Extortion and protection racketeering
Trade in counterfeit goods
Illicit trade in excisable goods
Non-renewable resource crimes
Synthetic drug trade
Private sector actors
Political leadership & governance
Government transparency and accountability
National policies and laws
Judicial system and detention
Economic regulatory capacity
Victim and witness support
Political leadership & governance
Government transparency and accountability
National policies and laws
Judicial system and detention
Economic regulatory capacity
Victim and witness support
Angola is both a source of and destination for human trafficking, with both Angolan and foreign citizens targeted. The victims include people of all genders and age groups from neighbouring countries as well as Asian and Latin American countries. They are exploited in a wide variety of ways, from forced labour in the construction, agriculture and diamond mining sectors to prostitution in massage parlours. Non-citizen women, including Chinese women recruited by Chinese gangs with the promise of paid work, and subsequently forced into both modern slavery and prostitution, have been exploited for sex. Angolans are also trafficked into South Africa, Namibia, Portugal and the Netherlands for both sexual and labour use. Minors have been forced to carry out criminal activities, such as transporting illicit goods, as well as sex, domestic and street work. Reports also suggest that workers from numerous countries have their passports withheld and are threatened with violence, denied food and confined by private sector actors active in mining and construction. In recent years there has been an increase in reports of human trafficking, suggesting a growing awareness of this market in the country.
It is likely that human smuggling activities are increasing in parallel with the increase in trafficking. Foreign nationals seeking labour opportunities in Angola often solicit the services of smugglers, particularly from the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Namibia. The main reasons for illegal border crossings are diamond mining, smuggling and trafficking of human beings, especially minors. There are growing concerns about the use of the Quatro de Fevereiro airport to smuggle children out of the country for trafficking purposes. There has also been an increase in extortion cases, generally linked to small scale and opportunistic actors rather than organized. The targets of these extortion schemes are largely street vendors and migrants, both vulnerable groups.
The increased reporting of arms seizures from criminal networks lead to the assumption that firearms are easily accessible and widely used in the country, specifically by criminal actors involved in a variety of activities, including robbery. Arms trafficking across the DRC and Namibian borders are linked to state-embedded actors. Firearm and ammunition smuggling is rife, with the demand for weapons coming from Angolan secessionists in the oil-rich province of Cabinda and the weapons supplied from within the DRC. It is believed that many arms left over from the civil war are still in circulation, although authorities claim that their increasing age and obsolescence make them easier to control. There have been reports of private security company personnel, who are authorized to carry weapons, trafficking them to local criminal networks. The government’s efforts to stop private security companies using lethal weapons have faced criticism and pushback.
Most of the trade in counterfeit goods is related to pharmaceutical and electronic products such as cellphones, computers, tablets and their parts. There are large informal markets in the country, which are extremely difficult to monitor and manage. Despite the government’s attempts to modernize the country’s customs system through legislation, there are still no laws protecting intellectual property rights, which exacerbates the trade in counterfeit goods.
Angola mainly acts as a country of origin of and destination for the illicit trade in tobacco and alcohol. Some of the excise goods coming from South Africa (alcohol and cigarettes) and Zimbabwe (cigarettes) have been destined for Angola and the DRC, while alcoholic beverages from Angola have occasionally been reported to be smuggled into the Namibian market, due to the largely porous borders between the two countries.
Illegal logging in Angola is carried out by both unauthorized fellers and concession holders exceeding their quotas or failing to replant trees illegally cut down. This has resulted in the loss of tree cover, which was at its highest ever in 2021. Asia is the main destination country for timber illegally harvested in Angola, while Namibia serves as the transit country. While it is private sector actors, mainly of Chinese origin, who continue to exploit Angolan forests for illegal logging, local communities are also involved.
Fauna crimes are a growing concern for the Angolan authorities, with commercial poaching as well as trade in ivory and rhino horn among the biggest challenges. Angola is increasingly becoming a source country for illicit wildlife products. Angola is also a transit country for the illegal trade in pangolin scales, gorillas and wild birds, and recent reports identify the country as a potential transit point for the illegal lion and leopard trade. Conservation areas are poorly policed and hunting is inadequately regulated. The illicit market for endangered species such as pangolins and the transborder bushmeat market are also expanding. Off-period hunting as well as illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing has increased to worrying levels, with a negative impact on the wildlife and marine life of the country. In addition to local criminal actors, foreign actors such as Vietnamese citizens are involved in this market. Foreign fishing vessels are also detected operating illegally in Angolan territorial waters.
Angola is rich in minerals and oil and, as a result, there is extensive trafficking of illicit diamonds and cross-border fuel and gold smuggling activities. The country’s oil and diamond fields are exploited by corrupt elites to enrich themselves. The diamond industry and mining areas are tightly controlled by the military and private security companies making it impossible for outside criminal networks to operate without the collusion of military personnel. In addition to local citizens, foreign actors, including irregular migrants, are heavily involved in illicit mining as well as trafficking of diamonds and gold, which is evidenced by the increased numbers of seizures by the Angolan law enforcement authorities.
