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Cadernos Metrópole

Print version ISSN 1517-2422On-line version ISSN 2236-9996

Cad. Metrop. vol.22 no.49 São Paulo Sep./Dec. 2020  Epub Aug 19, 2020 

dossiê: macroeconomia e desenvolvimento metropolitano, regional e local

Metropolization and territorial planning as a development perspective in Angola

José Caléia Castro[I]

Paulo Romano Reschilian[II]

[I]University of Vale do Paraíba, Research and Development Institute, Graduate Program in Urban and Regional Planning. São José dos Campos, SP/Brazil.

[II]University of Vale do Paraíba, Faculty of Engineering, Architecture and Urbanism, Postgraduate Program in Urban and Regional Planning. São José dos Campos, SP/Brazil.


The process of metropolization and economic growth in Angola since the post-war period (2002) has motivated the creation of territorial planning as a strategy for urban/regional development. This work analyses the planning and development actions of the Global South realities, based on the study of Luanda’s metropolization processes, in a context where demographic growth and informal urbanization have increased. Although it is one of the greatest expressions of socio-spatial asymmetries and precariousness, Luanda coexists with the aspirations of postmodern and neoliberal urban development brought about by the pressures of globalization. Through the application of a mixed methodology, it was found that neoliberal technocratic thinking applied to the planning of these realities struggles with the structural predominance of informality and configures a hybrid space.

Key words: Angola-Luanda; regional development; metropolization; urban planning; hybrid planning


O processo de metropolização e crescimento econômico de Angola desde o pós-guerra (2002) motivou a elaboração do planejamento territorial como estratégia para o desenvolvimento urbano/regional. Este trabalho analisa as ações de planejamento e desenvolvimento das realidades do Sul global, a partir do estudo dos processos de metropolização de Luanda, num contexto em que se intensificam o crescimento demográfico e a urbanização informal. Embora seja uma das maiores expressões das assimetrias e precariedades socioespaciais contemporâneas, Luanda convive com as aspirações do desenvolvimento urbano pós-moderno e neoliberal trazidas pelas pressões da globalização. Por meio da aplicação de uma metodologia mista, constatou-se que o pensamento tecnocrata neoliberal aplicado ao planejamento dessas realidades debate-se com a predominância estrutural da informalidade e configura um espaço híbrido.

Palavras-Chave: Angola-Luanda; desenvolvimento regional; metropolização; planejamento urbano; planejamento híbrido


Angola's current socio-spatial conformation is the result of its historical process based not only on the impacts of the colonial period (1482-1975), marked mainly by exclusionary planning and the wars of national liberation (1961-1975), but also, by the nearly three decades of civil war (1975-2002)1 that (dis) arranged the urban/regional, political, socioeconomic and cultural dynamics. This work analyzes urban/regional dynamics and planning and development actions in Luanda, Angola, and demonstrates how the process of metropolization constitutes in the crucial element for the socio-spatial study and the development of this reality.

In the last 16 years of the post-civil war, the idea of urban/regional planning and development in Angola was supported by the economic scenario driven by the verified gains from oil exploration, mainly, in the period of 2002-2014. It seems evident that this is the most important economic factor in the post-war period, which can reveal the structural strengths and/or weaknesses that determined the development and conformation of the urban/regional space when analyzed.

In addition to aspects such as Portuguese colonization and the prolonged civil war, factors such as: the rural exodus; the intense internal migration towards Luanda; the polarized growth of the economy; the territorial management model based on the centralized one-party power system, ideologically based on the Leninist Marxist socialism model; “As well as the nature of the economic policy followed until the mid-1990s” (Rocha, 2010, p. 18) are fundamental to understand the current socio-spatial scenario which is informal and precarious.

But if, on the one hand, war and “political behavior ostensibly blind to the problems of the countryside ” (Rocha, 2010, p. 18) were crucial for the worsening and the permanence of precariousness and territorial imbalances, on the other hand, the economic factor adapted to the needs of contemporary neoliberal capitalism, welcomed by the need or the greed for growth and prosperity in the post-war period, produced a utopia development marked by socioeconomic instability and incongruities in urban development. Scenario that, according to Bresser-Pereira (2004), is typical of countries on the periphery of capital, due to the structural problems and the dependency to which they are subjected.

In Angola, the discourse of territorial planning as a strategy for equalized development, presented by the National Development Plan 2013-2017 (Angola, 2012) gained strength, mainly, in Luanda, which is configured not only as the main economic pole, but also, as the center of territorial planning that assumes a characteristic similar to what Perroux (1950, p. 93) called "an area related to the execution of a plan, field of forces and structure with its own characteristics". In other words, Luanda became the main and perhaps the only planning subunit in Angola. A condition that was consolidated with the advent of peace (2002), a period in which the State started to enjoy political and administrative conditions to evaluate and present strategies to counter the growing urban/regional imbalances. However, what happens in practice is the intensification and perpetuation of the polarization of Luanda, transforming it into a hegemonic center of power at all levels (Oliveira, 2015), a contemporary City-State. In this context, Luanda is a true case of urban/regional macrocephaly.

In turn, the process of metropolization in Luanda is the result of an accelerated urbanization process intensified by demographic growth, conurbations, the intensification of socioeconomic exchanges, the complexities of mobility systems based on modes of circulation and informal transport (Castro, Reschilian and Zanetti, 2018). The complexity of the social division of labor, given the nuances of contemporary global logics of planning and management of the territory, produces a precarious and informal metropolis for the peripheral realities of the global South, such as Luanda (Amaral, 2005; Davis, 2006) .

Thus, despite its impact and importance, the planning and development perspectives presented by the instruments to regulate the production of urban/regional space, such as the National Development Plan (PND), 2013–2017 (Angola, 2012), or the Luanda Metropolitan General Master Plan (PDGML) 2015–2030 (Luanda 2015), are not responsible for the metropolization process that takes place in Luanda. However, the influences of the historical and socio-cultural context, political/economic relations and the daily urban dynamics sustained in informality are. And, although considering the sequential planning attempts engendered throughout history since 1940, the fact is that such plans are usually configured in models which are segregationist and unable to accommodate the continuous growth of the population and its socio-spatial nuances (Development Workshop, 2005).

Meanwhile, it is proposed to discuss and analyze the planning and territorial development of Angola, trying to understand how the process of metropolization in Luanda, based on informality, constitutes a fundamental factor for the urban/regional planning and development of Angola and the peripheral metropolises of the global South.

Matters which suggest the following specific objectives:

  1. addressing regionalization and metropolization in the context of the global South;

  2. analyzing the urban conformation of Luanda as a product of endogenous dynamics and global nuances;

  3. analyzing metropolitan planning as a development perspective.

Finally, the final considerations refer to the reflection on the issues focused on the planning of the metropolization process which is fundamental for urban and regional development.


For this study, it was used the mixed methodology, which consisted of the empirical work carried out through relationships and experiences in the study area in June 2015, May 2016 and September 2019; bibliographic/documentary study; semi-structured interviews directed to government agents and organized civil society, such as: Ministry of Planning and Territorial Development, National Directorate of Road Transport, National Directorate of Commerce, Development Workshop (DW-Angola), Scientific Research Center of the Catholic University of Angola (Ceic / Ucan) (Chart 1).

Chart 1 – Collaborating institutions in the research field 

Institution/Agent/local Activity
National Institute of Road Transport - NIRT, Luanda Interview/conversation – National director of transport in Luanda
National Directorate of Trade Interview/conversation and discussion about the “nodal” points of the city – National Director of Internal Trade
Ministério do Planeamento e Desenvolvimento Territorial Interview/conversation – Sector director
Development Workshop (DW-Angola) Interview/conversation, debates, acquisition of geospatial data – National Director of DW
Ceic-Ucan | Center of Studies and Scientific Research of the Catholic University of Angola Co-participant institution: interview/conversation with professors in the fields of economics, politics, sociology and anthropology. Acquisition of bibliographic data

Source: self-made, in 2019.

The tools of the GIS (Geographic Information System) were used for the analysis, elaboration, quantification, and qualification of geospatial data. The mixed method was considered the basis to systematize the study, as it is a procedure that, according to Christensen et al. (2011), allows the use of multiple applications, techniques and interdisciplinary and combined efforts for a broader and more effective understanding.

Regionalization and metropolization

The countries of the global South present a great challenge regarding the conceptualization of contemporary socio-spatial phenomena, due to the intense, complex and diffuse urbanization process influenced by “contemporary de-ruralization and the incorporation of the countryside to the expansion of world borders” (Ribeiro and Santos Jr., 2010, p. 21). Processes that had been excluded from global urbanization discussions for a long time, but which have been reconsidered because of the impact of the rapid changes imposed on the current model of global urbanization (Jaglin, Didier and Dubresson, 2018) characterized, in these realities, by the controversy over the predominance of informal urbanization (Roy, 2005) with the ideas of contemporary futuristic planning (Watson, 2014).

In the countries of tropical Africa, which Angola is a part of, the regionalization debate begins to have repercussions “from 1960, when the wave of independence of these countries begins” (Rochefort, 2003, p. 115), experiencing during this period, major structural, political, economic and social changes. Thus, the challenge is to understand not only the dynamics and implications of multiple interpretations, but also the resignification of the relationships between the identities of the material and immaterial subjects of these spaces with the region that subjects this concept to historical, cultural and geographical variability (Souza, 2013 ). According to the author, understanding the issue of the region is not limited to understanding the geographic factor or the scale itself, but also other socio-spatial, economic and technical-scientific aspects. For Freitas (2009, p. 45), “the region refers to a continuous area with characteristics of homogeneity related to the mastery of a given aspect, be it natural or built, economic or political”. From this perspective, the region gains greater amplitude and, at the same time, preserves its peculiarities.

Although they are very diffuse (Caldeira, 2017), some of these peculiarities make cities in the global South, such as Luanda, a particular and at the same time common region, which shares characteristics that go beyond their global or endogenous periphery, such as the demographic factor (Davis, 2006). Such characterizations are themselves, a regionalization action, as they configure global spaces that share common and complex elements and characteristics in the same categorization (Jaglin, Didier and Dubresson, 2018).

It is necessary to understand that, in the contemporary conjuncture of the peripheral realities of the global South, the concept of regionalization is invariably marked by its association with the production of informal, precarious and uneven space (Watson, 2014; Myers, 2011; Roy, 2005 ; Cain, 2014; Piertese, 2011), which contrasts with the ideas or utopias of development brought about by the logic of global neoliberal capitalism.

According to Ribeiro and Santos Jr. (2010), the organization of the territories of the global South faces an increasing distance from the development of material progress and social welfare, as they struggle with structural problems. Such a distance leaves the issue of regionalization linked to a conceptual crisis marked by what Ribeiro (ibid., p. 21) classified as “disjunction from economy, society and territory”. According to Costa (2013, p. 327), “every region should presuppose an intention of intervention and management, establishing elements of limit control”. These perceptions reveal a state of ambiguity among material, demographic progress and economic flows that hampers the conceptual consensus on regionalization in its different scales and processes.

It can be said, that regionalization is or should be linked to a creative effort to conceive and reproduce conditions for the coordination of macro-policies for the management and financing of mainly metropolitan spaces, such as essentially urban functions (housing, sanitation, mobility and transport). Thus, the concept of metropolization itself is also subject to reanalysis since the development of conceptual structures and critical perspectives must consider the diversity of urban trajectories in globalization.

Metropolization is a process that alters and demarcates or regionalizes the territory. As an urban dynamic, it is linked to the conjuncture of the social production of space, such as: demographic growth, intense urbanization, the intensification and weaknesses of urban mobility, spatial conflicts, the complexity of the technical and social division of work, according to Singer (1998), linked to the socioeconomic factors of agents with different degrees of capital, technology and organization (Silveira, 2015).

Metropolization is also considered “a metamorphosis of the urbanization process” (Lencioni, 2006, p. 72); when it originates a regionalization action. A metamorphosis that, according to the author, removes previous characteristics, “archaic or traditional” and incorporates and develops others (with new relations between capital-society, object-space). Somehow, this position, as understood, is not seen in the disadvantaged, precarious and overpopulated realities of the metropolises of the global South. However, Lencioni (2015) suggests that metropolization is a hegemonic phenomenon that overlaps the capital-metropolization relationship in a rationality like the previous logic of industrial capital related to the urbanization process. In this case and considering the fundamental role of the structuring agents and the dynamics of the production of the urban space, it is understood that it is not a question of replacing the archaic by the new in its essence, but by incorporating other characteristics (earlier or later) and the development of others (Ferreira et al., 2015).

The contemporary metropolis presents “a kind of urban translation of the socio-spatial manifestation of globalization” (Lencioni, 2006, p. 72). Thus, there is no doubt that the metropolization process is linked to the intensity of demographic, financial and merchandise flows, as well as to the growth of services, and management work; also, the domain of information technologies, the mode of consumption among others (ibid). According to Moura (2009), metropolization reflects a more evolved phase of urbanization, manifesting a post-urbanization that highlights a new era. There is a similarity in this author's position regarding the concept of metamorphosis by Lencioni (2006). Only for Moura (2009), the emphasis is on the “evolved phase of urbanization” which, for Lencioni (2006), is not necessarily a process that brings the new, but only a change in the state of space.

The issue of “post-urbanization” (Moura, 2009) presupposes an urban evolution in the structural sense of space. However, some caution is needed to understand this approach, especially when it comes to the metropolization of peripheral countries that most resemble a scenario of urban involution – in which, on the one hand, it is sought the development of a space under global and modern rationality, but on the other hand, it is based on the logics of archaic, precarious and informal structures that dominate the production, administration, development and exploration of these territories (Watson, 2014; Myers, 2011).

Metropolization is a spatial process that takes place in the territory and that changes social, economic, and cultural relations as urban dynamics. But it can also be just an institutional conception and merely administrative or of economic interest that does not converge to the real transformation of socio-spatial conditions (Moura and Firkowski, 2001). That is, an ex-post metropolization (Klink, 2013) in which autocratic and technocratic planning is imposed in a vertical manner, presenting the metropolitan regions as development poles for the integration of the economy. However, for Klink (ibid.), the institutionalization of the Metropolitan Region should be linked to the spatial processes characterized by the intense urbanization of the municipalities or urban agglomerations in which, within the political-institutional articulations of the agents and actors structuring the space, conditions are built for metropolitan governance which, in the case of Brazil, gives rise to the so-called Public Functions of Common Interest (FPIC) among the municipalities that make up a Metropolitan Region (RM)

Klink's (ibid.) statements corroborate, to a certain extent, Braga and Carvalho (2004, p. 8) who define a metropolitan region as “an urban agglomeration composed of several administratively autonomous municipalities, but physically and functionally integrated, forming a practically continuous urban mesh”, if we consider this continuity as the object of convergence between the dynamics of the metropolization process and the legal/administrative provisions. However, in the peripheral countries of the global South, governance and metropolitan administration are perhaps some of their greatest difficulties in the organization and development of the territory, either for not valuing or for not maturing the understanding of the processes, policies and urban relations that compose this phenomenon that goes beyond the mere legal definition (Santos, 1998), or for its own structural weaknesses. For this reason, such issues are increasingly debated, with the duality built between the urban/regional dynamics and the political/administrative strategies of the territory.

Regarding so many different concepts, it is understood that, although there are central elements to be considered in the authors’ approach, the issue of regionalization and metropolization still remains complex, especially when it comes to peripheral realities. In any case, the metropolis is understood as a product of the metropolization processes linked to the forces of production and to the factors that interfere in the dynamics and structuring of space as a contradictory and unequal unit of contemporary urbanization, at the same time that it is configured as “a public sphere of political dispute over the production of space ”(Barbosa, 2015 p. 171). Thus, it can be said that regionalization is not dissociated from metropolization, which, in turn, is supported by the bounded territorial space, here understood as a metropolis, which constitutes, a three-dimensional plane of complex spatial relations.

Historical/spatial context of Angola

Although war is the most important structural factor in structuring the space in Angola, its current characterization can be approached from the following factors: the economic growth verified in the period from 2002 to 2014, the socio-spatial inequalities, the intense urbanization of Luanda and the national reconstruction started after the peace agreements in April 2002. In addition to these factors, there is also a fifth important element to understand the current political, socioeconomic and spatial dynamics: the insertion of China as the main economic partner and the most important line of credit in the reconstruction process of Angola (Rocha, 2010) .

