Skip to main content Accessibility help

Precarity in Angolan diamond mining towns, 1920–2014: tracing agency of the state, mining companies and urban households

  • Cristina Udelsmann Rodrigues (a1) and Deborah Fahy Bryceson (a2)


After nearly 30 years of civil war, Angola gained peace in 2002. The country's diamond and oil wealth affords the national government the means to pursue economic reconstruction and urban development. However, in the diamond-producing region of Lunda Sul, where intense fighting between MPLA and UNITA forces was waged, the legacy of war lingers on in the form of livelihood uncertainty and uneven access to the benefits of the state's urban development programmes. There are three main interactive agents of urban change: the Angolan state, the mining corporations, and not least urban residents. The period has been one of shifting alignments of responsibility for urban housing, livelihoods and welfare provisioning. Beyond the pressures of post-war adjustment, the wider context of global capital investment and labour market restructuring has introduced a new surge of corporate mining investment and differentiated patterns of prosperity and precarity in Lunda Sul.


Corresponding author


Hide All

This article relies on Angolan field data collected under the auspices of the Urbanisation and Poverty in Mining Africa (UPIMA) research programme at the School of Geographical and Earth Sciences, University of Glasgow. We are grateful for funding from the UK's Department for International Development (DfID) and the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) RES-167-25-0488.



