While Angola is currently reaching one of the highest rates in macro economic growth in Africa, the majority of its population remain poor to extremely poor and this will not change unless governance improves at all levels. The Government has to be held to account for the Millennium Development Goals and be supported in trying to achieve them.
The challenge of urban poverty is immense in Angola. Mass migration to the cities has brought significant stress on physical infrastructure and led to rapid degradation of urban settlements and the complete collapse of social services. A city built for 400,000 people, Luanda now has a population of over 4 million. Approximately 70% of the urban population of Luanda live in the musseques (peri-urban shantytowns in Luanda), where public services function to a very limited degree and the infrastructure that does exist has deteriorated due to negligence, lack of maintenance and lack of sufficient qualified staff. People in the musseques have great difficulty in securing economic livelihoods. More than 70% of the population depends on trading in the informal sector. As many of the musseque inhabitants are war-displaced, much of this migration has been on an individual or family rather than community basis. Social cohesion amongst such groupings is weak and is further compounded by high degrees of mobility. However, more permanent social structures do exist including traditional women’s’ savings groups (kixikilas), churches and faith-based organisations and Residents’ Committees, which represent government at the lowest level (comuna). Local authorities have limited capacity. There is limited participation of citizens in decisions that effect their lives.
To ensure that sustainable change is made to reduce poverty, the capacity of citizens to demand their rights to basic services and to dialogue with local authorities needs to be strengthened. Active citizens need to be supported to participate in planning processes for local services and local authorities provided with technical and managerial support to create the conditions for effective service delivery. In short, there must be a focus on the interface of effective state institutions with active citizenship.
Civil society needs to grow in capacity to articulate demands for poverty reduction and to enhance dialogue and engagement with local government. Poverty reduction cannot be achieved without significant changes in the profound inequalities that exist in Angola and without bringing in the many groups that are currently socially excluded.
Implementation of the decentralisation process and inclusion of key Millennium Development Goals (i.e. health and education) in the Government of Angola’s own programmes provide great opportunities and entry points to continue to promote pro-poor policies and good governance in Angola. To support the Government of Angola’s own plan to reduce poverty will require a great deal of drive and commitment and the allocation of funds at the lower administrative levels. Most importantly it will require active citizens to be organised, able to articulate demands and to plan and dialogue with local government. It is essential that countries which benefit from Angola’s oil wealth also invest in more effective systems to ensure that economic growth is inclusive and narrows the increasing gap between rich and poor.