The topic of development in Africa is a common one amongst those who seek the betterment of the global community. Though many speak on the subject in a range of venues across the world, the subject of economic development through entrepreneurism is becoming more and more common of late. With many economists promoting the idea of a grassroots development that originates from within a country, many business leaders are adding their voice to the chorus of people calling for change. One such person is Isabel dos Santos, a noted businesswoman and philanthropist who has taken to using her high profile to help bring attention to the plight of those in difficult situations. With a number of speaking engagements around the world, her talks make for an interesting case study into this wave of developmental thought.
Career and education
One thing that makes the businesswoman’s voice so compelling in the call for increased economic activity is her own success in a wide range of industries. With a hand in the founding and leadership of firms across finance, construction, and telecommunications, she is able to speak with firsthand experience in some of the largest parts of the global economy. Through these activities she has learned a host of skills that translate well to her philanthropic endeavors, including the ability to effectively broker deals and structure large organizations.
Though she credits her upbringing as a contributing factor towards her success, some of the entrepreneur’s skill set also comes from her formal education in various institutions in England. During her time there she attended the Kent-based Cobham Hall for both primary and secondary school. She would later go on to attend Kings College in London, where she studied electrical engineering. This pursuit would contribute largely to her ability to pursue economic opportunities in technological-related industries later in life.
Value of economic development
A main focus of the work that dos Santos emphasizes in her public speaking engagements is the ability of economic success to lift a community up from its own efforts. As opportunities to bring in work from outside sources increases with the advent of the internet and other remote working opportunities, many communities in Africa have found that they can benefit from the world economy in the same manner as other developing nations. This not only helps to bring fresh capital into isolated places, but also helps to integrate ideas from outside communities into insular parts of the continent.
One of the most pressing ideas identified by dos Santos that can be brought in along with economic development is equality between men and women. Though many societies have traditionally supported men in their business endeavors, the same cannot always be said for women. As the entrepreneur herself puts it, not allowing women the same opportunities to participate in the economy is an unnecessary hindrance to development that serves to make a difficult situation even harder. By encouraging young women to pursue careers as entrepreneurs, nations can see their fortunes increase at a rate that would be otherwise unattainable.
Power of long-term commitment
Another hallmark of the businesswoman’s advice is the importance of setting long-term goals and making steady progress towards them rather than wanting an immediate payoff. This idea came up at a recent engagement at the University of Warwick where she spoke with students interested in becoming involved in development in Africa. One of the key components of her back and forth with those in attendance was the importance of subgoals to be able to work towards a larger goal. By engaging in such a method of operating, one can help to avoid burnout and instead build off of past successes in the pursuit of an overarching long-term undertaking.
Part of this advice also centered around the importance of involving oneself as much as possible in the decision-making process that is related to a goal. This allows people to feel personally connected to a pursuit and confers a sense of agency over the means of achieving a goal. This can be especially helpful when dealing with a large idea such as development in Africa, which has so many moving parts and such a large scope that it can be easy to lose one’s way in the process. This advice can also be used to encourage a focus on one particular goal at a time, such as finishing school, before starting on another component of a long-term goal, such as using one’s degree to start a career.
Wisdom from struggle
Another hallmark of the speaking engagements that Isabel dos Santos attends is her ability to relay her own struggles with working in the world of business as a woman, and how those struggles helped motivate her towards her present success. This resilience has served as part of her drive towards helping some of the smallest and most underserved communities in Africa, such as the town of Humpata, in the province of Huila, Angola. In that town she helped to empower the citizenry by working with local inhabitants to establish a strawberry field that would be used to further develop the local economy through commerce.
The strawberry field project was one that was conceived to focus on helping women, which is a cause that the entrepreneur feels personally connected to. As women in the area benefitted from the added economic stimulus the project provided, it again called attention to her personal philosophies. Speaking on this type of development, she commented that “Creating opportunities and employment for women means betting on the progress of the communities themselves.”
While there are many schools of thought relating to development in Africa, it is often instructive to listen to those most intimately connected to a community in order to help provide for its needs. As a successful female entrepreneur from Africa, Isabel dos Santos is well-placed to listen to the communities she is working with and provide her owns insights to help all involved reach a place of economic stability. Though philanthropic work, speaking engagements, and a commitment to help contribute to the greater good, she and others like her are working to usher in a new and brighter economic reality for all of Africa.