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Angola: Luxurious flats for the rich, soaring rent for the poor

Property and land speculation in Angola has reached an alarmingly high level, accounting for construction materials’ importation, customs fees, lack of legislation, high demand and low supply, and perhaps even developers’ bad faith.

A quick look around shows a significant number of luxury estates, properly furnished flats in glass buildings with access to garages, gyms and swimming pools that seem to have come from a magic wand. And despite the ridiculously high prices – around a million dollars and sometimes over – developers know well in advance, even before the inauguration of the buildings, that there will be many buyers.

It is obvious those who buy in these developments are upper class individuals; people connected to power or foreign companies which buy and then set up guest houses for their employees. It is also obvious that the low and middle classes find themselves excluded from the possibility of acquiring housing like these.

“Luanda Buildings”, photo by Flickr's user wilsonbentos published under a Creative Commons license

The big issue in all this is the fact that there are no places that meet the financial possibilities of most of the population. And the few existing ones leave much to be desired because of the poor quality of construction materials. Cazimar, from the Africa Minha [pt] blog, illustrates this situation well :

“Começa-se a levantar o véu sobre a polémica da especulação imobiliária em Angola e os seus respectivos destinatários interessados neste negócio, quer sejam vendedores, compradores, investidores ou banca e etc. Este tipo de negócio interessará a quem? Certamente que não interessará à maioria do cidadão angolano de baixos rendimentos, porque esses pobres coitados por enquanto só podem sonhar com uma habitação made in China de duvidosa qualidade (marketing eleitoral) ou com a compra ou aluguer de uma cubata num dos musseques (bairro de lata ou favela) mais luxuosos e povoados, situados privilegiadamente ao redor e na parte central da cidade de Luanda. No entanto a localização destes musseques também começa a sofrer a cobiça pelos terrenos por parte dos grandes grupos imobiliários, alguns deles apoiados por pessoal com forte influência junto do poder central e das decisões. Refiro-me aos generais, ministros e respectivos familiares. A maioria dos familiares desta corja sugadora, são os principais responsáveis ou accionistas das empresas envolvidas em grandes projectos de construção imobiliária. Cabendo aos generais e aos outros membros o papel de exercerem influências internamente nos organismos a quem cabe a responsabilidade de supervisionar e administrar esses terrenos e locais. Na maioria das vezes, o cidadão comum (pobre) que vive nesses terrenos é expropriado sem direito a contrapartidas, sendo posteriormente os terrenos vendidos a preços exorbitantes aos interessados na sua compra, com avultadas comissões (gasosa = suborno) aos intervenientes que facilitaram o seu desbloqueamento e expropriação.
Eles (corja) estão sempre a “mamar e a sacar” dependendo dos objectivos de cada um. Tudo isto é facilitado pela falta de legislação adequada e que tarda em aparecer por impedimento da corja envolvida na corrupção do negócio imobiliário de luxo para Angola e para a cidade de Luanda”.

“The veil drawn over the controversy of property speculation in Angola and the respective parties interested in this business, such as sellers, buyers, investors or banks, starts to come off. Who is interested in this type of business? Certainly, it is not the interest of the majority of the Angolan citizens with low income, because for now these poor things can only dream of a dwelling made in China of dubious quality (electoral marketing) or of the purchase or rental of a hut in more luxurious musseques (shantytowns) and villages, located mainly around and in the center of Luanda city. However, because of their location, these musseques also begin to suffer from the greed for land of large property groups, some supported by staff who have a strong influence on central power and decisions. I refer to the generals, ministers and their families. Most of this suckling rabble's families are primarily responsible for, or are shareholders of, companies involved in major construction developments. The generals and the other family members have the role of exercising inside influence on the bodies responsible for supervising and administering land and spaces. In most cases, ordinary people (the poor) living on such land are expropriated without the right to return, after which the land is sold at exorbitant prices to those interested in its purchase, with large commissions (bribery) for the actors that facilitated its release and expropriation.
They (the rabble) are always ‘suckling and withdrawing’ depending on their own objectives. All this is facilitated by a lack of appropriate legislation which is slow to appear due to obstacles imposed by the rabble involved in the business of building luxury for Angola and for the city of Luanda”

“Luanda is like this”, photo by Moisés Nazário, Flickr user Moises.on published under a Creative Commons license

Yet it seems that things have started to change now that the Government intends to implement, in the short term, measures to combat property speculation with a special emphasis on Luanda. It should be noted that other provinces in the country have not suffered from this speculation. In an interview with Jornal de Angola, the Deputy Minister of Urban Planning and Environment said that “the level of speculation in real estate prices in Luanda is very worrying and makes the lives of poor citizens even harder. The fight is through legal mechanisms that protect citizens from the speculation that takes place in the housing market in the capital and also in a program for encouraging housing so that all citizens have access to appropriate housing at lower prices.”