The heroin market has very little influence in the country. However, evidence suggests that the country is becoming a growing transit state for Afghan heroin moving towards Europe. Conversely, Angola is a cocaine trafficking hub, acting as a trans-shipment country for South American cocaine, mostly originating from Brazil and destined for Southern and West African countries as well as markets in Europe and the Middle East by sea and air. The country’s shared language with Brazil, Mozambique and Portugal has promoted close ties among actors facilitating the cocaine trade in these countries. Criminal players involved in the cocaine market appear to form networks of people with ethnic or other interests in common, with leaders enjoying connections in source countries. The increased apprehension of Angolan nationals suggests their growing involvement in active trafficking as drug mules. There is also ongoing state involvement, through corrupt and compromised officials, as well as through military bodies that support the trade. There has been an increase in cocaine and crack cocaine consumption in recent years, making Angola a destination country as well.
Cannabis, grown locally and also sourced from South Africa and Namibia, is the most consumed and commercialized illicit drug in the country. Recent reports of drug seizures and arrests have revealed that cocaine is often found with cannabis, suggesting that both are increasingly traded and trafficked through the same routes and networks.
There is little evidence to indicate a substantial presence of synthetic drugs, apart from synthetic cannabis, which is the most popular synthetic drug consumed in the country. However, the country is reportedly a transit point for methamphetamine manufactured in Nigeria and destined for South Africa.
There are growing concerns about the vulnerability of the country to cyber-dependent crime – Angola is the African country most targeted by cyber criminals. In recent years, there has been an increase in such crimes, targeting both government entities and financial institutions, with estimated losses of USD$2.3 million in 2022. Despite the government’s efforts in recent years to improve its capacity to combat these crimes, Angola still lacks the capacity to manage adequately what seems to be a rapidly expanding criminal market.
The most common financial crimes committed in the country are the misappropriation of public funds, corruption, with the involvement of state embedded actors, and fraud. In the past three years the Angolan authorities have recovered approximately USD$11 billion after conducting 715 criminal prosecutions for corruption, fraud, embezzlement and other financial crimes including Ponzi, pyramid and multilevel marketing schemes. The high degree of informality and a lack of proper documentation contribute to the risk of financial crimes in the country.
State-embedded actors continue to constitute a major threat to the country despite the anti-corruption efforts of the government. Several government officials have been investigated and some charged with offences including corruption, fraud, embezzlement and money laundering. Among those implicated include family members of former high-ranking officials in the country. There are also allegations about the involvement of government and law enforcement officials in criminal activities, including drug trafficking, human trafficking, illegal logging and mining and extortion.
Private sector actors, including but not limited to private banks and oil companies, are mainly involved in the financial crime market. Private oil companies are involved in the illegal movement of non-transparent funds and private banks are used to siphon funds from state coffers. Private sector actors are used as technically legitimate companies with the assistance of state-embedded actors to carry out fraudulent financial schemes, embezzling millions of dollars.
Organized criminal networks are involved in a plethora of criminal markets, including flora and fauna crimes as well as the drug, firearms and human trafficking and human smuggling markets. Most of these networks are involved in multiple criminal markets, using the same trafficking routes and bringing violence, insecurity and economic loss to these regions. The impact of criminal networks is increasing and there are reports that they are also involved in executions, disappearances and corruption and are receiving protection from police officers. The most pervasive foreign criminal actors are nationals from the DRC, who are involved in the illegal diamond mining industry. Chinese and Vietnamese criminal groups are also known to be involved in illegal logging, wildlife trafficking and human trafficking in the country, mostly through collaboration with Angolan nationals.
There is evidence suggesting the slow emergence of mafia-style groups in the form of gangs in the urban centres, principally in Luanda, with a fixed territory usually defined by a neighbourhood or municipality. These groups, which are involved in multiple criminal markets, including the illicit drugs trade and firearms trafficking, have been able to gain access to weapons left over from the civil war and arms from private security companies. The weak police presence in poor urban neighbourhoods may account for the emergence of these groups and levels of gang violence and homicide are extremely high. The fact that no extortion activities have been reported suggests that the groups do not yet have strong control over their territories. Multiple small mafia-style groups were dismantled by the Angolan authorities in 2021 and 2022, however the nature of these groups and their involvement in criminal markets is not always clear.
Despite the government’s continued strong stance against organized crime and corruption and the efforts made in this respect through several investigations and the prosecution of prominent figures, there is opposition to a comprehensive transformation of the country’s political and economic systems and their practices. While many Angolans report a decline in corruption, most classify the government’s performance in the fight against it as weak. They also believe the president is using the efforts against corruption as a political weapon rather than as a means of eradicating corruption. The fact that the president’s popularity decreased during the second half of his term has been attributed to a decline in the country’s economic situation, excessive concentration on efforts to diminish the influence of the elites of the previous regime and the lack of tangible improvements in the lives of citizens from the policy of asset recovery. Despite marked improvements the institutional anti-corruption framework remains inadequate and government transparency and accountability are poor. Although there is greater transparency in the public procurement process other areas remain opaque, including, for example, some high-profile appointments to positions within the government. Some of the biggest challenges limiting the fight against corruption are a lack of access to the relevant information and long and bureaucratic investigation and judicial processes. Another key challenge is a lack of transparency in the extractive industries, which are especially prone to transnational bribery and corruption.
