How Do the People of Angola, Africa, Live?

Angola, a country on Africa's southwest coast, is in flux --- emerging in 2002 from a devastating 27-year civil war that left 1.5 million dead and 4 million displaced --- scattered to different parts of the country or forced out of Angola's borders altogether. It's hard for a tragedy of such proportion to not make a substantial imprint on everything from kinship structures to the viability of farming and other industries in a country rich with natural resources such as wood, oil and diamonds.

Eight-five percent of the 7-million-strong workforce engages in farming crops such as tobacco, bananas, fish, coffee and sugarcane. The remaining workers are wage-earners or employed in the service industry. Women typically trade food; men trade items like spare parts, and work as cattle herders.


Angola is experiencing a post-war resurgence of sorts, and harnessing a precious resource: oil. As more people return to the country, more jobs in construction are created. The per capita GDP has steadily risen -- from $7,900 in 2007 to $8,800 in 2008 -- but more than 70 percent of Angolans still live under the poverty line.


Angola carries the burden of the diseases of a poor country, like measles and tuberculosis. The country has the highest infant death rate in the world, and for every three children, one will die by the time he turns five. An average Angolan will not live to see his 39th birthday.


Two-thirds of Angolans live in the city, in either rundown high-rises or shantytowns on the outskirts. In the countryside, Angolans still live in round homes made with mud brick walls and thatched roofs and often overcrowded, which contributes to disease.


Angola has a distinct oral tradition, as the official language is Portuguese, a nod to the nationality that colonized Angola in the 1500s. Most Angolans also speak an indigenous Bantu language, and nearly half still practice an indigenous religion. Family, especially extended kinship structures, have always mattered, but the war scattered loved ones.

Since 2000 reporting and writing has taken Michelle Leach to Michigan, Nebraska, Washington, D.C., Chicago, London and Sydney, Australia. Her stories have appeared in various media outlets including NBC's "The Today Show," Reuters, Chicagoland dailies and network affiliates across the United States. Leach has a master's degree from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism and a bachelor's degree in journalism/politics from Lake Forest College.