Angola

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Background

Even with GDP growth down in single digits, it’s a period of prosperity for Angola after 27 years of civil war. The guns fell silent in 2002, and there’s been relatively stable government since. A new constitution was adopted in February 2010, further entrenching President José Eduardo dos Santos’s 30-year hold on power. Despite a pervading culture of corruption and political patronage, the country remains one of the most important business destinations in Africa, thanks to its vast natural resources. Angola’s enormous oil reserves ensure it jockeys with Nigeria as the continent’s largest producer, and there are substantial gold and diamond deposits in the north-east. Along with deposits of iron ore and uranium, it’s perhaps no surprise that Angola has become China’s largest trading partner in Africa, and its largest single supplier of oil.

Important Cities

The capital Luanda is the commercial heart of the country, and home to most headquarters for the all-important petroleum industry. Benguela, south of Luanda, is a key port city, while Lubango is the main commercial gateway for traffic from Namibia. In the north-east, Malanje and Saremo are hubs for the diamond-mining industry.

Climate

Angola is hot and humid and the average temperature on the coast is 16°C in the winter and 21°C in the summer. It has two seasons –  the dry season (May to October) and the hot rainy season (November to April). The heaviest rainfall occurs in April, and is accompanied by violent storms. The far north enjoys rain throughout much of the year.

Visas

Almost all nationalities require a visa to enter Angola, and processing can be maddeningly slow. Allow for at least four weeks. There’s a lot of paperwork and you’ll need a letter of invitation from an Angolan company, along with a copy of their company registration documents, as well as a letter confirming your employment. These must all be written in Portuguese. In addition you’ll need the standard passport, copy of your passport, two photos and proof of your flight reservation. Only single entry visas are available.

Connectivity

Internet and reliable mobile phone coverage is limited to Luanda and the surrounding areas. There are a few Internet cafés in Luanda, but access outside of the capital is limited.

Travel Tips

Money It’s best to only change dollars into Kwanza in small amounts, as and when you need them. Dollars can be changed at hotels and banks, although you’ll get a better rate on the (widely-used) black market. If you decide to go this route, ask a local or your driver for a reliable moneychanger. Visa cards can be used at international hotels and some restaurants. They can also be used to draw cash at ATMs, although compliant ATMs are limited and often run out of bills.
Out & About Unless you speak Portuguese, avoid walking around Luanda at night and – as always – it’s best to ask for local advice on no-go areas. However, don’t be afraid to leave your hotel, as the local restaurants offer far better value and atmosphere than most hotel eateries. With their impressive city views, the seafront restaurants on the peninsula known, locally as ‘Ilha’, are popular with locals in the evenings. Caixe Quattro (Quay Four) is a good option.
Attire & etiquette On the whole, Angola is more casual than many other African destinations, although for meetings in the government and financial sectors a business suit is recommended. However, the oil and gas industries are more informal and smart-casual attire is acceptable.

Getting around

It’s best to ask your Angolan host company to arrange airport transfers, or alternatively book a shuttle service with a reputable hotel. International car rental agencies at Luanda’s airport offer hire cars with local drivers, which is your best option. Traffic in Luanda is best described as organised chaos, so self-drive is not an option. Taxi services are limited, if available at all, and not recommended.

Health

Malaria prophylactics are essential in Angola, as malaria is widespread. Proof of yellow fever vaccination is also required, and remember that vaccination must be done more than 10 days before you travel. Consult your travel doctor three weeks prior to travel for professional advice.

Contacts

angola.org

Fact File

Population: 13.3 million
Time zone: GMT+1
Plugs: Two-prong round
Dialling code: +244 + area code + number required
Currency: Angolan Kwanza and US dollars. US$1=95AOA
GDP growth rate (2010): 1.6%
Language: Portuguese, so a basic understanding – or a translator – is essential. The exception is the globalised oil and gas industries, which are largely English speaking

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