Gil Gonçalves, from the Universal blog [pt], summarizes the situation in which most Angolans live in the face of property speculation.

“Os especuladores imobiliários por onde passam, corrompem governos, titanicam nações. Conseguem corromper um centímetro de terra e lá construírem um minimercado. Se não acabarmos com os especuladores imobiliários, eles acabarão connosco”.

“Wherever they go, the real estate speculators corrupt governments, bully nations. They manage to corrupt one centimeter of land and then build a corner shop. If we don't finish off the real estate speculators, they will finish us off.”

Another major problem experienced by Angolans is the rent market. Each landlord uses a price table of his own prices and their imagination knows no bounds. Prices vary between two thousand and ten thousand dollars and these values do not always match the quality of the house. Most of the time there are houses with only one bedroom with no hydraulic pump or power generator. And in the vast majority of cases, landlords sign a contract with tenants and they are the first not comply, apart from requiring six months or one year's rent in advance.

“Angola2″, photo by Flickr's user kaysha published under a Creative Commons license

It is high time we had a law that forced landlords to respect drawn-up contracts and established price lists among others. It is also necessary that the Consumer Association is heard and acts accordingly. While this doesn't happen, Angolans are left subject to this implacable reality. Angola For my Family and my Friends blog [pt] certifies this:

“O aluguer das casas é muito elevado e ainda são infra-estruturas de pouca oferta. Das duas uma, ou o pacote de trabalho (para estrangeiros) inclui casa ou o teu rendimento tem de sustentar essa condição. As rendas podem ir de 2000/3000 dólares até onde o pensamento te deixar ir. A mais cara que vi, pediam 15.000 dólares por mês, mas sabe-se de condomínios que chegam a pedir 25.000. Tendo sempre em conta a particularidade comum em pagar sempre os primeiros seis meses ou o primeiro ano de arrendamento na sua totalidade.”

The rent prices are very high and there is little offer of a sound infrastructure. It is either the work package (for foreigners) including home or your income has to be enough to pay for it. Rents can go from [US]$2,000/3,000 to wherever your imagination takes you to. In the most expensive I saw, they were asking [US]$15,000 a month, but it is known there are estates for which they ask [US]$25,000. Bearing in mind the particularity common practice of having to pay the first six months or the first year of rent in full.


“Balance”, photo of Mártires do Kifangondo neighborhood of Luanda by Flickr's user elisa vaz published in this piece with the photographer's permission

There are two very interesting videos on the subject on YouTube. The first one, by user Diogobezerra6, is a collage of pictures of new buildings and developments called The New Luanda. The second is a video response to this, a videoclip for the song “Monangambê” by “Luanda Dread Band”, with footage from user INESAAODH‘s rides through another side of the city.

Originally written in Portuguese, translation into English by Paula Góes

22 comments

  • Luis

    Great post. I hope that you continue the good work on reporting the real news in Angola. Too many articles from Angola simply repeat the press releases from the government. I think it’s also important to have these articles printed in Portuguese. The Angolan youth are increasingly looking to have their voices heard on the internet, but are not able to find balanced reporting.

    I think that the absolute breakdown of the transit system also is an important effect of the housing prices. As housing prices soar, lower class Angolans have to secure housing that is further and further away from the commercial center of Luanda. I know too many people who spend more than 4 hours a day riding in expensive (relative to their income) combi taxis in order to travel to the city center.

  • Paula

    Gostaria de saber como posso contactar a Clara Onofre aqui em Angola. Ja perguntei a alguns jornalistas conhecidos mas nenhum a conhece. Tenho um amigo angolano que acaba de regressar ao pais, fala e escreve muito bem ingles e nao se importaria de traduzir os artigos dela.

    GVO Translation:

    I would like to know how I can contact Clara Onofre here in Angola. I have asked some journalists I know but them don’t know her. I have an Angolan friend who has just come back to the country, he speaks and writes English very well and would not mind translating her articles.

