(Updates with civil war in 13th paragraph.)
By Colin McClelland
June 27 (Bloomberg) –- Twenty years ago the citizens of
Lubango struggled to find fresh bread. Now Angola’s third-
biggest city is luring investors in power plants, mines -- and
“It was primitive” back then, said Joaquim Silva, 64, who
has lived in Lubango through Portuguese colonialism, Marxist
rule and civil war. “I was working at Banco Nacional de Angola
responsible for statistics and there was nothing in the stores.
Now it’s wild capitalism.”
Silva is the owner of Kimvest Construcoes Lda, an Angolan
construction company that generates about $3 million a year in
revenue. He’s just one of scores of local and foreign
entrepreneurs seeking to take advantage of the regeneration of a
city that was ruined by a 27-year conflict that ended in 2002.
In Lubango, located on the Plano Alto or High Plateau about
1,000 kilometers (621 miles) south of the capital, Luanda,
repairs to roads, clinics and dams are in full swing. The
government led by President Jose Eduardo Dos Santos sees the
town’s mountainous scenery, factories and mines as ways to
attract both tourists and investors and help diversify the oil-
dependent economy of Africa’s second-biggest crude producer.
The transformation has been “radical,” said Dr. Stephen
Foster, 65, a Canadian surgeon who’s lived in Angola since not
long after independence from Portugal in 1975. The son of a
missionary who came to Africa, Foster now runs a 42-bed hospital
treating about 10,000 patients a year on an annual budget of $1
Much of the recent investment is channeled into providing
power to the city’s 1.4 million people and its fledgling
businesses. SNC-Lavalin Group Inc. a construction company based
in Montreal, is leading a $248 million project to refurbish
Lubango’s Matala hydroelectric dam before a tender goes out to
boost output to 40 megawatts.
Two other dam projects on the Cunene River are intended to
add 305 megawatts within five years, while a pair of 40-megawatt
diesel-powered plants were installed last year.
“Three local factories process granite, and there is great
potential for export to Europe in the next few years,” Antonio
Manuel Pereira de Lemos, chief executive officer of the city’s
largest construction company, Socolil Lda, said in an interview
at his offices this month. “We have opportunities because we’re
close to Namibia and South Africa as well as having connections
to the north of the country.”
The Jama ya Omo and Jama ya Mina hydroelectric power
projects, estimated to cost a combined $1.3 billion, are
expected to be approved in the 2015 Angola state budget and take
about four years to build, Jose Salgueiro, director of studies,
planning and statistics at the Ministry of Energy and Water,
said in an interview in Luanda, the capital.
“The aim of these is to give enough power to rehabilitate
gold and iron mines,” Salgueiro said. “With these and rising
agriculture, Lubango will profit as the country’s third-largest
center for industry behind Luanda and Huambo.”
Angola is perceived as one of the most difficult countries
in the world in which to do business, ranked 179th of 189
countries in the 2014 World Bank Ease of Doing Business Index.
The country is placed 153rd of 177 countries on Transparency
International’s 2013 Corruption Perceptions Index. Those
handicaps are as rife in Lubango as construction sites,
according to Joaquim Silva.
There’s “a small group that lives very well and most of
the people are poor,” he said.
Almost immediately after independence the country slipped
into a civil war.
Etienne Brechet, the founder of local electronics company
Jembas Assistencia Tecnica Lda, has brought cheese from his
native Switzerland to Lubango. His 400-hectare (988 acre) farm
produces 700 kilograms (1543 pounds) of gouda, raclette, tilsit
and edam a month, according to Rachel Foster, a manager at
Jembas who helps on the farm. The cheese is sold in stores as
far away as Luanda and from a roadside cafe shaped like a
chalet. The operation will soon add bacon and sausages to its
list of offerings.
Lubango has been transformed from a town where bread was
scarce and cooking oil was allocated by the government,
according to Stephen Foster, Rachel’s father. The patients in
his hospital are now arriving with the kind of ailments more
associated with the affluent world than a war-torn economy.
“Motorbike accidents are increasing from the spread of
cheap Chinese imports,” he said. Illnesses include “type two
diabetes from eating too much and cancer as more people live
For Related News and Information:
Angolan Second City Huambo Starts to Rise From Ashes of War
Angola’s $7 Billion Waterfront Development Stalks Hilton Hotels
Angola to Raise Power Output Fivefold to Attract Investors
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Top Africa Stories: TOP AFRICA
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--With assistance from Manuel Soque in Luanda.
To contact the reporter on this story:
Colin McClelland in Luanda at +244-929-489-031 or
To contact the editors responsible for this story:
Antony Sguazzin at +27-11-286-1934 or
John Bowker, Karl Maier