same.


Landmine removal efforts and the repatriation of displaced persons after the war ended in 2002 have seen small-scale agricultural production increase. However, mines and unexploded bombs continue to prevent vast numbers of farmers accessing and cultivating their land, the lack of roads and bridges prevents access to markets and development of trade, while some farmers lack even basic tools and seeds to begin cultivating again.

Unexploded landmines continue to prevent farmers accessing and cultivating their land (USAID/C. Hamlin)
Unexploded landmines continue to prevent farmers accessing and cultivating their land
USAID/C. Hamlin

Two-thirds of Angolans depend on agriculture, most at a subsistence level. Cassava, sweet potatoes, and millet are the main staples. Yet less than ten per cent of an estimated 35 million hectares of available arable land is under cultivation. While this makes the development of agriculture potentially very promising, Angola currently imports half of its food. Overpopulation due to displacement has also contributed to over-cultivation of land in some areas, decreasing soil fertility and reducing yields. But increased investment has contributed to the recovery of some cash crops, particularly coffee, banana, sisal, sugar cane and oil palm. Rearing livestock is generally a subsistence activity.

The offshore Benguela Current brings nutrient-rich cold waters that support a diverse number of commercially exploited fish, particularly hake, sardines, horse mackerel, tuna, shrimp, lobster and crab. Fishing on an industrial scale in Angolan waters is predominantly carried out by foreign fishing vessels but small-scale fishing is an important livelihood for many Angolans. Pollution from the oil industry has also been blamed for reducing fish stocks and damaging the marine environment; in 2002 ChevronTexaco was fined US$2 million after faulty piping caused an oil leak.

Overall, Angola has relatively low deforestation rates, but close to densely populated areas degradation can be quite severe due to the expansion of subsistence farming, logging and demand for fuel wood. However, timber resources remain significant with tropical forests containing valuable trees such as ebony, rosewood and African sandalwood. Angola also has large areas of eucalyptus and pine.

Investment - a top priority

With fertile soils, adequate levels of water, and a climate suitable to grow a vast array of different crops, there is enormous potential to increase agricultural production. Rehabilitation of agriculture is a key priority for the government in order to reduce dependence on oil, decrease food imports and lift millions out of poverty.

Increasing investment is helping to revive Angola's coffee sector (USAID/ R. Goncalves)
Increasing investment is helping to revive Angola's coffee sector
USAID/ R. Goncalves

Already the government has invested heavily in infrastructure to improve road and rail links and enable farmers to access markets, and in 2009 the government announced plans to invest US$2 billion in agriculture, with one aim being to increase cereal output from three to 15 million tonnes by 2013. In addition, US$150 million has been earmarked for the coffee sector to help revive a once thriving industry famous for its robusta coffee. The World Bank has also donated US$30 million to fund agricultural projects geared towards revitalising markets and increasing productivity.

Due to Angola's vast agricultural potential, foreign interest has also been significant. US-owned Chiquita Brands International has recently announced plans to begin growing bananas in the southern province of Benguela, while Brazilian-owned Odebrecht is investing in sugar and ethanol production. Other foreign owned companies are expected to invest in coffee, sugar, cassava and palm oil. With trade amounting to US$25 billion in 2008, Angola is China's largest trading partner in Africa: to date, Angola has received roughly US$5 billion in oil-backed loans from China, with another US$1 billion promised for agricultural development.

Cautious optimism

With decreasing oil revenues and the current global recession, Angola is likely to experience negative growth in 2009. However, it seems that the government recognises the need to invest in agriculture. But, while investment is important, ownership of land is an issue that may become more pressing as agriculture becomes increasingly profitable and foreign interest grows: without secure land rights, small-scale farmers could be at risk of eviction. Therefore, as Angola's long-term future increasingly rests with agriculture, the government will have to ensure that foreign investors and national elites are not the only ones to profit.

Statistical information
  • Country: Republica de Angola
  • Capital: Luanda
  • Area: 1,246,700 sq km
  • Population: 12,799,293 (July 2008 est.)
  • Population growth rate: 2% (2009 est.)
  • Life expectancy: 38.2 years
  • Ethnic groups: Ovimbundu 37%, Kimbundu 25%, Bakongo 13%, mestico (mixed European and native African) 2%, European 1%, other 22%
  • Languages: Portuguese (official), Bantu and other African languages
  • Inflation: 12.5% (2008 est.)
  • GDP purchasing power parity: US$110.3 billion (2008 est.)
  • GDP per capita: US$8,800 (2008 est.)
  • GDP composition by sector: agriculture: 9.2%; industry: 65.8%; services: 24.6% (2008 est.)
  • Land use: arable land: 2.65%; permanent crops: 0.23%; other: 97.12% (2005)
  • Major industries: petroleum; diamonds, iron ore, phosphates, feldspar, bauxite, uranium, and gold; cement; basic metal products; fish processing; food processing, brewing, tobacco products, sugar; textiles; ship repair
  • Agricultural products: bananas, sugarcane, coffee, sisal, corn, cotton, manioc (tapioca), tobacco, vegetables, plantains; livestock; forest products; fish
  • Natural resources: petroleum, diamonds, iron ore, phosphates, copper, feldspar, gold, bauxite, uranium
  • Export commodities: crude oil, diamonds, refined petroleum products, gas, coffee, sisal, fish and fish products, timber, cotton
  • Export partners: US 32.1%, China 32%, France 5.9%, Taiwan 5.3%, South Africa 4.5% (2007)

Date published: July 2009


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