Religion in Angola

Population and ethnography

According to thesciencetutor, Angola’s population density is 24 residents per km2 (2019). The sparsely populated countryside of the north, south and east contrasts with the more densely populated central highlands. Urban settlements developed early along the coast and trade routes, but growth did not begin until the 1960s.

Of the population, 63 percent live in cities. Unsafe conditions in rural areas, especially in the southern parts, make the urbanization rate high and the supply situation critical. The largest cities are Luanda (2.8 million residents, 2011), Cabinda (399,400), Huambo (341,700) and Lubango (256,700). The majority of rural people are, under normal conditions, self-sustaining farmers living in small, traditional villages. The prolonged civil war caused many in the countryside to flee their homes and sought out the cities, especially the capital.

According to Countryaah data, Angola can be culturally, linguistically and ecologically divided into a northern and a southern zone. Bantu people who speak Western Bantu dialects live in the northern part of Angola. Southern Angola is inhabited by people who speak other bantu languages; there, however, a noticeable mix between Bantu people and Khoisan people has taken place, both linguistically and culturally and genetically. The largest groups are ovimbundu (37 percent), mbundu (25 per cent) and the Congo people (13 percent). In addition, there are lunda, chokwe, songo, ganguela and a number of smaller groups. Before Angola became independent in 1975, there were 300,000 whites in the country, but the majority have since emigrated. Nowadays, Portuguese make up just under 1 percent of the population, living mainly in the larger coastal cities. There is also a population group that is categorized as mestizoand is of mixed African-European descent. They make up a few percent of the total population.

People in Angola

The northern part of Angola has a landscape of alternating rainforest and savannah, which is suitable for tropical logging. This has traditionally been done by the women and is based on root vegetables (jams, cassava, sweet potatoes). There are no cattle but goats, pigs and chickens. Agriculture is supplemented, especially in the eastern parts, where the Chokwe people live, by fishing, hunting and gathering. At chokwe, as well as with other people in the north (Congo, ovimbundu), kinship is considered matrilinear. The traditional political organization of these peoples was once constructed as a pyramid of petty chieftains with a sacred king at the top. The Congo people in the north (including the enclave Cabinda), found in Congo (Kinshasa) and Congo (Brazzaville), belonged to the old kingdom of Congo, whose court ceremonial and military organization impressed the Portuguese when they first landed in the nation’s capital in 1492. Chokwe was under the similarly built kingdom of Lunda. However, the rapid societal transformations of the past decades have probably changed the traditional structures and cultural patterns in a profound way.

The southern part of Angola is open dry saw on a high plateau. Here, livestock management is as important as agriculture, and a people, herero, lives entirely on livestock management. It is a nomadic people with no fixed political organization but with a kinship system that is characterized by dual descent (combination of matrices and patrols). The other peoples of southern Angola (ambo, ngumbi and nyaneka) live in permanent villages under the leadership of chiefs, who are assisted by the “council of elders”. They have patrilineal lineage and combine big livestock management with subtropical hacking. Millet and sorghum are grown alongside corn. The men work together with the women in agriculture. In southeastern Angola, a number of smaller ethnic groups (cusso, diloco, sambio, etc.) live on cultivation, livestock management, hunting and fishing. San (bushmen) are found in small groups in the southern provinces. In an inventory in the provinces of Huila, Cunene and Kuando Kubango in 2003, some 70 settlements were located. Some are farm workers at bantu farmers, others are still living as hunters and collectors. They speak king, which is a khois claim.


In Angola, some 40 native languages ​​are spoken, of which all – except a few Khoisans with a total of a few thousand speakers – belong to the bantu languages ​​(zones H, K and R). The six largest of these are (ki) Congo (10-15%), (ki) mbundu (25%), chokwe (5%), umbundu (ovimbundu; 40%), mbunda-ngangela (2%) and kwanyama (5%), all of which are recognized in the Constitution.

However, the old colonial Portuguese language is completely dominant in public contexts and is also spoken by a large part of the urban population. Compare population and Ethnography above.

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In Angola, as in other parts of tropical Africa, traditional attitudes and syncretism, religious blends, are of such importance that statistics on religious affiliation easily become misleading. However, current statistics (2012) state that indigenous religions comprise about 5%, Catholics and Protestants together account for about 94%, of which the Catholic proportion of the population in 2010 is stated to be 59%. African Christian sects are increasing.

Catholic mission began in the late 1400s when Portuguese explorers reached the country. In connection with this, the ruling family of the Bantu Kingdom of Congo was christened, which was a significant kingdom in the area. Under Portuguese colonial rule, Catholicism was the prevailing state religion.

Angola became independent from Portugal in 1975. Since then, the state, through the ruling MPLA (Movimento Popular de Libertação de Angola), has not represented any official religion. Because of its Marxist-Leninist ideology, the MPLA was anti-religious. Catholicism was branded for its close affiliation with the colonial power of Portugal. Other religious organizations criticized were Baptists and Congregationalists, as the leadership of both UNITA (União Nacional para Indepêndencia Total de Angola) and FNLA (Frente Nacional de Libertação de Angola)) – two movements that competed with the MPLA for power – came from these communities. However, the Methodist Church was treated more favorably, because many MPLA leaders belonged to this community. Upon its release from Portugal, the state took over religious institutions such as schools, hospitals and newspapers, but in many cases the religious organizations continued to operate.

During the 1990s, the Marxist-Leninist features of the MPLA were toned down. This led to a more positive view of the religious communities, which can now operate relatively freely. However, after the 2008 parliamentary elections, the government monitors religious communities through the Instituto Nacional das Religiões, which records all religious communities (more than 1,000, 2011). This registration means that they are legitimized and receive some support from the state.

Angola Religion