Luanda has a subway system

Sleepless in Luanda

On Sundays at four at night in Luanda: On the construction site next door, the Chinese workers cut stones, pour concrete, and the jackhammer hammers. A tower-high crane turns, headlights illuminate the velvety black tropical night. Sleep calmly? Not in Luanda. One in two of the approximately 18 million Angolans, it is estimated, lives here. In a country four times the size of Germany, everything is concentrated in the capital. In 2002 the war finally came to an end - since then, work has been going on seven days a week, around the clock, on the new Luanda and its infrastructure. Chinese construction companies have taken over most of the projects, and crude oil is paid for. In the morning, the glass facades of dozens of brand new skyscrapers glitter in the tropical sun: In view of the skyline, it is understandable that Luanda likes to call himself the "Dubai of Africa". A "Dubai", however, in which the power goes out all the time, the water pressure runs dry and the Internet goes on strike. "The oil is our curse," says Angela Mingas. Since 2003 she has directed the study center for art, architecture, urbanism and design at Luanda's university "Lusiada". The university crouches in the city center in the shadow of the skyscraper of Sonangol, the state-owned oil company that is ceaselessly pumping millions of petrodollars into the country. With two million barrels a day, Angola has replaced Nigeria as the largest oil producer in Africa and is the second largest diamond exporter on the continent. Angela Mingas believes that the large amount of money brings greed and corruption with it. And far too fast, uncontrolled growth.

“You have no idea how the oil companies flooded the housing market. All of a sudden, a rotten booth that was falling apart was worth $ 5,000 a month! And the oil companies paid two, three, or even five years in advance! Ordinary Angolans with an average Three-room houses were suddenly millionaires. "

The same thing happened with hotels and restaurants: prices rose rapidly. Angola's economy is growing by almost ten percent annually, Luanda is now the most expensive city in the world next to Tokyo. A small group of beneficiaries who, thanks to good connections to the government, have access to the windfall, surrender to the consumption frenzy without restraint. Thousands of heavy off-road vehicles are newly registered every month. Not that the proud owners would get far with it: The traffic in Luanda is a disaster, from morning to night there is constant traffic jam. If you are unlucky, you need two hours for five kilometers.

"We don't have local public transport. The private buses, shared taxis, we call them Candongueros, they are the main problem with traffic in Luanda, because they are the only means of transport. There are a couple of large public transport buses, but they don't go to the Musseques that make up 60 percent of the urban area. "

The Musseques: These slums are growing over the inner city of Luanda. Millions of people live there under corrugated iron roofs - and come to the center to earn a few Kwanzas.

"Everyone is here in the morning and until the afternoon, and at night the city is completely different. Then it is pretty normal and relaxed. But in the morning it is horrible. The infrastructure cannot cope with this flow of commuters, there are not enough parking spaces, mine God, it's terrible, terrible! "

The musseques have been around since colonial times, explains the architect. You have to take a differentiated look at them, they are not just slums. The poorer the residents, the more they are marginalized. In the center of the respective quarters, on the other hand, live people who have a regular income and fight their way towards the middle class.

"There you have everything: pharmacies, medical centers, schools, everything, with bad conditions, of course. However, the structure does not correspond to a western idea of ​​a city, this Roman idea of ​​streets and squares, no, it is completely different, it is like one Medina. Life takes place in the streets, every space is used. It is a social structure that has to be respected - and developed. We are still looking for a solution to improve the quality of life in the Musseques. Without the established structures to tear apart there. Because a Musseque consists of different communities, people come from everywhere. It's a challenge. "

250,000 people live in the Musseque Sambizenga on the western edge of Luanda. At the very edge of it, by the harbor and the refinery, people live in corrugated iron huts on a garbage dump. The slum is on the slope, the waste is thrown down the slope in the absence of an alternative. Children slide through the mud on plastic bags. Trucks and minibuses rumble along a narrow mud track full of deep holes at walking pace. If this is the future for mankind who are striving for the big cities, as experts say, then good night: no electricity, no sewage system, no clean water, but cholera epidemics that break out again and again and an average life expectancy of around 40 years. Naked poverty, while the containers with imported goods from all over the world are piled up next door in the port for those who can afford them.

