Gone are the days when all African women did was bear children, raise them, take care of their husband and generally run the home front. Many of them had no formal education and were less expressive. Today’s African woman is strong, daring, enterprising and among world leaders emerging in every sphere of life, and they are even named among the richest in the world. This wasn’t obtainable some decades ago.
One of these African women that we are proud of is Angola’s Isabel dos Santos, whose name does not just make headlines in her country alone but also in the whole continent. Isabel dos Santos was recently named the richest woman in Africa by Forbes.
But who really is she, and what line of business got her where she is? Answers to all these questions and more are provided below.
Isabel dos Santos is the oldest daughter of Angola’s former president, Jose Eduardo dos Santos, who stepped down in fall 2017. She was born 20 April 1973, in Baku, Azerbaijan SSR and attended the all-girls boarding school in Kent, Cobham Hall for high and King’s College London where she studied electrical engineering.
In the early 1990s, Isabel dos Santos returned from London to join her father in Luanda. She got employed by a German recycling company. Alongside her job, she set up a trucking business. Then, the development of a walkie-talkie system made way for her subsequent exploration of the telecommunications industry. In 1997, at the age of 24, she opened the Miami Beach Club, one of the first nightclubs and beach restaurants on the Luanda Island. Over a period of nearly 20 years, she expanded her business interests continuously and this led her to create several holdings in companies within the following sectors: telecommunications, media, retail, finance and the energy industry, both in Angola and in Portugal. In addition to her commercial interest in oil and diamonds, Isabel dos Santos also owns shares in the Angola cement company, Nova Cimangola. She also holds 28.8% stake in Portuguese media conglomerate, Zon Multimedia.
In 2012, Isabel Dos Santos was given Lifetime Achievement Prize for Entrepreneurial Excellence in Africa by Millenium Excellence Foundation. She was also appointed by the Togolese magazine Africa Top Success for “African of the Year” in December 2014.
In 2016, her father (being president at the time) made her head of Sonangol, Angola’s state oil firm but Angola’s new president removed her from that role in November 2017. She is currently the president of Angola Red cross.
With an estimated net worth of $2.6 billion, Isabel dos Santos, has been named the richest woman in Angola and the whole of Africa by Forbes.
However, there have been some arguments on how she managed to amass such amount of wealth even in a war-torn country like Angola. There are also some unfounded allegations against her, one of such allegations claim she acquired her wealth by taking stakes in companies that want to do business in Angola, terming her wealth as “kleptocratic”.
But after a thorough research by Forbes, it found that her father transferred to her stakes in several Angolan companies, including banks and a telecom firm, Isabel’s wealth is also as a result of her purchase of shares from Portuguese companies, including telecom and cable TV firm Nos SGPS. A spokesperson for Isabel said she is an independent businesswoman and a private investor representing solely her own interests.
Her Most Recent Holdings and Investments include:
- Unitel International Holdings BV: change of name of Kento and Jadeium, based in Amsterdam, company-vehicle for Isabel dos Santos’ investment in telecommunications(25%)
- Santoro Finance: company-vehicle for Isabel dos Santos’ investment in Banco BPI based in Lisbon(19.5%)
- Angola’s Banco BIC(42.5%)
- Esperanza: based in Amsterdam, energy, oil etc.
- Condis: a retail business based in Luanda(51%)
Isabel dos Santos’ Husband, Children
Isabel dos Santos is married to a Congolese art collector and businessman, Sindika Dokolo. Mr. Dokolo owns one of the most important contemporary African art collections in the continent. The couple has been married since 2002 and is blessed with 3 children.
As earlier mentioned Isabel dos Santos is the daughter of Angola’s longtime former president, Jose Eduardo dos Santos, who he had with his first wife, Tatiana Kukanova. The couple met while Jose was studying in the Soviet republic of Azerbaijan.