Nova Cidade de Kilamba – Belas, Angola - Atlas Obscura

Belas, Angola

Nova Cidade de Kilamba

This sprawling, multicolored housing development was funded by Chinese oil money and is now almost completely empty. 

Like some of the sprawling modern ghost towns in China proper, Angola’s mega-housing development Nova Cidade de Kilamba, funded by China in exchange for oil, is an untouched settlement that is sold as a socially conscious residential development, but is far too expensive and remote for locals to take advantage.  

Established in the early 2010s, Nova Cidade de Kilamba (Kilamba New City) was meant to fulfill some of Angolan president Jose Eduardo dos Santos’ campaign promises to create one million new homes in an effort to take some of the pressure off of overcrowded slums, which dominate the country’s capital city of Luanda.

Using credit extended to the country from a Chinese governmental agency, which accepted Angolan oil as repayment, over 700 eight-story apartment blocks were erected, along with schools and commercial spaces. Each of the blocks was painted a primary color, giving the city an upbeat rainbow look.

While the ambitious project seemed like a good idea at the time, its creators failed to account for the lack of an Angolan middle class able to afford such rentals. With many Angolans subsisting on no more than $2 a day, the apartments, which cost between $120,000 and $200,000, are simply out of reach. Only a fraction of the available apartments have tenants, and only one of the schools has opened.

Despite the lack of tenants, Nova Cidade de Kilamba does continue to receive support from the Angolan government, which plans on opening a portion of the apartments for low-income housing. Let’s hope they have better luck than many of China’s ghost cities.