In comparison, the Kuduro musician MC Sacerdot lives in the center of Sambizenga, near the huge open-air market of Luanda, almost bourgeois: Although the narrow alley is not paved, the house he shares with his mother and six siblings is covered with corrugated iron, but the walls are made of bricks. The power line dangles adventurously from a wooden pole, but at least Sacerdot can record Kuduro in his improvised little recording studio: a mixture of rap, hip-hop and traditional rhythms - Angola's ubiquitous techno, the music of the musseques. Dozens of children have gathered in a tiny square in front of Sacerdot's door. Screaming, screeching, bobbing, posing: you are definitely more extroverted. Allegedly there is a school for them here - but even if they do, there are no jobs, says Sacerdot, who sits on a wall and drinks an ice-cold beer.

"Many young people are unemployed, many children do not go to school. That is a problem that is difficult to solve, but we shouldn't just stare at the problem, we should rather look for alternatives in order to find solutions. Of course, one can criticize, But we shouldn't always just criticize and criticize, but rather act and build something. "

The families here stick together closely, says Sacerdot, initiative is required.

Contrast program: Ilha de Luanda is the name of the peninsula in front of the city. A strip of sand where fishermen used to live. You have been relocated to a Musseque, now one beach club after the other is lined up on the new, four-lane expressway on the Ilha. A glass of white wine, a gintonic and two pieces of tuna pizza with a view of the Luanda skyline, which is brightly lit at night, cost 4,000 kwanzas or 40 US dollars: Angola's currency, the kwanza, is pegged to the dollar.

"This is a crazy city, completely crazy", "

says the architect Maria Joao in the beach bar "Miami Beach". Maria strongly criticizes the government's building policy: These skyscrapers are being built without any sense or understanding, the sandy subsoil is unsuitable, air conditioning and elevators often do not work, the water supply leaves much to be desired. Construction plans are copied from the Internet, experts are not consulted, and these are the ones that are needed here:

"" The weather here, as you have just noticed: It's 30 degrees and 80 percent humidity, every day. So to erect glass buildings is complete madness. They import those from other countries that need light and sun. But we really don't need that, we need shadows. "

Maria Joao very much regrets that the colonial buildings of the old town, the "Baixa", are falling victim to the irregular boom. Although these are often under monumental protection, the fines for the demolition are ridiculously low and, given the real estate prices, could be paid out of the postage.

"This is a political problem. Many politicians in Luanda want the Portuguese no longer to recognize the city one day soon. They do not want to preserve anything that was created before independence in 1975. It is terrible, a great inferiority complex. It is, as every morning they would take poison for breakfast and say to themselves, 'I hate the colonial masters.' We want a totally different city. You are building a business city without character or identity. "

This self-hatred is a big social mistake, says Maria Joao. She expects a lot of problems in the future, because without geological studies there will be wild construction.

"We urgently need an infrastructure plan. The people are very poor and improvise on everything, the power lines, for example. We are a rich country, but the people are so poor. You can still build and renovate as much as possible after three months everything is broken again if people don't get guidance. So we need education, education, education. "