Angola had an estimated population of around 25 million in 2015, compared to 5.6 million in 1970 (INE, 2014). 63% of this population lived in an urban area until 2016, despite currently registering a regression in this growth at its provinces (61% in the period 2016-2017 according to INE, 2016), while Luanda has only 56% of rural population and points to a continuous progression of urban population growth. A fact that should not lead us to conclude that the population of Angola is mostly rural, since the total population of Luanda, which is mostly urban, adds up to more than 30% of the total population of the national territory, currently with more than 30 million according to the World Bank (2020). Such percentages added to the rest of the urban population in other provinces will result in the prevalence of the urban population.

The country has 18 provinces subdivided into 162 municipalities and 559 communes (Figure 1), divided into urban and rural locations. It was subdivided into 70,287 Census Sections (Demographic Census of 2014), according to its political-administrative division.

Source: INE - National Statistics Institute (2014).

Figure 1 – Cartogram of municipalities, communes, and localities by province – 2014 

The government of the provinces, which are, in hierarchical terms, the second largest dimension in public and territorial administration, engender, above all, the political and partisan wishes of the Government, even before meeting the main needs of the population supported by the State. The provincial governor usually takes on a dual role: as first secretary of the ruling party and as governor of the province2 (Kaliengue, 2016).

This fact extends to other institutional spheres,3 thus compromising the governance and management of the territory. In Angola, there is an excess of interference and government control in the dynamics of the production of space, which is the result of the logic of a vertical administration of monarchical style to which the country has been subjected since its independence (1975). On one hand, it is understood as a legacy of the Portuguese colonialist model; on the other, the national culture itself; and, finally, the influence of the socialist and monoparty system that dominated it between 1975 and 1991. It is under this logic of organization and management of the territory that the planning, which Pereira (2013) called top-down planning, was developed; in which "making changes ignores the opinion of the beneficiaries, [such changes] are artificial and more prone to failure" (ibid., p. 249). A common point to African countries is crucial to discuss the socio-spatial planning and development of these realities.

Despite its insertion in the global economy, due to the diamond and oil sector on which it is totally dependent, Angola has suffered from a chronic socioeconomic crisis since 2014, although the country recently (2002-2013) experienced a “golden age” due to the high oil price yields in that period. However, it was not able to make structural changes, diversify its economy, significantly reduce poverty and urban/social precariousness; although, the extreme poverty map has been reconfigured with the influence of informality and the advent of free movement of people and goods (Castro, 2015), Angola is still part of the countries with the worst urban or socioeconomic development index. A condition reflected in the flexibility and precariousness of work, in the rates of social poverty of 36.6% (according to Ibep, 2008-2009), with 60% of the population living on less than two dollars a day (Rocha, 2017), in a reality whose Human Development Index (HDI) has been 0.526 since 2013 (PNUD, 2014). The difference between the HDI and GDP per capita was USD 6,532.5 in 2014 (Rocha, 2014), and the average annual rate was 12.5%, between 2004 and 2008, and 3.4% between 2009 and 2014 (Rocha, 2015).

According to Furtado (2002, p. 32), "underdeveloped economies may experience long phases of growth in their global and per capita product, without reducing the degree of external dependence and internal structural heterogeneity, which are their essential characteristics". An example of this dependence, which, from a certain point of view, can be considered harmful and, at the same time, beneficial are the current and complex financial/economic exchange relations maintained between China and Angola, permeated by obscurity and imbalance in the protagonism of the relations. Despite favoring exploration opportunities, Angola is unable to preserve its sovereignty and equitable integrity in the negotiations in order to preserve its socio-spatial and economic integrity in the face of China that presents itself as the aegis of such desired development. The imbalance of these relationships is reflected in the various dimensions of urban space, in which private and governmental actors try to unite with Chinese interests to engender actions to accumulate resources through the exploitation of their own territory, thus generating wealth that is not reverted to the country's development, but that keeps it a hostage of :

a process of primitive capital accumulation that created a minority class of wealthy and fortunate people who choose to invest outside the country (Portugal preferably), rather than injecting billions of dollars in diversifying Angola's exports. (Rocha, 2015, p. 4)

By investing and accumulating resources and finances outside the country, instead of providing reinvestment aimed at national development, agents of economic, financial and political power end up weakening the country's economy and the social status of the most vulnerable population that needs access to basic social rights, generating

a situation of deprivation of some dimensions of an individual's well-being, such as limited access to health services, low human capital, inadequate housing, malnutrition, lack of certain goods and services, lack of ability to express political views or professing religious creeds, etc. (INE, 2011, p. 165)

According to Rocha (2015), social inequality aggravated by corruption and influence peddling, coupled with the inability to convert economic and financial income into redistributive policies for improving the well-being of populations, is the result of a government that is not really committed with the balanced regional development that so much hovers in their political planning speeches. The author also points out the reflection of the attachment to paternalistic attitudes mainly of a minority elite linked to the political power and explains that: “the culture of dependence on the State has already been created, in the sense that everything has to be its responsibility” (ibid., p. 217). Although this reality is in the focus of changes in the current government led by João Lourenço (2017 – current), the question is that this rationality is structural and common among the entrepreneurs who depend on or use the state apparatus to generate their private desires. This whole context challenges and contrasts with the pretension of modern urban/regional development, proposed by the plans: PDGML 2015-2030 and PND 2012-2017.

Urban/metropolitan conformation of Luanda

Luanda, capital of Angola, consists of 7 municipalities (Chart 2): Belas, Cacuaco, Cazenga, Icolo, Bengo, Quissama, Luanda and Viana. The most populous of them are: the municipalities (headquarters) of Luanda and Viana, which are configured as a sub-center in the metropolitan context.

