Nearly 35 years after winning independence from Portugal, Angola is being populated by its former colonizer once again -- this time by professionals and scores of workers laid off amid the economic slump.
Portugal has been hard hit by the global downturn. Unemployment in the second quarter was 9.2% and the economy is expected to shrink by 3.7% this year. Temporary and seasonal construction work in other European Union countries -- a mainstay for Portuguese laborers -- have been drying up. As workers from across Europe return to Portugal, a country of 10.6 million, they struggle to find jobs.
Portugal's former colony, meanwhile, has emerged in recent years as one of the world's fastest-growing economies. Angola's gross domestic product has grown well over 10% annually since 2004, and topped 20% in 2007, bolstered by oil production and mining. Even with the drop in oil prices in 2008, GDP grew 14.8% for the year.
Filomeno Vieira Lopes, an economist and member of the Angolan opposition party Front for Democracy, said three factors have contributed to economic growth. "First, there was the rise in petrol prices and the rise in production; second, the interest from China; and now, all the rebuilding after the war," he said.
While Angola is luring unemployed and underemployed Portuguese, it has many internal problems, including an unemployment rate of its own that has reached 40%, increasing inflation and widespread poverty. This reality has created a "certain a level of animosity," toward foreigners, who are seen as taking jobs from Angolans, said Mr. Vieira Lopes.
But for Justino Pinto de Andrade, a professor of economics at the Catholic University of Luanda, having foreigners -- particularly those who have come to work on rebuilding projects -- pour into his country is something positive, and temporary. Local companies were paralyzed for years during the wars, he said, putting the country's workers at a disadvantage in terms of training.
"Angola has to be constructed," said the professor. "Borders are disintegrating. They don't make sense in this globalized world. We need qualified people -- not just people with advanced school degrees, but people who are qualified in all senses of the word."
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