The next day an attempt to conquer Luanda on foot, on the way to the internationally known artist Antonio Olé. The sidewalk is narrow, parked, and dusty. You have to be careful where you step because many manhole covers are missing. Young people everywhere, heavily pregnant women carry plastic tubs full of mangoes and pineapples on their heads, hoping for hungry drivers who can afford the 500 kwanzas or five dollars for a pineapple. A tropical storm is brewing over the sea. There is a lot of rubbish on the side of the road, but there are also many street sweepers who even wear neon yellow safety vests. Giggling children in the white coats of the state schools are on their way to class. An expensive boutique has blocked the sidewalk in front of the store with an improvised barrier so that pedestrians have to avoid the lane, where they run the risk of getting under the wheels: wild west methods. Nevertheless, there is a good atmosphere: friendly looks, smiling people, there is no aggression in the air, there is less honking than in Berlin. But suddenly nothing works: President José Eduardo dos Santos' guard has blocked the street, limousines with darkened windows rush past, two jeeps in front, two in the back, soldiers in camouflage uniform armed with machine guns on the loading area, an ambulance follows. Roadside soldiers guard with bazookas: a martial appearance. Yet one Angolan complains that the rich would steal the petrodollars, the poor who fought for independence lived in the mud. The daughter of the president, who has been in power for around 30 years, is Africa's first billionaire and is the greatest thief of all. The ruling MPLA distributes all benefices to party members. The university is too expensive, the price for a shared taxi should rise from 100 to 300 Kwanzas. Critics would be picked up by the secret police. Nothing works here, but it does, he says. It's true: Angola is one of the most corrupt countries in the world and millions of petrodollars are disappearing into private pockets instead of benefiting the population, yes

"It is a time of transition", "

says the painter, photographer and filmmaker Antonio Olé.

""We must have patience. But something happens. So let's see how far we can get in building a new Angola. That's what I work for. "

The 61-year-old Antonio Olé has had a studio in the "Teatro Elinga", a cultural center in the old town of Luanda, for 20 years. The thunderstorm is here, the rain is rustling - with such force that one fears the collapse of the venerable "Teatro Elinga". The old building with its crumbling facade is threatened with demolition. Here in the center of Luanda, only 100 meters from the freshly paved beach promenade on the Atlantic, plots are worth many millions of US dollars.

"Angola has changed the system, from socialism or Marxism-Leninism - which I never believed would work. It was very Kafkaesque to adapt this system for us. Then it suddenly went in the other direction. The dust grew not yet settled. Many big problems have yet to be solved so that everyone can live properly. "

Instead of wild capitalism, social concerns should have priority in order to balance the system, says Olé.

"Everyone wants to go to the big capital. That is a phenomenon in many African countries. It doesn't need wars: All opportunities are in the capital, the mobile phone only rings in the metropolis. That is a mistake. We have to decentralize and build small industries , increase food production and health care. So that people feel comfortable where there is no air pollution and not as many cars as here in Luanda, where the dictatorship of the automobile prevails. "

It takes half an hour into the future by car: to Luanda Sul in the south, "our Luanda", as Miguel Hurst proudly says.

"We are in the housing project Kilamba Kiaxi, where the state has built a satellite city, as we can see. 1,700 high-rise buildings, 60 schools, 40 kindergartens, 6, 7, 8, 9 large sports fields. And - yes, already set up, it is here it, a bit empty. Up to now we have few people here, an empty city, but it is being populated, more and more. "

A satellite town that sprung up in just four years with 250,000 apartments, of which an estimated 50 are inhabited. A ghostly scenery: a gigantic ghost town with well-tended lawns, flower beds and parking lots where the first grass is already sprouting.

"First of all, most Angolans have no money to buy a house here. There is a special loan from the state, but more for the people who work with and for the state. That has to be totally changed, otherwise you will have one Ghost town. "

A four-bedroom apartment here costs $ 120,000, unaffordable for the vast majority of the population. But the Angolan Miguel Hurst, who grew up in the GDR after his parents fled the civil war, still believes that "Luanda Sul" will come to life, a new capital for Angola's future.

"Because Luanda is totally crammed. We're six million in a city for 500,000, that's not possible. And people should live better, the slums should be abolished. And that's how you can do it. - It won't be any faster. We still have corruption, and I think it's even increasing, but OK, that's normal in the world and in every society. We are no different here than other people in the world. It couldn't be better. But it will still be It will take a long time until we have a normal city where you go out of the house and into a huge park or into the subway or the S-Bahn or something, no. "