Portugal in Africa

Courtesy Reuters

TODAY small Portugal is still mistress of three African territories which are the oldest European colonies (or, as the Portuguese insist, "overseas provinces") in the world, and with a little luck she may soon regain an earlier distinction of being the only colonial power in Africa. In the course of her long history in Africa, Portugal has survived at one time or another every manner of crisis, and from Prime Minister Oliveira Salazar ("This is the mission of our life") down to chiefs of post in the remote Angolan bush, the Portuguese seem serenely confident that they will once more ride out the storm.

The stakes are high. No other European nation has been so long accustomed to possessing an African empire, and for the majority of the Portuguese people the thought that their small country owns African territories equivalent in size to the area of Western Europe has always been reassuring. Nor is the attraction only sentimental. In recent years the two largest of the colonies, Angola and Mozambique, have come to occupy an important position in the nation's total economy. The Portuguese colonies are not as materially prosperous as some neighboring areas, particularly the Congo, the Rhodesias and South Africa, but they are not as naturally poor as many of the new independent states. Angola and Mozambique are paying their own way, in spite of the reluctance of Portuguese capital to invest in Africa and the relative lack of investment capital from abroad. A large part of Portuguese exports, notably wine and cotton goods, is destined for Africa, and increasing percentages of Portuguese African products--coffee, tea, sisal, copra, diamonds--go into the world market. The economic picture is not entirely favorable, but it has never been better, and without the African provinces continental Portugal's economy would suffer seriously.

But, as the Portuguese themselves acknowledge, the problems which must be solved have never been greater and the room for manœuvre has never been less. The relative tranquility of Angola, Mozambique

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