Dancing in Luanda

The mall wasn’t busy – it couldn’t have been more than 10am on a normal Friday morning – but the twitchy throb of Kuduro music was already working hard and doing its job sending the handful shoppers there into spontaneous dance.

And I don’t mean a bit of head-nodding. They were properly going for it – joyous, unashamed, big smiles. A young mum. Her dad. A security guard flirting with some of the girls from housekeeping.

This is Angola, and it’s brilliant.

I was in the capital city, Luanda (twinned with Rio de Janeiro – of course!).

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Divided by the Atlantic Ocean, these two incredible cities share more than just a common language and intertwining histories. As former Portuguese colonies, both are blessed with captivating cultures that revel in their dynamic blend of African and European influences.

And much like its sister-city, it’s impossible to separate the rhythm of daily life in Luanda from the pulse of music and dance. In fact, the local Semba music is the original precursor to Samba, and its influence is just as important to Luanda’s three million inhabitants as Samba is to Brazilians.

Architecturally, there’s an intriguing blend of colonial architecture – from grand public buildings, churches and cathedrals, through to modernist residential towers hailing from the 1960’s. Family villas and low-rise apartment blocks dominate the suburbs, whilst inhabitants of the many shanty-towns are being relocated to places like Kilamba – entire new cities constructed on the outskirts of town which will be home to some 500,000 people.

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The traffic is appalling, but the road systems are being upgraded gradually. For Luandans who can’t wait, there’s always the option of fitting a police siren to their bashed-up Kia or Hyundai and, masquerading as VIPs or cops, barging their way through the mayhem. It’s irritated my British sensibilities, but you’ve got to hand it to them.

And there are new shopping centres, hypermarkets and modern retailers springing up all over the city. Cortefiel, Lacoste, Vilebrequin, Parfois, womens’secret, Salsa Jeans, Zippy and other Sonae brands are already there under franchise, and are doing great business.

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I was there to help a major Angolan retail chain with interests in malls, hypermarkets, electronics, health & beauty, and F&B to launch a new business unit – a master franchise platform company that will partner global brands and launch them in the domestic market.

We’ll be ready to tell you more over the coming weeks, but it’s a really exciting project to be involved in, and it’s precisely the right time for retailers to start thinking seriously about Angola.

Drop me a line or give me a call if you’d like to know more.

Thanks,

Joseph

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