Cristina Rodrigues preparing the presentation of her paper at the Procit Conference in Copenhagen on 25 June.

A New Dawn for Little Towns in Angola

“If I can make it there, I'll make it anywhere” – so run the lyrics from the musical New York, New York. They might just as well have been written about Angola’s booming capital Luanda, one of Africa’s fastest growing cities, which attracts people with dreams and ambitions from all over the continent. But not all people fear little town blues. Researcher Cristina Rodrigues will soon join NAI to study a brand new trend ‒ people moving from Luanda to other growing cities in Angola.

Angola’s capital Luanda has been booming for four decades. Since independence in 1975 its population has exploded from 400,000 inhabitants to well over five million today. With the ending of the Angolan civil war in 2002, the country and its capital have also witnessed economic expansion. New suburban areas and satellite cities have sprung up that challenge urban governance and planning. Researcher Cristina Rodrigues of Lisbon University has been following urban development in Luanda and other African cities for a long time.

– Centre versus periphery in Luanda is no longer a matter of poor versus rich, as it used to be in colonial times and during the civil war. New middle and upper class suburbs with shining houses, condominiums and gated communities are being built in peripheral areas previously dominated by poor informal settlements or shantytowns, known in Luanda as musseques, Rodrigues remarked in her presentation to the Procit conference on urban governance and citizenship in Copenhagen in June 2015.

In October, Cristina Rodrigues will be joining the urban cluster at the Nordic Africa Institute and embarking on a new field of research. She’ll be exploring a new migration trend whereby people leave the bustling capital for other growing towns in Angola ‒ border towns, tourist destinations and mining locations.

– The migration from Luanda is, as far as I have seen, not a case of people returning to their home towns or to other places where they once lived. It seems to be more a response to new business opportunities and projects outside Luanda, she says.

Like any researcher at the start of a new project, Rodrigues is reluctant to anticipate her conclusions. However, she does suggest some plausible lines of inquiry.

– It seems that urban hubs close to the borders are profiting from all the business going on there and that others, for example, benefit from mining. The expansion in formal mining is, of course, not new. For some time Angola has been one of the biggest producers of diamonds in the world. But what we are now seeing is that it’s not only mine workers who move to these cities. Educated white collar workers and young entrepreneurs are also going there to create business opportunities. And these migrants are not just treasure seekers with empty pockets and nothing to lose. It seems that quite often they bring money to invest.

Cristina Udelsmann Rodrigues – Select recent publications

  • Angola’s Planned And Unplanned Urban Growth: Diamond Mining Towns in the Lunda Provinces
    Peer-reviewed article in Journal of Contemporary African Studies, 2012
  • Colonial Architecture in Angola: Past Functions and Recent Appropriations
    Co-authored chapter in Colonial Architecture and Urbanism in Africa, 2012
  • Angola's Southern Border: Entrepreneurship Opportunities and the State in Cunene Peer-reviewed article in Journal of Modern African Studies, 2010
  • Angolan Cities: Urban (Re)Segregation?
    Co-authored chapter in African Cities: Competing claims on urban spaces, 2009
  • Survival and Social Reproduction Strategies in Angolan Cities
    Peer-reviewed article in Africa Today, 2007
  • Moving Cunene: Cross-Border Entrepreneurial Dynamics
    Peer-reviewed article in Economia Global e Gestão, 2007
  • Social Protection and the Informal Economy: The Experiences and Challenges of Portuguese Speaking Countries
    Co-authored article in the ILO book Social protection and inclusion, 2006
  • From Family Solidarity to Social Classes: Urban Stratification in Angola
    Peer-reviewed article in Journal of Southern African Studies, 2007

Cristina Rodrigues’s paper at the Copenhagen Conference on Urban Property, Governance and Citizenship can be found at

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