Chart 2 – Number of cities, communes and localities of Luanda, 2014 

Cities Communes Localities
Urban Rural Total
7 32 292 296 588

Source: RGPH (INE, 2014). Self-made, in 2016.

Located in the country's coastal region (Figure 2) “the province of Luanda is the most populous one, with 6,945,386 inhabitants in 2014, representing 'just over a quarter of the country's population in this period (27%)” (INE, 2014 p. 32). Of this population, 70.9% were living in houses built with inappropriate material (Cain, 2013 and INE, 2014). A situation that is getting worse, not only due to the increase in the national population projected from 29,250.009 in 2018 (INE, 2018) to around 12 million in 2030 for Luanda (IPGUL, 2015), but mainly , due to the current social and political-economic conjuncture of the country, involved in successive episodes and the discovery of systemic corruption schemes that contribute to the worsening of the population's social life.

Source: self-made, in 2016.

Figure 2 – Location of Luanda in the territorial context of Angola – 2016 

Paradoxes widely evident in everyday life in Luanda. Despite the State's effort to present a new image of the city through elements of modernity, such as new and sophisticated skycrapers, luxurious residential condominiums, expensive modern cars on the road, as well as a new consumerist and immediate habitus ( Schubert, 2016) of a small portion of the more affluent population. It is in the informality that the rationality of the production of urban space becomes evident.

However, there is another factor which Luanda has been struggling with: the imbalance of population distribution. According to (Figure 3), Luanda has “368 inhabitants per square kilometer. About 18 times higher than the country's average”(INE, 2014 p. 35).

Source: self -made, in 2016, based on the 2014 Demographic Census.

Figure 3 – Demographic density by province, 2014 

Population distribution is an important factor for regional planning and development, as it influences the demands of socioeconomic flows. However, the picture presented by Luanda reveals the presence of an urban macrocephaly that compromises the potential of development

The constitution of the metropolitan region of Luanda as an autonomous administrative unit deals with limitations of legal and conceptual instruments that clarify the roles of the actors and the relationships between the cities that make up the RM. Although it is possible to verify the current occurrence of the phenomenon of metropolization, according to the conceptual principles addressed, its support in the plans (PDGML 2015-2030 and PND 2013-2017) lacks in-depth studies and debates capable of defining the type and peculiarities of this metropolis. This definition is important to establish itself as a catalyst for equitable development.

Thus, a dialectical-diachronic process can be noticed in the face of the processes and variants that constitute the space in Luanda, although this is not the only one in peripheral countries, at the same time, it cannot be said that such processes are a norm for peripheral realities of the global South, since globalization itself is a process with “positivitie” and “negativite” sides, just as the city is a space of antagonisms and differences.

Urban and regional planning and development

Regarding the cities in the global South, it is common to observe in academic arguments and political discourses, as well as in common sense, the idea of lack of planning in the structuring of space, creating a narrative of urban “disorganization”. However, it is known that the organization of space involves not only “complex activities and decisions regarding land use and occupation, but also the dynamics of socio-spatial production. The regulatory instruments for land use and occupation are produced by codes and laws that define the desired or permitted urban conformation (Vasconcellos, 2012, p. 216) within a historical, political, socioeconomic and cultural context; fundamental aspects in the production and conformation of the urban space.

In the case of Luanda, there were several attempts and planning actions throughout its urbanization process. Despite being segregated, the plans of the colonial era were among the few that had the greatest impact on the definition of Luanda's urban conformation. There was, already in the 1940s, an urban plan that was quickly outdated and was followed by five versions until 1963, neither of which managed to regulate urban growth (Development Workshop, 2005). The “musseques”4 (slums), precarious peripheral neighborhoods which are the result of the policy adopted in the colonial segregationist plans that were further aggravated by the effects of the war and the territorial management model, as already discussed. Although the 1973 plan recognized, for the first time, the need to improve and not to move the musseques, contrary to what was generally done in previous plans, it was never applied either.

This analysis demonstrates that, in underdeveloped countries, the production of urban space does not always have to do with the elaboration of plans, but mainly with the dynamics and socio-spatial processes, either spontaneous, or embedded in the global capitalist logic of exploitation of territories (Santos, 2000).

The urban development plans developed after independence (1975) did not have the desired effects, nor did they have full applicability (Development Workshop, 2005; Betencourt, 2011). Even with the war situation that the country experienced for 27 years, in 1979 and 1980, Luanda experienced other plans that aimed at reorganizing its territory (Figures 4 and 5). According to the Development Workshop (2005, p. 73) “in the year 2000 (two years before the end of the civil war conflicts), the Council of Ministers approved Urban Growth Master Plan for Luanda, which would become the basis for the elaboration of a new pilot plan”.5


Figure 4 – Luanda – urban master plan 1979 


Figure 5 – Luanda – urban master plan 1980 

It can be seen a historical chronology (Chart 3) that proves the occurrence of planning actions aimed at urban development in Luanda and that deconstructs the “lack of planning” argument as a justification for the state of precariousness, poverty and informality of the urban space of Luanda.