Hide All
Ademiluyi, I.A. & Raji, B.A.. 2008. ‘Public and private developers as agents in urban housing delivery in Sub-Saharan Africa: the situation in Lagos state’, Humanity and Social Sciences Journal 3, 2: 143–50.
Alencastro, M.J. de. 2014. ‘Diamond politics in the Angolan periphery: colonial and postcolonial Lunda 1917–2002’. University of Oxford, DPhil thesis.
Andringa, D. 2009. Dundo: memória colonial. 60’. Portugal: LX Filmes.
Beall, J., Goodfellow, T. & Rodgers, D.. 2013. ‘Cities and conflict in fragile states in the developing world’, Urban Studies 50, 15: 3065–83.
Blore, S. 2007. Diamond Industry Annual Review. Canada: Partnership Africa.
Bockstael, S. van & Vlassenroot, K., eds. 2012. A Farmer's Best Friend? Artisanal diamond mining and rural change in west and central Africa. Egmont, Gent: Academia Press.
Boeck, F. de. 2001. ‘Garimpeiro worlds: digging, dying and “hunting” for diamonds in Angola’, Review of African Political Economy 28, 90: 549–62.
Bourdieu, P. 1998. Acts of Resistance. Cambridge: Polity.
Bourdieu, P. 1999 [1993]. The Weight of the World. Cambridge: Polity.
Bryceson, D.F. 2015. ‘Youth in Tanzania's urbanizing mining settlements: prospecting a mineralized future’, in Resnick, D. & Thurlow, J., eds. African Youth and the Persistence of Marginalization: employment, politics, and prospects for change. London: Routledge & Helsinki: United Nations University, 85108.
Bryceson, D.F. & MacKinnon, D.. 2012. ‘Eureka and beyond: mining's impact on Africa urbanisation’, Journal of Contemporary African Studies 30, 4: 513–27.
Bryceson, D.F., Fisher, E., Jønsson, J.B. & Mwaipopo, R., eds. 2014. Mining and Social Transformation in Africa: mineralizing and democratizing trends in artisanal production. London: Routledge.
Bush, R. 2010. ‘Conclusion: mining, dispossession, and transformation in Africa’, in Fraser, A. & Larmer, M., eds. Zambia, Mining, and Neoliberalism: boom and bust on the globalized Copperbelt. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 237–68.
Carstens, J. & Hilson, G.. 2009. ‘Mining, grievance and conflict in rural Tanzania’, International Development Planning Review 31, 3: 301–26.
Castel, R. 2003. L'Insécurité Sociale: qu'est-ce qu’être protégé? Paris: Seuil.
Clarence-Smith, G. 1983. The Third Portuguese Empire, 1825–1975: a study in economic imperialism. Manchester: Manchester University Press.
Cleveland, T. 2008. ‘Rock Solid: African laborers on the diamond mines of the Companhia de Diamantes de Angola (Diamang), 1917–1975’, University of Minnesota, PhD thesis.
Cleveland, T. 2010. ‘Minors in name only: child laborers on the diamond mines of the Companhia de Diamantes de Angola (Diamang), 1917–1975’, Journal of Family History 35, 1: 91110.
Cleveland, T. 2015. Diamonds in the Rough: corporate paternalism and African professionalism on the mines of colonial Angola, 1917–1975. Athens, OH: Ohio University Press.
Coghe, S. 2017. ‘Reordering colonial society: model villages and social planning in rural Angola, 1920–45’, Journal of Contemporary History 52, 1: 1644.
Corkin, L. 2016. Uncovering African Agency: Angola's management of China's credit lines. London: Routledge.
Cox, K.R. & Negi, R.. 2010. ‘The state and the question of development in sub-Saharan Africa’, Review of African Political Economy 37, 123: 7185.
Croese, S. 2013 a. ‘Post-war state-led development at work in Angola: the Zango housing project in Luanda as a case study’, Stellenbosch University, PhD thesis.
Croese, S. 2013 b. Chronicle of an Unfulfilled Promise: a hundred days after the elections. Germany: Friedrich Ebert Stiftung.
Didier, S., Peyroux, E. & Morange, M.. 2012. ‘The spreading of the city improvement district model in Johannesburg and Cape Town: urban regeneration and the neoliberal agenda in South Africa’, International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 36, 5: 915–35.
<>, accessed 1.3.2013.
Englebert, P. 2002. State legitimacy and development in Africa. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner.
Ferguson, J. 2005. ‘Seeing like an oil company: space, security and global capital in neoliberal Africa’, American Sociologist 107, 3: 377–82.
Fonte, M. 2007. ‘Urbanismo e arquitectura em Angola: de Norton de Matos à revolução'. University Técnica of Lisbon, PhD thesis.
Fraser, A. & Larmer, M.. 2010. Zambia, Mining, and Neoliberalism: boom and bust on the globalized Copperbelt. London: Palgrave Macmillan.
Gordon, C. 2005. Diamond Industry Annual Review: Republic of Angola 2005. Canada: Partnership Africa.
Hodges, A. 2001. Angola: from Afro-Stalinism to petro-diamond capitalism. Oxford: James Currey.
Human Rights Watch. 2013. HRW submission on Angola to UN Human Rights committee, <>, accessed 16.6.2016.
INE – Instituto Nacional de Estatística. 2010. Inquérito integrado sobre o bem-estar da população (IBEP) 2008/2009: principais resultados definitivos. Luanda: INE
Inter Press Service. 2012. Calls for Angola to investigate abuse of Congolese Migrants. 21.05.2012. <>, accessed 13.6.2016.
Le Billon, Ph. 2001. ‘The political ecology of war: natural resources and armed conflicts’, Political Geography 20, 5: 561–84.
Malaquias, A. 2001. ‘Making war & lots of money: the political economy of protracted conflict in Angola’, Review of African Political Economy 28, 90: 521–36.
Marques, R. 2011. Diamantes de Sangue: corrupção e tortura em Angola. Lisbon: Tinta da China.
Marques, R. & de Campos, R.F.. 2005. Lundas: as pedras da morte. Human Rights Report. Lisbon: Grafispaço.
Metcalfe, D. 2013. Blue Dahlia, Black Gold: a journey into Angola. London: Hutchinson.
Pearce, J. 2004. ‘War, peace and diamonds in Angola: popular perceptions of the diamond industry in the Lundas’. Situation Report. South Africa: Institute for Security Studies, 25.6.2014. <>, accessed 15.08.2017.
Power, M. & Alves, A.C.. 2012. China and Angola: a marriage of convenience? Cape Town: Pambazuka Press.
Scheidel, W. 2017. The Great Leveler: violence and the history of inequality from the Stone Age to the twenty-first century. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Schubert, J. 2010. ‘“Democratisation” and the consolidation of political authority in post-war Angola’, Journal of Southern African Studies 36, 3: 657–72.
Soares de Oliveira, R. 2011. ‘Illiberal peacebuilding in Angola’, Journal of Modern African Studies 49, 2: 287314.
Soares de Oliveira, R. 2014. Magnificent and Beggar Land: Angola since the civil war. London: Hurst.
Standing, G. 2009. Work after Globalization: building occupational citizenship. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.
Standing, G. 2011. The Precariat: the new dangerous class. London: Bloomsbury.
Udelsmann-Rodrigues, C. & Tavares, A.P.. 2012. ‘Angola's planned and unplanned urban growth: diamond mining towns in the Lunda provinces’, Journal of Contemporary African Studies 30, 4: 687703.
USAID – United States Agency for International Development. 2008. Avaliação de viabilidade e diagnóstico de desenvolvimento de Cuango. Washington: MSI.
Varanda, J. 2004. ‘A saúde e a Companhia de Diamantes de Angola’, História, Ciências, Saúde-Manguinhos 11, 1: 261–8.
Vlassenroot, K. & Raeymaekers, T.. 2004. ‘Conflict and artisanal mining in Kamituga (South Kivu)’, in Vlassenroot, K. & Raeymaekers, T., eds. Conflict and Social Transformation in DR Congo. Gent: Academic Press, 123–56.
Wacquant, L. 2009. Punishing the Poor: the neo-liberal government of social insecurity. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
Wiig, A. & Kolstad, I.. 2010. ‘Multinational corporations and host country institutions: a case study of CSR activities in Angola’, International Business Review 19, 2: 178–90.
Wilson, S. A. 2013. ‘Company–community conflicts over diamond resources in Kono District, Sierra Leone’, Society and Natural Resources 26, 3: 254–69.
World Bank. 2017. World Development Indicators, Knoema, <>, accessed 13.7.2017.
F., 35-year old businessman, Cacolo, 28.7.2011.
G., 48 year old male chemistry teacher, Saurimo, 1.8.2011.
U., Lunda Sul Director of Urbanism, 13.7.2011.
L. C., Catoca mine CSR sector, 14.7.2011.
I., Director of the Employment and Vocational Training Centre, Cacolo, 11.8.2011.
A. C., Coordinator of bairro Tchizaínga II, 22.7.2011.
J. M., Traditional chief, Bairro Tchizaínga II, 24.7.2011.
M., 68 year-old traditional King, Itengo, 30.7.2011.
P., Traditional chief, Paulo, Luó, 31.7.2011.
M., 41 year-old male teacher and sub-director, Luó/Xacassau primary school, 9.8.2011.
J., Traditional chief, Luó, 31.7.2011.
D., Engineer, planning sector of Catoca mine, 8.8.2011.

Precarity in Angolan diamond mining towns, 1920–2014: tracing agency of the state, mining companies and urban households

  • Cristina Udelsmann Rodrigues (a1) and Deborah Fahy Bryceson (a2)


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed