GEOG 479
Cyber-Geography in Geospatial Intelligence

Geospatial Intelligence Analysis for Angola

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Angola is a coastal country that, as of August 2017, is at peace, but has had a violent past due to the civil war that occurred between 1975 and 2002. Our analysis begins with an examination of the increase in ICT infrastructure that has taken place since the end of the civil war in 2002.

According to Internet World Stats, by Q3 2017, there were just under 6 million Internet users amongst Angola’s population (up from 3 million in 2012), out of over 26 million. At the end of December 2012, the country had over 645,000 Facebook users. In November 2012 and this had grown to over 3.5 million by March 2017.  Angola’s government, led by President dos Santos, announced in 2012 it intended to launch the first Angolan telecommunications satellite, Angosat, by 2014. The spacecraft was originally supposed to be launched in 2016 from a launch site in the Ukraine, however the political tensions following the annexation of Crimea made the use of the Ukrainian untenable due to Russian involvement. The current launch date is now scheduled for Sept 2017 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome.

The country will soon celebrate over 15 years of peace. This has helped attract foreign investment that is fueled by economic stability in key economic sectors that include banking, oil, and telecommunications. Until recently, telecommunications has been largely off limits to outside private investment, but today, international ICT companies such as IBM have stated their commitment to training a local Angolan workforce. Ericsson has also linked up with Business Sweden, the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs, and the Swedish Embassy in Luanda to co-host an ICT conference to cover best practices, ICT benefits in the public and private sectors, policies and foundations and infrastructure, and other key topics of discussion.

Examples of outside businesses connecting Angola began a few short years after peace became established. Business Sweden and the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs identified Angola for engagement and affiliation in a two-year ICT mobile services contract. Fredrik Jejdling, head of Ericsson Sub-Saharan Africa, said, “We are committed to our vision of a Networked Society in Africa, where technology enables new methods of learning and collaboration, innovative ways of doing business, and new approaches to old problems which results in a better quality of life. Over the past century, Ericsson has consistently explored ways in which we can deploy our technology and solutions to support development on the continent.”

There is vested interest in telecommunications to help sustain growth. According to research, the industry is regulated by the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications and its two executive agencies—Angola Telecom and the Angolan Communications Institute (INACOM). Several subsidiaries are incorporated into the Angola Telecom fold including GSM mobile phone network, Movicel, and broadband and satellite Internet service provider, Elta. Movicel has been acknowledged to be at the forefront of LTE (Long Term Evolution) rollout. Although coverage is limited to only specific areas, including oil-rich Cabinda and Luanda, there was an expectation that this technology will help the country sustain what the International Monetary Fund (IMF) stated would be a 9% growth in the country’s GDP in 2012. In reality, the GDP Growth Rate in Angola averaged 9.77 percent from 2000 until 2015, reaching an all time high of 23.20 percent in 2007 and a record low of 0.90 percent in 2015. The collpase of the international oil price produced a very subdued growth rate in GDP over the last few years. "Corruption and public-sector mismanagement remain, particularly in the oil sector, which accounts for over 50 percent of GDP, over 90 percent of export revenue, and over 80 percent of government revenue."

Additionally, 4G technology is still viewed as central to the country’s future development. According to Angola-Today, the country’s mobile phone network has experienced a $100 million upgrade that will bring users closer to the 4G experience. The site reports that fixed-line operating licenses have been granted to four companies including MS Telecom, Startel, Nexus, and Wezacom. An annual report published online at BuddeComm speaks of a huge increase in foreign investment into ICTs, Internet, and broadband development including 3G, 4G, and fiber technologies. The report further stated that the estimated market penetration rates in Angola’s telecommunications sector at the end of 2013 is projected to be 89% for mobile, 1.5% fixed-line, and 24% Internet. Though the market is still in the early stages of development, it indicates the private sector's willingness to rebuild the country and leverage ICT connectivity in the process.

Screen shot of Angola Domestic Network System
Figure 35. Subsea cable drops off the Angolan coast.

The small area north of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Figure 35, is also Angolan controlled and is a region known as Cabinda. It borders the northern bank of the Congo river and is a source of much of Angola’s oil wealth. Notice the multiple drops along the south Atlantic coast, but little connectivity with either Namibia in the south or the DRC or the Congo in the north.

Examining the NGO indices of the 3 Mahgreb countries and including Angola for comparison, HDI is much lower along with the Freedom Index. It could be argued that corruption is as much a problem in Angola as in the 3 other states.

Figure 36. Angola NGO indices included in the table with the north African nations.
Country Cell Phone Rate/100 Human Development Index (HDI)a TI Corruption Index Reporters without Borders Freedom Index 2010
Angola 48.38 0.403 2 37.8
Libya 155.70 0.755 2.0 63.50
Tunisia 116.93 0.683 3.8 72.50
Egypt 101.08 0.620 2.9 43.33
Credit: Original analysis results by M. Thomas.
Figure 37. Cell phone penetration rate compared to 3 NGO indices of Libya, Tunisia, and Egypt and for the case of including the measures associated with Angola.
- Cell Phone Rate/100 Human Development Index (HDI)a TI Corruption Index Reporters without Borders Freedom Index 2010
Cell Phone Rate/100 1.000
Human Development Index (HDI)a 0.98 1.000 0
TI Corruption Index 0.144 0.322 1.000
Reporters without Borders Freedom Index 2010 0.758 0.798 0.540 1.000
Credit: Original analysis results by M. Thomas.

While the single highest correlation, Figure 38, exists between cell phone penetration rate and the HDI as in the previous comparisons, significant here is the increase between cell phone penetration rate and the Freedom Index. The question becomes one of how to conduct a further analysis. The countries of the Mahgreb offer a baseline for comparison. Revolt did occur and succeed in Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt, while not meeting any degree of success in Algeria and still at an impasse between the government and the insurrection forces in Syria. Algeria’s growth in ICT infrastructure parallels Egypt’s in both the relative pace and degree over the time period in question, but some factors in the Algerian government's reactions to the protests seem to have mitigated the potential for change that occurred in the other countries.

Figure 38. The UN M49 developing country classifications.
Credit: ITU Indicators database. Original graphic by Dr. Michael Thomas

The countries of interest where change occurred as compared to the UN defined categories of “Developed, World and Developing Countries” are shown in Figure 38. Angola currently falls well below the average “developing” category, implying that a certain degree of penetration is necessary to facilitate the ability of an opposition to organize for rebellion. As of 2016, the cellphone penetration rate had increased to just over 44 out of 100 inhabitants and internet usage was limited to around 13% of the population by all means of connectivity possible.

The question to ask is, “What can be inferred from the data?” While there is no doubt that the nations where the Arab Spring took place were dictatorships, there were nonetheless significant increases in critical ICT infrastructure that took place in the last decade. Censorship of the news was always a characteristic of these states and strict control of the Internet was common, even with the greater connectivity possible and being built. Availability of geo-location technology was also common and ubiquitous. A critical factor seems to have been the degree of mobile phone penetration rates among the general population. Lack of the degree of penetration in Syria when compared to the other Arab countries might be a factor in the prolonged conflict in Syria, as it would seem to offer an explanation of the inability of the general population to be able to coalesce into a united front. Lack of a significant penetration rate amongst the population in Angola might be prolonging the ability of the dictatorship to continue there.

Further examination of the actions taken by the Algerian government could prove enlightening. Aljazeera has reported that many ordinary Algerians have reportedly found it increasingly difficult to get online under security restrictions introduced by the ministry of the interior following the Arab uprisings that began in 2011. As many as half of the country’s Internet cafes have been forced to close under these new restrictions.

For example, the ICT technology might have been utilized to both receive and send views so the current government could retain control while making significant changes – promoting the changes as those that the populace endorsed. An annual report estimates that cell phone penetration in Angola will increase from the current reported 48/100 inhabitants to over 89/100 by the end of 2013 (BuddeComm). If that is the case, the rapid growth in this key technology may provide an impetus for change in governance. There could be further impacts from the additional connectivity planned through 2018 (Figure 39).

Figure 39. Historical growth of bandwidth of African undersea cables planned out through 2018.
Credit: manypossibilities.net . A kml file (Google Earth) of all ICT terrestrial and undersea is available from Ubuntu Net Alliance. Other data available from http://www.cablemap.info/.