Isabel dos Santos, born on April 20, 1973, is a prominent Angolan-Russian businesswoman and widely recognized as Africa’s richest woman. She has made a significant impact in various industries, both in Angola and abroad, accumulating a staggering net worth of $3.5 billion. Let’s delve into the life and career of this influential figure and explore her rise to success.
Early Life and Education:
Isabel dos Santos is the eldest daughter of former Angolan President José Eduardo dos Santos and his first wife, Tatiana Kukanova, who hails from Russia.
She was born in Baku, Azerbaijan SSR, and received her education from prestigious institutions such as Cobham Hall School in Kent, England, and St. Paul’s Girls’ School in London. She later pursued electrical engineering at King’s College in London. In 2002, she married Sindika Dokolo, a Congolese art collector and businessman.
Dos Santos embarked on her business career in 1997, initially establishing companies and investments in Angola and expanding her reach internationally.
She started as a project manager engineer for Urbana 2000, a subsidiary of the Jembas Group, which had secured a contract for city cleaning and disinfection. Later, she ventured into entrepreneurship, starting her own trucking company. Her interest in telecommunications emerged with the growing popularity of walkie-talkie technology, setting the stage for her future endeavors.
In 1997, Dos Santos opened her first company, the Miami Beach Club, which quickly became one of Luanda Island’s premier nightclubs and beach eateries.
Her entrepreneurial acumen caught the attention of her father, who appointed her as the chairperson of Sonangol, the state oil company, in June 2016. However, her tenure was short-lived, as the newly elected President of Angola, João Lourenço, removed her from the position just two months after taking office.
Challenges and Controversies:
Dos Santos has faced several legal challenges and controversies throughout her career. In December 2019, the Luanda Provincial Court froze her personal bank accounts, along with her late husband’s, Sindika Dokolo, and another individual’s, in connection with alleged transactions made with Angolan government entities. The court discovered evidence suggesting that dos Santos and others had used funds from state-owned companies to acquire personal assets. These allegations resulted in Forbes removing her from the list of Africa’s wealthiest individuals in 2021.
Investments and Business Ventures:
Dos Santos has been actively involved in various Portuguese industries since 2008, including telecommunications, media, retail, finance, and energy. She acquired a significant stake in ZON Multimédia, a telecommunications and media company, and became its largest shareholder.
Dos Santos also invested in Banco Português de Investimento through Santoro Holding and held a significant share in the Angolan national oil company, Sonangol, through Esperanza Holding. Additionally, she played a role in the establishment of Banco BIC Português.
Despite the controversies surrounding her business dealings, Isabel dos Santos has undeniably left an indelible mark on the business world. As Africa’s richest woman, she has been instrumental in various sectors, particularly in Angola and Portugal. However, recent legal challenges and frozen assets have significantly impacted her standing. As the story of Isabel dos Santos continues to unfold, it serves as a reminder of the complexities and challenges faced by influential figures in the world of business.