Chart 3 – Summary of urban intervention plans in the city of Luanda 

Date Type of plan Elaboration
1943 Urban Plan
  • - Etienne Grover and David Moreira da Silva

  • - Approved by the Luanda City Council

1973 Master Plan for Luanda French enterprise, O.T.A.M. (Omnium Technique d´Aménagement)
1979 Master Plan for Luanda National Directory of Physical Planning
1982 Self-Construction Law State
1987 Sambizanga improvement project Development Workshop (DW) Urban National Department
1995/1997 Luanda City’s Urban Growth Management Plan Ministry of Plan, a World Bank project for the Provincial Government of Luanda (GPL), developed by Dar al-Handasah
1995/1997 Luanda City’s Urban Growth Management Plan Government of Luanda
Beginnin 2001 Road and Stormwater Drainage Plan for a Pilot Musseque Ministry of Urbanism and Housing and self-built program
2002 Strategic Soil Plan and Rehabilitation for Luanda Special Works Office (GOE)
2003 Urban development study of the municipality of Cazenga DAR al-Handasah
2006 New Luanda city China International Fund Ltd.
2007 Guidelines and strategies for the 2009/2013 Development Plan, for Luanda and Bengo Dar al-Handasah
2008/2009 Luanda City’s Urban Growth Management Plan Dar al-Handasah Ministry of Environment and Urbanism
2008 Construction Project for One Million Houses by 2012 “Meu Sonho, Minha Casa” National Urbanism and Housing Program
2012 National Development Plan Ministry of Planning and Territorial Development of Angola
2015 Luanda Metropolitan Master Plan Government of Angola, Provincial Government of Luanda, Institute of Urban Planning and Management of Luanda, Urbinvest

Fonte: Development Workshop (2005), Betencourt (2011) e Luanda (2015). Elaboração própria (2018).

The reason for depositing, in the plans, crucial means for development, in a space where issues such as democracy, popular participation, human freedom and others are still alien to him, built the idea that the mere existence of plans represents order and solution for urban/regional problems and that its absence constitutes socio-spatial disorder.

However it is known that the structural order of Angola's space is given by the centralized government model, full of incongruities (Oliveira, 2015) and that it uses the depoliticized condition of the city and late capitalism to engender a planning imposed by a governmentality of schizophrenic ideological orientation – of a neoliberal capitalist essence, but archaic and centralized in its forms of control, redistribution and accumulation; socialist, but neoliberal in its practices – which replaced the debate, disagreement and dissent with a series of technologies to govern, usually bought from the outside: technocratic management. Therefore, the elaboration and approval of the PDGML 2015-2030 incurs a determined failure as an instrument of restructuring and development, although it fits perfectly in this scenario and which was euphorically commented and applauded, not only by the political class involved in it , but by laymen, public administration and, mainly, by the main economic and social actors, national and international real estate , who saw in it an opportunity to fulfill their desires .

In addition, the big issue for Angola is that the State's actions are confused with the interests of private agents who, in most cases, are also the State's own agents. This fact can be seen when analyzing the objectives of the Luanda Metropolitan Master Plan, which, in addition to its intention to accommodate the 12.9 million people, scheduled for 2030, aims to create conditions to “present the capital as an opportunity to attract new international investments ”(Luanda, 2015, p. 32). In other words, there is a greater concern with presenting the city as an urban menu, rather than solving its social and urban problems of the most vulnerable population, which leads us to question the interests of a planning that only prioritizes the interests of global capital.

It can be said that the Metropolitan General Master Plan of Luanda 2015-2030 (Luanda, 2015) is the first most important and complete document of the institution of the metropolitan region, until then, launched by the Minister of State and the head of the civil house and that was approved by the Council of Ministers in 2015. This plan proposes the organization of urban space through new structures and patterns of land use and occupation, motivated by population growth and urban expansion beyond the territorial limits of the province (Figure 6).

Fonte: and Development Workshop (2013). Self-made

Figure 6 – Luanda metropolitan region and urban expansion in 2013 

The intention of organizing precarious spaces, which are already beyond the normal limits of urban territory, presupposes the occurrence of processes and dynamics inherent to metropolization, independent on metropolitan planning. In other words, in this case, the plan is characterized more as a remedial instrument that never really reaches its principles. In this scenario, it is necessary to understand that these metropolitan processes do not happen in a self-absorbed or spontaneous way but are influenced by the governmental logic within well-directed interests.

It is almost a national consensus that the post-war period followed by a copious economic growth should provide a great development. Moreover, the fascination of Angolan elites and even a large part of the population with urban and socioeconomic changes was encouraged by the speech of the executive power under the speech of the former president of the Republic (José Eduardo dos Santos), when he said:

Angolans are special. Despite the size and complexity of the task of national reconstruction, now that we are in peace we will find a way so that in the next ten, fifteen, twenty or thirty years we can radically change the situation in Angola and guarantee every Angolan a better life. (Abrantes, 2009, p. 99)

More than 17 years have passed, and the only "better life" guaranteed is the growth of the social and financial status of a small and select portion of the population linked to the political/military power (Oliveira, 2015), which displays, inside or outside the country, its glamorous urban life, atypical of that to which they originally belonged, in which they controversially live with backwardness and poverty, precariousness and the informality of space and socioeconomic activities and services. It is clear here a perpetual utopia and a lack of coherence in the discourse that contributes to the co-optation of socio--cultural identity. According to Hobsbawm (1995, p, p. 199), this contradiction is typical of "backward countries that seek to ascend to modernity and are characterized, in general, by the lack of originality of their ideas, although in their practices they are not necessarily so".

In any case, this analysis is not intended to hinder or overshadow state efforts to improve urban and social conditions particularly in Angola and Luanda. It is understood that, for the context of Luanda and Angola in general, planning is a necessary and fundamental instrument for urban restructuring and metropolitan development. However, it takes extra courage to perceive, explore and take on new planning paradigms beyond that, tied to the rules of conventional and top-down planning. And although Luanda has all the characteristics that allow it to be classified as a metropolitan region, there are peculiarities and specificities that must be taken into account for the development of a fair, democratic and resilient urban space, within the real cultural, economic and social needs and conditions of the place.

