ANGOLA is in the long process of rebuilding itself after a bloody 27-year civil war which only ended in 2002.

Established by Portugal as a centre for the slave trade from 1575 onwards, the capital Luanda later developed into a major world trading port.

But with the break up of the Portugese empire and the country's eventual independence in 1975, factional infighting escalated into a full blown civil war between the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) and the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (Unita).

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Up to 1.5 million lives are estimated to have been lost and four million people displaced in the quarter century of fighting that followed.

But 12 years ago the insurgency by Unita was ended and the MPLA took control. Legislative elections followed in 2008 and, since then, a relative stability has returned under what is described as a multi- party democracy, but which in reality has seen power vested in a small minority with international concerns over human rights.

Despite the progress made Angola is still a country of extremes, with 70 per cent of the population living in abject poverty while a wealthy elite takes advantage of the country's vast natural wealth with its reserves of oil, diamonds and gold.

Modern Angola is on a journey of recovery and is now one of the fastest growing economies in the world.

Since the end of the civil war the country has worked hard to repair and improve its shattered infrastructure fuelled by oil.

In 1976, the Angolan Government created Sonangol, a state run oil company which was given rights to offshore oil exploration and production.

Oil now accounts for over 50 per cent of the country's GDP and over 80 per cent of government revenue.

The export of oil, mainly to the US and China, has also helped the country forge relationships with major overseas companies including Stena, Total, Chevron and BP.

The economic boom has transformed parts of the country and the capital Luanda is now reputed to be amongst the most expensive in the world.