Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Marking Luanda's Birthday; The 'Paris of Africa'

Today, the city of Luanda celebrates its 435th anniversary of its founding in 1576.  Being the country's largest city and capital, Luanda is located on the Atlantic coast and is the main port and administrative center of Angola. It has a population now of over 5 million inhabitants (UN estimate 2008), making it the third largest city of the Lusophone world, behind São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro of Brazil.   

In 1575 the Portuguese captain, Paulo Dias de Novais, landed on Cape Island and established the first group of Portuguese settlers, some 700 people which included 350 armed men, clergy, merchants and civil servants. A year later (1576), recognizing the limitations of the small island, the group moved onshore to the mainland and founded the town of São Paulo da Assunção de Luanda and laid the foundation stone for a Catholic church dedicated to St. Sebastian, today the site of the Armed Forces Museum.

Luanda was Portuguese Angola's administrative centre from 1627, except during the Dutch rule of Luanda, from 1640 to 1648, as Fort Aardenburgh. The city served as the centre of a large slave trade to Brazil from c.1550 to 1836. The slave trade was conducted mostly with the Portuguese colony of Brazil; Brazilian ships were the most numerous in the ports of Luanda and Benguela.

A strong degree of Brazilian influence was noted in Luanda until the independence of Brazil in 1822. In the 19th century, still under Portuguese rule, Luanda experienced a major economic revolution. The slave trade was abolished in 1836, and in 1844 Angola's ports were opened to foreign shipping. By 1850, Luanda was one of the greatest and most developed Portuguese cities in the vast Portuguese Empire outside mainland Portugal full of trading companies, exporting palm and peanut oil, wax, copal, timber, ivory, cotton, coffee, and cocoa, among many other products. Maize, tobacco, dried meat and cassava flour also began to be produced locally. The Angolan bourgeoisie was born by this time.

In 1889 Governor Brito Capelo opened the gates of an aqueduct which supplied the city with water, a formerly scarce resource, laying the foundation for major growth. Like most of Portuguese Angola, the cosmopolitan city of Luanda was not affected by the Portuguese Colonial War (1961–1974); economic growth and development in the entire region reached record highs during this period. In 1972 a report called Luanda the 'Paris of Africa'. 

Angola, which is forecast by the World Bank and UN to be one of the world's fastest growing economies, has been undergoing a massive national reconstruction. The central government allocates funds to all regions of the country, but the capital region receives the bulk of these funds. Since the end of the Angolan Civil War (1975–2002), stability has been widespread in the country, and major reconstruction has been ongoing since 2002.

Around one-third of Angolans live in Luanda, 57% of whom live in poverty. Living conditions in Luanda are extremely poor, with essential services such as safe drinking water still in short supply. Luanda is one of the world's most expensive cities for overseas foreigners. (Angop, Wikipedia)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I am considering working in Angola with my husband when he goes for his work. How safe is it there at the moment for Europeans?

Kind regards,