According to Vasconcellos (2012), urban development planning is determined by factors such as: migration processes, political and economic system, financial sector, industry, commerce and services, value and use of urban land, interest and needs of people, civil construction, state policies, existing transport and transit system. Aspects that in Luanda, as already discussed, are largely dominated by the structural informality that draws the urban/metropolitan space and engenders, through its multiple socio-connective functions, a hybrid system that shapes the identity of the landscape, social relations and a "third space" (Bhabha, 1990) that is the point of confluence that drives the daily dynamics of this metropolis. Under this reasoning, it is understood that this hybrid conformation is then, for us, the approach that links the idea – a central force for the planning and development of the metropolises of the global South. An idea based on the combination of informal modes and logics of space production, with the rationality of formal planning.

Thus, the hybrid planning proposed here as an instrument of urban/regional development, constitutes a vector of inclusion at the most varied levels and spatial scales, capable of promoting the real changes in space. It becomes an instrument to understand the processes of space appropriation and the complex relationships that drive the transformation of lifestyles. Hybridization based on the combination of formal and informal urban systems, to the detriment of top-down planning, becomes a contributing factor to a new look and understanding of the space of the peripheral metropolises of the global South, as it is understood beyond the logics inherent to survival strategies, that is; the inclusion of the modes, forms and logics of informality that structure the space need to be addressed and valued at the same level of formal planning.

One of the practical ways of applying this planning concept is, in the case of Angola, through the municipalities – a model of organization and administrative management of the territory that has been the subject of debates by various scholars. Foreseen (albeit incompletely) by the 1992 Constitutional Law and the 2010 Constitution (Orre, 2014), this model focuses on the premise of decentralization and shared governance6 as the most appropriate way for equitable and democratic urban/regional development. However, this process has not begun yet, with the first local elections scheduled for 2020, amid a series of inconsistencies and ignorance of the technical/legal elements who will support such a model and make it possible to understand the relationship between institutional aspects and urban phenomena and dynamics.

Several scholars claim that an equitable development is difficult without the decentralization of administrative power (Cain, 2015; Orre, 2014; Rocha, 2010), since the centralized and autocratic model does not allow a participatory and democratic planning. By taking decisions from the top to down, the governing power influences itself in a scenario "in which the realization of changes ignores the opinion of the beneficiaries, are artificial and more prone to failure" (Pereira, 2013, p. 249).

According to Orre (2014), the term deconcentration referred to in the constitution falls on the real purpose of autarquisation. The Constitution of 2010 provides, in its transitional rules, the introduction of the gradualist model that became the central agenda of political debate beyond the discussions of deconcentration and decentralisation. According to Orre (ibid.), deconcentration is limited to creating some administrative autonomy within the state hierarchy and does not aim to create greater local political autonomy, as it would be the democratic decentralization, which allows a governance better shared and more participatory. Shared and participatory governance is the key to special organization based on the combination of formal and informal modes, within a system that needs to accept the peculiarities and specificities of space as products of the space itself which are fundamental to strengthen the metropolitan system.

However, the problem is that there is little debate and incompleteness on the issue of municipalities themselves, such as:

What's the institutional design? What is the electoral system? What attributions, prerogatives and competences would a municipality have? What sources of income would be granted to the municipalities? How would it co-exist and share tasks and authority with representatives of local state bodies? (Ibid., p. 7)

In addition, although they are still under construction, the principle of autarchies and the concept of hybrid planning present themselves as a potential response and an opportunity capable of achieving a new planning and development paradigm for the peripheral metropolises of the Global South, valuing the community strengths and wills of each municipality or community, giving voice and a sense of belonging to the marginalised subjects of informality that, in practice, structure the urban/metropolitan space (Castro, 2019).

Therefore, it is possible to strengthen the approaches that emerge from endogenous forces and peculiarities and constitute a multi-stage level of dialogue between the formal institutional order and the socio-cultural habitus order, understanding that the creation of municipalities can respond to the need of restructuring more democratic institutions of governance, capable of guaranteeing public rights and services with a minimum of autonomy, capacity and sophistication

Final remarks

This article aims to understand and demonstrate the planning actions that occur in Angola as territorial development strategies, as well as to analyze the socio-spatial processes and dynamics that gave rise to the metropolization of Luanda, based on the guidelines of the NDP (2012-2017) and the provisions of the PDGML (2015-2030). In this sense, the understanding of the complexities of the political, cultural and socioeconomic plot that characterize the area of study was previously considered as fundamental for the understanding of the current territorial conformation of Angola.

The theoretical/bibliographical basis showed global and contemporary trends in the attributes and lifestyle adopted in the urban space of Angola – a characteristic common to the peripheral countries of the global South, which struggles with profound imbalances in the dimensions of its territory, society, economy, politics and mobility. In the case of Angola, it was possible to identify this set in the study of the metropolitan region of Luanda, which was found to be the largest representation of regional imbalances and asymmetries that the development plan tries to equalize in the territory. Besides this fact, Luanda presents itself as the main object of urban and regional planning in Angola.

The regional imbalances of Angola have been constantly explained by several scholars from the argument of war as the cause of the current socio-spatial condition. But it was found that, although war is one of the most striking and fundamental factor for studying the structuring of Luanda's urban and regional space and the territorial development of Angola, it does not explain all the complexity of the contemporary socio-spatial conjuncture. It is pointed here, the actions and behaviors of the government power, mainly from the post-war period, as responsible for the current condition of underdevelopment, inequality, informality, and precarious urban space.