Angola has ratified nine major international legal instruments to combat organized crime and is a party to the UN Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime and its three protocols. However, the country is yet to ratify international arms trafficking protocols. Efforts have been made to increase international cooperation to combat organized crime and other pressing security issues at bilateral, regional and international level with the cooperation of other countries and regional and international inter-governmental bodies, including the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, INTERPOL, the African Union and the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region. Domestically, Angola’s legislative framework relating to organized crime is relatively robust, with the most notable criminal markets controlled by legislation. In 2021 the Angolan Constitution was amended to limit the National Assembly’s ability to exercise checks on the executive.
The judiciary is not independent and suffers from inappropriate executive control as the president nominates judges for each court and the executive rewards compliant judges with favourable paid positions as chairs of committees. The judicial system also lacks human and financial resources. Prisons are overcrowded and many inmates are denied basic human rights, living in unsanitary conditions and subject to sexual abuse.
The government continues to try to improve the capacity of law enforcement, for instance by creating another investigative service, and the police continue to collaborate with their foreign counterparts as well as INTERPOL to combat organized crime. However, their efficacy is impeded by corruption and a lack of resources and training. There are also concerns about police impunity, especially in light of an increase in arbitrary arrests and extra-judicial killings by law enforcement officials, especially of political activists and protesters.
Angola’s extensive borders and long coastline are difficult to monitor and police. Nevertheless, the border police systematically carry out operations to combat cross-border crimes. Drugs, ivory and wildlife are also fairly regularly seized at the country’s primary airport. It has, however, been noted that there are not enough staff or resources to stop smugglers facilitating irregular migration across the border and that Angolan citizens and border guards sometimes work with criminal organizations to facilitate the smuggling and trafficking of people. However, Angolan and Congolese authorities are working together in border operations, especially around the illegal diamond mining trade. In 2022, there were increasing reports of battles between the Angolan armed forces and the armed group Frente de Libertação do Enclave de Cabinda, which fights for the independence of the province. Increasing pirate attacks along the western coast of the country also pose a new security threat in the region. Finally, although there is an increasing number of cyberattacks in the country there is a lack of capacity to address the situation adequately.
Despite achieving a number of high-profile prosecutions of former officials for money laundering, these do not necessarily reflect significant increases in the government’s capacity to counteract the crime, to which Angola continues to be acutely vulnerable. However, there is increased political will to tackle money laundering, especially through cooperation with international counterparts including Portugal and the Financial Action Task Force on Money Laundering.
Doing business in Angola presents substantial challenges, stemming from poor land and property rights alongside high levels of institutionalized corruption. The government has begun efforts to restore investor confidence by prioritizing anti-corruption and calling for the restructuring of state-owned enterprises, which has received international attention. However, the country’s economic regulatory systems are still not seen as meeting international standards and there are few oversight and auditing measures. Angola ratified the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes Convention in 2022, which is expected to provide international companies with more opportunities to arbitrate and contest disputes over investments in a situation in which the judicial system is seen as cumbersome and opaque. The diamond industry continues to attract international investors to the country, with new concessions provided in recent years.
Government support for human trafficking victims continues to be ineffective and the country has not reported referring any identified victims for care. Although it did launch a new hotline to receive reports of trafficking it has neither the staff nor the resources to investigate claims. The few legal frameworks in place for victim support are not very efficient in practice, due to limited financial resources. There are national and community level rehabilitation services for people who use drugs and new centres are expected to be established in the future.
In an attempt to tackle organized crime in the country Angola has created an Interministerial Committee Against Environmental Crimes and related Wild Fauna and Flora and has implemented a new National Plan of Action to Combat Human Trafficking and a new penal code. It has also increased its cooperation with the UN Office on Drugs and Crime and the US Treasury. The government is also committed to raising public awareness to prevent the increasing threat of cyber-attacks.
Despite improvements made by the current leadership, freedom of the press is still limited, with criminal defamation laws as well as cyber-attacks used to censor journalists. There are also cases of physical persecution and intimidation of various journalists as well as academics and youth organizations and members of the public who protest against the government. In early 2021 several people were attacked during a peaceful protest and police killed a dozen protesters. Although civil society has been granted more leeway in recent years it remains weak, its protest actions are often suppressed and it has an antagonistic relationship with the Angolan government.
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The criminal markets score is represented by the pyramid base size and the criminal actors score is represented by the pyramid height, on a scale ranging from 1 to 10. The resilience score is represented by the panel height, which can be identified by the side of the panel.