Maria Mambo Café was an Angolan economist and politician. She was a career member of the Movimento Popular de Libertação de Angola – Partido do Trabalho. Café was born in 1945 in Cabinda Province, an exclave of Angola in the northern part of the country. She earned a degree in economics in the Soviet Union in 1968 and later returned to Africa. Joining the Angolan independence movement to free her country from Portuguese rule, Café initially worked from Kinshasa in what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire) before returning to Angola in 1974. She participated in the negotiations for the Alvor Agreement, which was signed on January 15, 1975, and led to Angolan independence.
Café’s government career began in 1977 when she was appointed Deputy Minister of Internal Trade, a post she held until 1978. In 1982, Café was appointed Minister of Social Affairs, becoming the first woman in Angola to be appointed to a cabinet post. In 1986, she left this ministry to become Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of State for the Economic and Social Sector where she remained until 1988. From 1986 to 1987, she was considered one of the “super ministers.” After a cabinet reshuffle, Café became Secretary for Youth Affairs and nearly lost her seat on the MPLA Central Committee. In 1992 she was elected to the People’s Assembly.
According to media reports, Café was among the 100 richest Angolans until her death and had acquired a fortune of more than $100 million. She was chair of the board of the Angola Bank of Commerce and Industry. She was also one of several members of the MPLA Central Committee who received $10 million from Banco Espírito Santo Angola to develop the projects they wanted without having to give an accounting to the bank or the public. Her involvement with many economic development projects as a government official in an officially socialist nation, raised corruption suspicions but Café was never publicly accused of wrongdoing.
Maria Mambo Café died on December 1, 2013, in Lisbon, Portugal, at the age of 68. She was buried on December 6 at Alto das Cruzes Cemetery in Luanda. The Angolan Political Bureau honored her in a statement that said, “Comrade Mambo Café ‘Tchyina’ holds an impeccable and enviable political trajectory in the struggle for freedom and democracy in Angola and in the World.” The airport Maria Mambo Café in the northern province of Cabinda was named in her honor.