Isabel dos Santos (born 20 April 1973) is an Angolan businesswoman, Africa's richest woman and the eldest child of Angola's former President José Eduardo dos Santos, who ruled the country from 1979 to 2017. In 2013, according to research by Forbes, her net worth had reached more than three billion US dollars, making her Africa’s first billionaire woman. A Forbes magazine article described in 2013 how Isabel dos Santos acquired her wealth by taking stakes in companies doing business in Angola, suggesting that her wealth comes almost entirely from her family's power and connections. In November 2015, the BBC named Isabel dos Santos as one of the 100 most influential women in the world.
In the past 20 years Isabel dos Santos has held management positions in a number of companies listed on European stock exchanges. Isabel dos Santos returned from London in the early 1990s to join her father in Luanda and started working as a project manager engineer for Urbana 2000, a subsidiary of Jembas Group that had won a contract to clean and disinfect the city. Following that, she set up a trucking business. The widespread use of walkie-talkie technology paved the way for her subsequent foray into telecoms. In 1997, she started her first business, opening the Miami Beach Club, one of the first night clubs and beach restaurants on the Luanda Island. Over a period of nearly 20 years she expanded her business interests, leading to the creation of several holdings, in Angola and mostly abroad, making substantial investments in high-profile entreprises, especially in Portugal. In June 2016, she was appointed by President dos Santos as chairwoman of Sonangol, the Angolan state oil company. The controversial appointment in the wake of similar appointments of children of the president to key posts led to speculation in the Angolan media in March 2017 that Isabel dos Santos would leave Sonangol, which proved to be unfounded
Since 2008 she has had interests in 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. Jadeium, a company held by Isabel dos Santos, acquired 4.918% of ZON Multimedia shares from Spain’s Telefonica
With 51% control of Condis, Isabel dos Santos signed a joint partnership with the Portuguese Sonae group in April 2011 for the development and operation of a retail trading company in Angola. The entry in Angola by the Portuguese group led by Paulo de Azevedo will be performed by the Continente (Angola), which will open the first supermarket by 2013 in Angola
The starting point was the creation of Unitel in partnership with Portugal Telecom, after a tender process she considered fair. Also through Unitel International Holding, a platform for Unitel investments where Portugal Telecom has no presence, she acquired the mobile operator T+, in Cape Verde and gained the license for the establishment of the second telecom operator in São Tomé and Príncipe. Under this investment Isabel dos Santos announced during a visit to São Tomé and Príncipe that Unitel will invest in education in the country to train engineers, managers and other technicians and also focus on job creation
42 years old Isabel Dos Santos is the daughter of Jose Eduardo Dos Santos, the president of Angola since 1979. Being involved in investments, Forbes stated her as one of the richest and most powerful women in Africa. Net worth reaching more than US $ 3.5 billion, Isabel has become the first female billionaire of the country.
Isabel was an engineering student at the King’s College, London, and after graduation, she opened a restaurant called Miami Beach at the age of 24. It was one of the first beach restaurants and night clubs in Luanda Island. This was just a beginning, and Isabel had moved so fast since then. At present, she is the board member of a number of companies in Portugal and Angola, and owns huge stakes in affluent businesses, which include a cable TV service provider and also a bank.
Isabel owns 19.5% share in Banco BPI, one of the biggest banks in Portugal with an estimated worth of $465 million. She also owns 25% stake in Banco BIC, with value of more than $160 million. Earlier, she had 4.9% share in ZON Multimedia, the biggest cable TV service provider in Portugal. But recently, she increased her share to 28.8%. These stakes alone bring her net worth to over $1 billion, and there are many more.
Journey to Success
Other than this, Isabel also owns 25% share in Unitel, one of the biggest mobile phone networks in the country, which alone makes a billion of her net worth. Her wedding was a multi-million affair in itself. According to reports, more than $4 million was spent on the ceremony, which included a special choir that was invited from Belgium, and a couple of planes chartered from France to bring eateries. More than 800 guests attended the wedding which included relatives, friends, and a number of African presidents too
Earlier in her career, Isabel had also worked for a recycling company from Germany, and then moved forward to start a truck business. After the development of walkie-talkie, she was interested in the field of telecommunications. She had also worked for Urbana 2000 as an engineer project manager. With expanding interests in business, she created several holdings over time, and made significant investments in large enterprises.
Her current holdings include Unitel, Santoro Finance, Condis, Esperanza and many others. Publico, a Portuguese newspaper, described Isabel in 2007 as ‘good businesswoman, very dynamic and intelligent, who’s also professional and friendly’. Financial Times, a British newspaper also wrote about her in 2013, that ‘even some critics acknowledge Isabel dos Santos’s independent prowess as a businesswoman’.
At present, Isabel also serves as the president of the Angola Red Cross. With impressive stakes in several companies, she has acquired her wealth, and has become one of the richest people not only in Africa, but also across the world. Isabel’s astonishing business skills undoubtedly make her one of the most successful personalities of the 21st century.
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