According to the Cubans, the overriding priority of their mission in Angola was humanitarian, not military. In the wake of Operation Carlota, around 5,000 Cuban technical, medical and educational staff were constantly posted in Angola to fill the gaps the Portuguese had left behind. "For a generation of Cubans, internationalist service in Angola represented the highest ideal of the Cuban Revolution" and for many it became a normal part of life to volunteer for an internationalist mission, principally in Angola, which lasted 18 to 24 months. In the following years, tens of thousands of volunteers were processed each year. By 1978, Angola's health system was almost completely run by Cuban doctors. After the Portuguese left the country, there was only one doctor per 100,000 inhabitants. The Cubans posted a large medical team at Luanda's University and Prenda hospitals and opend clinics in remote areas all across Angola.
At the time of independence, over 90% of the Angolan population was illiterate. Starting in June 1977, an educational programme began to take shape. 2,000 students were granted scholarships in Cuba and by 1987 there were 4,000 Angolan students studying on the "Isla de la Juventud" (Isle of Youth). In March 1978, the first Cuban 732-strong secondary school teacher brigade (Destacamento Pedagógico Internationalista) took up its work in Angola. These were later joined by 500 primary school teachers and 60 professors at Luanda's university. Through the 1980s the level was constantly held at about 2,000 teachers of all levels.
The technical programme was the largest branch of Cuba's humanitarian mission as Angola was desperate for technicians to oversee the reconstruction projects. Cuban engineers, technicians and construction workers worked on construction sites, especially repairing the badly damaged infrastructure (bridges, roads, buildings, telecommunication etc.) of the country. The first teams arrived in January 1977 and in the following 5 years they built 2,000 houses in Luanda and 50 new bridges, reopened several thousand km of road, electricity and telephone networks. Attempts to revive Angolan coffee and sugar cane production soon failed due to the spread of war with UNITA. According to Cubatecnica, the government office for non-military foreign assistance, there were more Cuban volunteers than could be accepted and long waiting lists. Cuba's engagement laid the foundations for Angola's social services.