The Ambaca railway in Angola: history of a failed public-private partnership (1885-1914 and briefly onwards)

Authors

  • Hugo Silveira Pereira Interuniversity Research Centre for the History of Science and Technology (Department of Applied Social Sciences, Faculty of Science and Technology, University NOVA of Lisbon) and Institute of Railway Studies (University of York) http://orcid.org/0000-0002-7706-2686

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.1344/rhi.v28i77.28537

Keywords:

Angola, railway, colonialism, public enterprise

Abstract

In 1886, the Portuguese government signed a public-private partnership with a private company to build and operate a railway between Luanda and Ambaca in its overseas colony of Angola. It was expected that the partnership would benefit both parties: it would provide Angola with a powerful tool of economic development and political appropriation, and it would pay the private investment (stockholders and bondholders). However, the enterprise soon became a financial disaster with soaring construction costs and feeble operational revenues, which forced the Portuguese state to intervene. In this paper, I will analyse the evolution of the Ambaca public-private partnership from a quantitative perspective, examining the figures of its financing, operation and state aid. I will add to the debate about the relationship between state and private initiatives, through public-private partnerships in the specific context of the scramble for Africa and New Imperialism of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Author Biography

Hugo Silveira Pereira, Interuniversity Research Centre for the History of Science and Technology (Department of Applied Social Sciences, Faculty of Science and Technology, University NOVA of Lisbon) and Institute of Railway Studies (University of York)

Hugo Silveira Pereira is a researcher at the Interuniversity Research Centre for the History of Science and Technology (Department of Applied Social Sciences, Faculty of Science and Technology, University NOVA of Lisbon) and at the Institute of Railway Studies (University of York), and a former Visiting Academic at the History Department of the School of Humanities Arts and Social Sciences of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He concluded his PhD in 2012 with a dissertation about the Portuguese national railway policy in the second half of the 19th century. He also participated in a research project coordinated by the University of Minho and the MIT about a narrow gauge railway in Portugal (Tua line). He presented and published several papers about Portugal’s railway and business history. His most recent publications include studies about the implementation of narrow-gauge railways in the Portuguese mainland and overseas territories and about the role of railways as portals of globalization. His current academic interests include the decision-making process, construction and operation of railways in the Portuguese former colonies of Africa and India.

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Published

2019-11-20

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Articles