  • Clara

    Deixo aqui o meu endereço electrónico para o leitor que me tenta contactar: claraonofre@gmail.com no entanto devo dizer que já tenho quem me traduza os textos.

    GVO Translation

    Here is my e-mail address for the reader who wants to contact me: claraonofre@gmail.com however I should let you know I have already someone to translate my texts.

  • […] Zeit nicht mehr, und auch London und Moskau stinken nicht an gegen – Luanda. Genau. Die Hauptstadt Angolas. Abgelegt unter ausgegraben […]

  • Paula

    Clara, obrigado pelo endereco. Mas nos apenas queriamos ajudar. Com um tradutor angolano, a tradutora brasileira ficaria mais livre para os artigos brasileiros ou outros em portugues, nao acha?
    Ja agora, em que orgaos de informacao trabalha em Angola?

    GVO Translation

    Clara, thank you for your e-mail. We were just trying to help. With an Angolan translator, the Brazilian translator would have more time for the Brazilian articles or another ones in Portuguese, don’t you agree? By the way, for which media organization you work for?

  • Clara

    Olá,
    preferia continuar esta conversa fora deste espaço. Já têm o meu e-mail por isso sintam-se à vontade para me escreverem para lá.
    Abraços

    GVO Translation

    Hello,
    I would rather carry on this conversation out of this space. You have my e-mail, please feel free to contact me through it.
    Hugs

  • Oi, Paula

    Sou a tradutora dos textos da Clara, e uma das editorias de língua portuguesa.

    Caso seu amigo se interesse pelo trabalho do GVO, por favor peça que ele entre em contato diretamente conosco. Ele não teria autorização para traduzir os textos da Clara sem que antes faça oficialmente parte da equipe e tenha sido apresentado ao grupo como tal, por motivos editoriais, todo o trabalho é feito por membros das nossas várias equipes dentro do GVO. E todos os artigos passam pelo crivo dos editores, portanto eu ou um dos outros editores teria que aprovar o texto no final.

    Se ele quiser, pode ainda traduzir artigos de outras editorias para o Global Voices em Português, lá sim a gente precisa de bastante ajuda.

    Tudo de bom
    Paula

    GVO Translation

    Hello Paula

    I am the person who translates Clara’s articles, and one of the Portuguese language editors.

    In case your friend is interested in Global Voices’ work, please tell him to contact us directly. He would not have authorization to translate Clara’s text before he is officially made a member of the team and was introduced to the group as such, for editorial reasons, all the work is carried out by team members from various groups within GVO. And every article is approved by an editor before publishing, so me or another editor would approve his final text.

    If he wants to, he could also translate articles from other editorial teams for Global Voices in Portuguese. There indeed we need much help.

    Best,
    Paula

  • Paula

    Sou eu de novo. Mandei um e-mail para o endereço que forneceste pt@hotmail.com ao deixar comentários e recebi uma mensagem de e-mail inxistente:

    Por favor, revise-o ou entre em contato conosco pelo e-mail da editoria: portuguese@globalvoicesonline.org

    GVO Translation

    Hello Paula

    It is me again. I have tried to contact you via the e-mail provided when you left your comments pt@hotmail.com and got a permanent failure.

    Please check it or contact us through our editors e-mail: portuguese@globalvoicesonline.org

  • Hello Clara. Great article! In some ways, the problems you’re exposing here are similar to our problems in Brazil. Good, and very expensive, housing for the rich, while the poor are systematically mopped to farther and farther away from the “good people” (referring to the awful term “Cidadão de Bem” used by some middle/upper class people to refer to themselves in contrast with the poor an the criminals, as they see little difference between both).

    In some cities, like Brasilia, Brazil’s capital, the public transportation system is so non-efficient and expensive that seems to be designed to keep the lower classes away from the city center. Besides, while our local governments spend millions of Reais in urban infrastructure for the rich, a large part of our suburban population still have to fight for their basic rights of infra-structure, security, electricity, sanitation and transportation.

    We, the former-colonies, have really learned how to take from the poor to give to the rich. If we now lack a definite foreign group to serve, we serve to our own rich class (that would die a thousand times to be born North-American or European if they could). We all still have a lot to learn in Brazil.

    Best,
    D.D.

  • And for those who would like to contribute to Global Voices by translating articles from the English language to the Portuguese language (or maybe even the opposite), how about paying us a visit at Global Voices em Português (http://pt.globalvoicesonline.org/) and joining the group?

    New volunteers and new friends are always welcome.

    Best,
    D.D.

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