Meet Isabel dos Santos: Angola’s Most Prominent Businesswoman

Isabel dos Santos is the daughter of the former President of Angola, José Eduardo dos Santos. Her multinational heritage, education and personal drive have helped pave the way for her success in becoming the richest women billionaire on the African continent. As of June 28th, her net worth is calculated to be $2.3 Billion USD. She is currently ranked #1008 on Forbes list of billionaires worldwide.

Isabel dos Santos was born in Azerbaijan, but was raised in the Lusophone country of Angola. She began her journey in business by attending King’s College in London earning a double major. She is currently married and has three children. She is an example to the working-class women and underrepresented minorities in her home country of Angola and has been nicknamed “The Princess” of Angola.

According to the Observador (The Observer), Isabel dos Santos has been a majority shareholder of the company Unitel since 2001. Unitel, a private Angolan mobile phone company, has since grown to serve more the 11.6 million clients. This modern company is using innovative technology and smart leadership to provide optimal telecommunications, a 4G network, connecting families across great distances, and making a corporately social difference in the community.

Isabel dos Santos recently spoke at a United Nations debate concerning economic empowerment of women in Africa. Her goal is to inspire surrounding African countries and women to pursue their business passions and endeavors. The following is a quote from her website, “Creating opportunities and employment for women means betting on the progress of the communities themselves. When they thrive, women invest their income in the family, health, and education. I value this as a sense of duty, commitment, and dedication. The impact that women create around them is powerful and transformative.”

 

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Todos os dias nas minhas empresas me rodeio de pessoas diferentes. Vejo talento nas minhas equipas e procuro dar oportunidades de fazer crescer esse talento. Acredito que equipas diversas, cheias de pessoas com diferentes competências e formações são as mais eficazes. A diversidade estimula a criatividade 🧠 e dá às nossas equipas uma força interior baseada nas diferentes experiências que todos trazem diariamente. Vamos começar a semana a pensar positivo 🙌🏾 #SharingbyIsabeldosSantos #teams #work #inspiration #talent Every day in my companies I surround myself with different people. My teams are talented, and I make sure to give the right opportunity to watch that talent grow. I believe that diverse teams, full of people with different skill sets and backgrounds – are the most effective. Diversity encourages creativity 🧠 and gives our teams an inner strength built on the varying skills and experiences that show every day. Let’s kick off this week thinking positive 🙌🏾

A post shared by Isabel Dos Santos (@isabel_dos_santos.me) on

After visiting www.isabeladosantos.com you read powerful headlines such as “Investing in Africa Equals the Future” or “From Angola to the World” or “We All Share in the Success of Our Women.” It’s in these positive posts and inspirations quotes that Isabel dos Santos writes about her personal experiences, global interactions, and desire to make a lasting difference. The site is conveniently translated into English, Portuguese, and French.

Diving deeper into her site shows that she truly is a businesswoman in action. From meeting the future farmers of Angola, to guiding new graduates from Warwick University, Isabel dos Santos does not stand idly by. Isabel even walked the red carpet in Lisbon, Portugal, kicking off an extravagant launch of ZAP Viva, an Angolan network owned and operated by Isabel dos Santos.

Isabel dos Santos’ interests and track record follow a similar pattern. In a single word, her interests and passions are “epic”. TV, telecom, oil firms (Sonangol), and investment banks are just a few industries she has a stake in; she strives for continual improvement and is on par with other black billionaire women such as Oprah Winfrey and Folorunsho Alakija of Nigeria.

One fact about Isabel dos Santos that many are not aware of is her involvement and management of Angola’s Red Cross. According to Jornal de Angola, the country’s sole newspaper daily, insists that Isabel dos Santos is a pride of the country. With so much fortune, both in wealth and in living a full life, Isabel dos Santos is humble about giving relief to others. It is worthwhile to note that this good deed is done behind the scenes, away from the fanfare, and self-aggrandizement that befalls celebrities and political figures. She serves out of genuine goodness and professional practicum which makes her an inspirational icon.

Focusing more on the tactful business moves Isabel dos Santos has engaged in over her career is quite impressive. After gaining traction with Unitel in Angola, Isabel branched out to other Portuguese speaking countries such as Cape Verde and São Tomé and Príncipe. This move helped secure the future of her growing telecom company in the small island regions. That’s quite a move coming from a background of investment banking, construction, and oil.

Isabel dos Santos was chair of the Board of Directors of one of Angola’s primary cement factories. She also got her foot in the door as a stakeholder of the Banco Internacional de Credito (International Credit Bank). The bank has since grown to hold $6.9 billion in assets in 2012. Digging deeper into the financials of Banco Internacional de Credito, their assets for the year grew from $1.01 billion AKZ in 2017 to $1.30 billion AKZ in 2018, yielding a 23% increase. This is due in part to the business savvy of Isabel’s tenure and multinational experience.

With so much going on and having interests and investments of such a large, diversified portfolio, CEOWorld.biz interviewed Isabel to “quiz” her on knowledge of ongoing ventures, business projects, and corporate social responsibility (CSR).

Interviewer: “What educational and social initiatives do you support?”

Isabel dos Santos: “First and foremost, I believe in making a difference in the lives of everyday people. I truly believe that children are our reason to exist. I love children. Our SOS maternal and child project at #Unitelis is an example of corporate social responsibility that we are very proud of. Additionally, at ZAP TV we are actively promoting the improvement of living conditions of children…by providing equipment and additional comfort to children.”

(Isabel’s projects also include Home Kuzola in Luanda, Global Lives Project, Seeds for the Future program, and various college student scholarships)

Interviewer: “What is your vision for the new Angola?”

Isabel dos Santos: “My vision for the future of Angola is crystal clear. I’m deeply committed to the transformation of Angola and the African continent as a whole. I would dearly love to see Africa brimming with entrepreneurs, in businesses big and small, with bold and ambitious initiatives taking place. African people are determined to succeed. We need to provide them with all the tools and resources needed to effect these changes.”

Interviewer: “Do you actively promote women in your companies?”

Isabel dos Santos: “As a manager, I have nurtured the empowerment of women, ensuring that when hiring and promoting the numbers are balanced, salaries are equal, and that career paths are equally open to both genders. On this journey there is still much to conquer. For example, it is unusual to meet women in top positions in business administration roles. I’m often the only one in a boardroom. Can we change this reality? Yes, we can. We have to look at our organizations and implement concrete measures that transform mentalities.”

Other questions were asked in-kind and answered in-kind during this interview which was published in April this year.

In short, Isabel dos Santos does not dictate or propagate wishful, utopic ideologies without having a plan of action and leaders to see it through. She walks the walk and makes her visions a reality. Just three weeks ago, at the International Economic Forum in Saint Petersburg, Isabel dos Santos challenged Russian leader Vladimir Putin to invest more in Africa. Chinese leader Xi Jinping and various businesses of India have already invested heavily in the continent, but more can be done. Energy and Infrastructure are important for any economy to grow, expand, and be self-sufficient. “There are many opportunities to invest in Africa” Isabel remarked.

With global reach, both high and low, Isabel dos Santos is an important figure to follow. In life, in business, and in serving those in need, it is exciting to see what “The Princess” of Angola will do next.

 

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