Angola, the Sleeping Giant - OZY | A Modern Media Company

Angola, the Sleeping Giant

Angola, the Sleeping Giant

By Sean Braswell

Men digging for diamonds in a huge hand-dug pit in a government-held enclave in rebel-controlled territory.
SourceTeun Voeten / Panos


Angola could be the richest country in Africa, if only it could pull itself together.

By Sean Braswell

While it has just over 20 million people, and it registers on the radar of very few foreigners, Angola is so rich in oil, diamonds and gold that if it were managed properly, the war-torn coastal country could easily be richer than fellow African nations like Nigeria and South Africa — and perhaps even richer than Iran and Turkey. 

9.5 billion

The estimate of Angola’s proven reserves of crude oil in barrels, according to the US Energy Information Administration.


Percentage of Angola’s government revenues that were derived from oil in 2011, according to the US Energy Information Administration

In a country riven by a 27-year civil war that became infamous for its use of child soldiers and a pervasive culture of corruption , most Angolans have never had the chance to enjoy the fruits of their homeland’s great natural wealth. The chaos of the war years made the country the perfect target for exploitation as well, from Big Oil to South African diamond traders. Angola may be the birthplace of dreadlocks and the home of Miss Universe 2011 , but it still has much to prove.  

Aerial view of Drilling rigs and supply vessels in the port of Luanda, Angola

Drilling rigs and supply vessels in the port of Luanda, Angola. – Africa’s second petrol exporter is developing fast. The oil industry boom is evident when flying by the helicopter over the Angola’s coast. Luanda, Angola.

Its potential, however, is staggering. With an annual GDP of around $114 billion , Angola already has the third-largest economy in Africa, is China’s leading supplier of oil, and has been growing at the fastest clip in the world (11.1 percent per year between 2001 and 2010). And with proven reserves of 9.5 billion barrels of crude oil (worth almost $1 trillion), many experts think the country could double its current output to 3.5 million barrels per day. If you add in the fact that Angola, which is twice the size of Texas, has likely only explored around 40 percent of its diamond-rich land, which is believed to have billion-carat potential, and factor in that it loses hundreds of millions of dollars each year to diamond smugglers, then it’s not unthinkable that this sleeping giant could double its current GDP and wealth per capita in the future. 


Angola’s motto, Virtus Unita Fortior (“Virtue is stronger when united”), has always been an aspirational one. But if this nascent democracy can shake off its troubled past, take on its corrupt leaders and harness its vast natural resources (especially its own people), it will be a force to be reckoned with in the next century.

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