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Angola: The high cost of living in Luanda

The capital of Angola, Luanda, is a very expensive city. Both for Angolans as well as for foreigners. If you are here, you are well aware. Basic services, like food, education and housing are priced on par with some European countries. The main difference is that the salaries in Angola are simply laughable when compared to their European counterparts, which leads to daily battles to secure basic needs.

Obviously this battle is not fought by those with money who, for reasons obscure or not, are protected with bank accounts that would make mere mortals envious. According to a survey conducted in February by an English company, ECA International – Luanda ranks first among the most expensive cities in the world.

In his blog Mundo da Verdade [pt], Miguel Caxias writes:

“Só para terem uma ideia, o custo por noite no hotel em que estou é de 170 USD (quarto individual, com casa de banho e pequeno-almoço mesmo muito sofrível). Estamos a falar de um hotel que deve ter se tanto, duas estrelas. Para um europeu, não só por costumes alimentícios mas também por costumes de segurança, não se arrisca a comer em qualquer botequim de esquina, obviamente. No restaurante onde temos feito as nossas refeições, o custo médio de uma dose é de 30USD (junte-se a isso bebida, sobremesa, entradas e o preço salta logo para 40/45 USD de despesa individual).

Luanda está numa fase de construção massiva. Junto à Marginal existem apartamentos a 1 milhão de USD. Estão todos vendidos!!!”

“Just to give you an idea, the cost of one night in the hotel where I am staying is $170 USD (single room with bathroom, plus a rather paltry breakfast). We are talking about a hotel that is rated two stars, at best. For a European, not only because of meal/food customs, but also because of safety concerns, we do not risk eating at the corner diner, obviously. In the restaurant we frequent, the average cost of a meal is $30 USD (add beverage, dessert and appetizers and the price quickly jumps to $40/45 USD per person).

Luanda is undergoing massive construction. Near the Marginal [bay front area], some apartments are listed at one million dollars. And they have all been sold!!!”

The high cost of living in the country is paradoxical, since it does not correlate to a high quality of life, at least not for those faring worse economically. Angola registers high development indicators that, unfortunately, are not reflected in the finances of the majority of Angola's citizens. Excessive demand coupled with scarce supply make things rather difficult.

The Brazilian author of the blog Diário de África [pt] provides a quick analysis of what happens in Angola.

“Não são apenas os alugueres (habitação) que custam caro. Tudo é caríssimo. Um quilo de tomate pode sair por 20 USD. Uma bandeja de uvas pode custar 30 USD o quilo. Um bife com batatas fritas pode custar facilmente, 50 dólares. Um cano furado pode sair por 1000.000 USD. Tapar um pequeno furo na tubulação do ar-condicionado do carro e colocar o gás para enfrentarmos o calor luandense custa 200 USD.

Precisa de electricista? Ele não vai sair da sua casa sem ter tirado pelo menos 100 USD de você. Mesmo que só tenha trocado uma lâmpada. Porque é tudo tão caro?”

“It's not just the rent (housing) that is costly. Everything is so expensive. A kilo of tomatoes can go for $20 USD. A tray of grapes can cost $30 USD per kilo. A slice of beef with French fries can easily costs $50 USD. A punctured pipe can set you back $1000.00 USD. Soldering a small puncture in the air-conditioning pipe in the car and gassing up to handle the heat of Luanda can cost $200 USD.

Need an electrician? He won't leave his house without getting at least $100.00 from you. Even if it's just to change a light bulb. Why is everything so expensive?”

According to this blogger, the answer is simple and, once again, harks back to the war that robbed the country of more than 30 years of development.

“O atabalhoado processo de independência e a guerra acabaram com tudo. Primeiro, a independência. Em 1975, pelo menos 300 mil portugueses abandonaram Angola. Médicos, dentistas, advogados, empresários, encanadores, mecânicos, burocratas, professores. Em questão de meses, Angola ficou sem quadros. Não havia quem soubesse gerenciar as finanças do país. Depois a guerra. O esforço de guerra sugou o dinheiro que deveria ser investido na saúde, na educação, nas infra-estruturas do país. Agora multiplique essa situação por 30 anos. O resultado chama-se Luanda.

Com a alta no preço do petróleo nos últimos anos, os fretes subiram e por tabela, o de todos os produtos. Chegou-se a uma situação tal que mesmo os itens produzidos em Angola podem custar mais que os importados. Porquê? Os economistas que me corrijam, mas parece ter algo a ver com a tal lei da oferta e da procura. Quem quer agora, tem de pagar mais.”

O país não tem indústrias. Tudo é importado. Vem de navio. No porto, não há espaço. Os navios ficam dois, três meses atracados em alto-mar, aguardando autorização para descarregar. Só agora é que a agricultura começa a dar os primeiros passos. Mas só nas áreas em que não há minas terrestres. O último número que ouvi era de que mais da metade das terras cultiváveis do país estava cheia de minas. Enquanto o terreno não estiver limpo, nada feito. Portanto, até a comida precisar ser importada.

“The arduous fight for independence followed by the war did away with everything. First, independence. In 1975, at least 300,000 Portuguese citizens abandoned Angola. Doctors, dentists, lawyers, businessmen, plumbers, mechanics, civil servants, professors. In a question of months, Angola was left without qualified personnel. There was nobody who knew how to manage the country's finances. Second, the war. The war effort sucked all the money that should have been invested in health, education and infrastructure in the country. Now multiply this situation by 30 years, and you get Luanda.

With the high price of gas in recent years, transport costs have also risen and, concurrently, so have all products. The situation has become such that even items produced in Angola can cost more than imports. Why? Economists please correct me, but it seems to have something to do with the law of supply and demand. If you want it now, you have to pay more.”

The country has no industries. Everything is imported. It is shipped in, and there is no space at the port. The ships are anchored two to three months in the high seas, waiting for authorization to unload their goods. Only now has agriculture begun to take its first steps, but only in areas where there are no land mines. The latest statistics I heard were that half of Angola's arable land is rife with mines. As long as the land is not cleaned, nothing is done. Therefore, even food needs to be imported.

A piece of goat costs 600 KZ ($7 USD). Tweetpic by @bethinagava

A piece of goat costs 600 KZ ($7 USD). Tweetpic by @bethinagava

Translation by Melissa Mann
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  • Nanci

    Sinceramente isto e innademissivel, angola com precos muito altos. Eu vivo fora do pais e pretendo voltar mas tenho que pensar muito bem porque gostaria de abrir uma creche porque trabalho com criancas, e pretendo estar muito em contacto com criancas, mas com esta vida assim tao cara meus Deus salva-nos.

  • http://mistalkalot.wordpress.com mistalkalot

    This is quite unfortunate. I was quite surprised when i read that Luanda was one of the most expensive cities to live in in the world according to http://www.citymayors.com/features/cost_survey.html
    I think that Angola, being a country blessed with resources such as enormous reserves of oil, gas and diamonds, it is a shame that the recovery of its economy and industries has not gone well.
    But then again, being African, i understand exactly how war and corruption can so badly affect a country (first hand).
    God bless Angola :)

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