The inconsistencies of the policies and development models adopted in the administration of the territory were pointed out, as well as the inaction or disengagement of the State with social welfare, as some of the factors perpetuating the disruption and imbalances of an increasingly exclusive space, despite the great gains in the country, through the process of national reconstruction, provided by the past glory of oil revenues. Moreover, the rationality of the exploitation of territories by contemporary global neo-liberal capitalism, with which Angola has been associated to, the historical-cultural specificities linked to the primitive mode of accumulation of Angolan elites, based on centralization, systemic corruption and nepotism in the management of structures and resources and socio-economic potentialities of the country are, in our view, central elements for the continuity of urban/regional post-war precariousness.

In this interval, and according to the data studied, it is stated that the territorial development asymmetries and the urban/regional crises to which the END refers to are structural and historical. And they will perpetuate, if it is still adopted a technocratic and neoliberal thinking that does not value other ways of production in an unequal space, with seriously compromised socioeconomic indexes. Specially at that moment when there is a fall in the global price of oil, on which Angola is completely dependent.

As for Luanda's urban/regional planning, our focus was the analysis of two main aspects.

The first one refers to the deconstruction of the discourse of urban disruption and precariousness as a result of lack of planning and lack of technical capacity. It was verified that planning for urban development was always present in the actions and agendas of the State. However, most of the time, the conditions under which these plans were prepared and implemented were not so favorable. As for the lack of technical capacity much heralded by various scholars, it is no longer sustainable for the current post-war moment; given that Angola is inserted in a logic of global socioeconomic exchange, in which the scientific technical environment is imposed by the great existing international mobility. In other words, after the war, the lack of technical capacity is a questionable aspect, since Angola started to use countless expatriate technicians and Technologies. The great example is the elaboration of the PDGML that was not elaborated in Luanda by Angolan technicians; the reconstruction process is another classic example, which brings the Chinese as main actors not only of the financing, but also of the workforce. The state institutions are or have been full of foreign training consultants and professionalsAs an example, there is the case of a large number of foreign consultants and administrators who operated on the former board of directors of Sonangol (Angola's largest state oil company) led by Isabel dos Santos, daughter of the former president (José Eduardo dos Santos) between 2016 and 2017, having been exonerated by the current president, João Lourenço.

The second analysis regarding the Luanda metropolitan planning is connected to the process of the institution of the Luanda metropolitan region through the PND (Angola, 2012) and mainly the PDGML (Luanda, 2015). Although our intention was not to exhaust the details of the analysis, it was concluded that the study of the planning of the metropolitan space of Luanda is a necessary approach because it is a current, peculiar and, at the same time, global process. A new spatial conformation is constituted, because of the endogenous dynamics and processes, spontaneous or not, that allow, in space, the structuring of new social and economic subjects. It was found that there are many aspects to be analyzed regarding land use and urban occupation that make Luanda a true case of urban macrocephaly, despite the intentions of the PDGML 2015-2030.

In analysis, the PDGML (Luanda, 2015) considers, in its essence, the importance of the presence of the current forms of production of urban space and peculiar social representations, based on informality, as is the case of transport, services and informal commercial activities widely present which structure space and are the starting point for an equitable urban development. This plan is characterized more by the concern of selling a utopian urbanity in a developing city, with great potential for international trade, than with the real development of its population, most of whom live in inhuman conditions.

Finally, it is concluded that the models proposed by the Luanda master plan, if applied, may, on the one hand, cause the coexistence of different instances of socialization of classes and new reference values. And, on the other hand, they can simply represent a reproduction of the neoliberal and global socio-spatial order characterized by social inequality, disruption, and precarious exploitation of the territory, given the weakness of the legal structures of the State. Thus, the Luanda metropolitan planning process must also be a social and political process with broad popular participation, in which planning is not top-down, but a summit between the two orders that form the space (formal and informal) and build what we call a hybrid space – a socio-spatial logic that is already part of the daily dynamics of production and structuring of the city of Luanda. Based on this hybrid and informal (unplanned) logic, it is necessary to think about the metropolises of the global South in an inclusive and democratic way. For development is only possible when there is full freedom, accessibility, and absence of the victimizing condition of the population, in addition to the balanced redistribution of resources and opportunities in space.


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1 Verify Castro (2015).

2 Generally, provincial governors also serve as the first provincial secretaries of the ruling party. That is, they are the leaders and maximum political representatives of the provinces, which compromises, according to experts, the dedication to the functions of the State to which they were assigned (Kaliengue, 2016).

3 The institutions are endowed with a rationality according to which, for any qualified citizen to reach some public office with the minimum of prestige, in most cases, it is necessary that he is affiliated with the ruling party or that he has some degree of political-party influence. Although this rule is known in the social and political arena, this principle is not always spoken openly.

4 The term “musseques” is usually applied to suburban areas, occupied by poor populations. It is also applied to forms of improvised, precarious, and constantly expanding urbanization (Development Workshop, 2005). And, although the term originates from the geology of sandy and red lands on the outskirts of Luanda, it is equivalent to favelas (Brazil) or slums (in the English term).

5 Resolution n. 27/2000 of November 24, Diário da República, Series I – n. 50. Development Workshop (2005, p. 73).

6 “Even though the 2010 Constitution answered a good part of the above questions and this with only a minimal public debate on the subject, it determines a specific model, closing the door to what it should be a meaningful public discussion” (Orre, 2014, p. 7).

Translation: this article was translated by Margarita Cristina Mohamed Abrão.

Received: October 31, 2018; Accepted: January 24, 2019

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