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all photos: Sociedade Baía de Luanda

More than 70% of the population of Luanda, the capital of Angola, lives in precarious conditions in the outskirts of the city, often without basic sanitation. The capital, planned for 600,000 inhabitants, now counts with over 5 million.

Angolas independence from the Portuguese occurred in 1975. The majority of its African population was dominated by a strong minority of Portuguese origin. With the start of the Angolan Civil War (1975–2002), most of the Portuguese Luandans left. As the local African population lacked the skills and knowledge needed to run the city and maintain its well-developed infrastructure, a crisis followed. Luanda’s facilities were not adequate to handle this massive increase population. After 2002, with the end of the civil war and high economic growth rates, thanks to the wealth provided by the increasing oil and diamond production, major reconstruction started. Despite it’s serious problems of social inequality, it is considered a vibrant African city which is currently going through a period of major reconstruction.

In August 2012 the regeneration of the Baía de Luanda (Bay of Luanda), a major landscape and infrastructure project, was completed. Its timely inauguration received mixed reviews. The ceremony took place on the birthday of the President (José Eduardo dos Santos), 3 days before the elections, at a cost of €300 million, it was bound to receive criticism for being an election booster. Partly funded with private capital, it was constructed by 2 portuguese construction companies.

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Despite this, it is undoubtedly a project that not only regenarated a neglected urban area of the city, it also created new infrastructures and significant leasure spaces for its inhabitants along the shore. The project boasts 147 thousand square meters of pedestrian area, 3 kilometers of coastal paths and cycle routes, 3 play grounds, 3 excercise areas, 5 basketball courts, 5 areas dedicated to cultural events, and 10 public squares.

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Those responsible for the works claim that 80% of national materials were used, many of which were manufactured on site. Alongside Angolan and Portuguese workers, there were builders and technical personel from South Africa, Belgium, Scotland, Lebanon and Ireland.

The greatest challenge is the sustained upkeep of the landscape and its green areas, in a city where problems of electricity and water supply still persist. Not to mention the financial burden.

On the one hand is has become the postcard image of the city, on the other a symbol for greed and inequality.

Angola Image Bank