After 27 years of devastating war which ravaged the country and its people, Angola is now entering its fifteenth year of peace. Yet, with rusty tanks still littering the landscape and landmines lingering in the soil, the remnants of this cataclysmic humanitarian crisis are still too readily felt. An entire generation was left displaced and disempowered with chances at a good education sparse and a good job even sparser.
During the war much of Angola’s infrastructure was destroyed; schools, hospitals, bridges, roads. It’s cities infamous for the type of gridlocked traffic jams that can grind any burgeoning economy to a halt. The government is undertaking massive efforts at rebuilding, but it’s a gargantuan task and the load needs lightening. Luckily there is a solution: it lies in public-private partnerships with the international business sector which is eager to invest in Africa.
Japanese business conglomerate, Marubeni, is a case in point. Angola used to be the biggest cotton producer in Africa but most of the textile factories were destroyed during the conflict. Marubeni signed an EPC contract with the Angolan government in 2009 for the engineering, procurement and construction of their three biggest textile plants. The factories are constructed to international standards, kitted out with some of the best machinery in the world and locals are trained to operate it.
During the re-building of a war-torn country, it’s a huge step in the right direction. Another astute move is the fact that employees are recruited from the immediate neighbourhood. This negates the very real possibility of factory down time due to workers being stuck in traffic. However, what is probably most notable about the project is the incredible sense of accomplishment, pride and self-confidence it has given the young people walking its pristine factory floors.
Angola has a massive population of young people. Many have had the will to get educated but not the means and they are chomping at the bit to succeed. Partnerships like these provide them with the perfect launchpad from which to commence their careers. They are proud being part of the rehabilitation of the factories, but it’s more than that; it’s also pride in the rehabilitation of their country. Today, fifteen years after the last shots were fired a new type of war is coursing through the Angolan streets – that of its young people rising up out of the ashes, leaving poverty behind and taking their country with them into a new future.