Isabel dos Santos is Betting on the Future of Africa

Isabel dos Santos Reaches Africa by Targeting it's Future in Technology

Isabel dos Santos is placing her bet on Africa’s youth, its developing communities, technological advancements, and African women entrepreneurs. What is dos Santos’ stake in the game? She’s putting her time, resources, knowledge, and her ability to influence and inspire others on the table.

Dos Santos is one of thirteen black billionaires in the world (ranked at #7 with a net worth of $2.3 billion US), one of only three black women billionaires (another being Oprah), the richest woman in Africa, and the youngest black billionaire at 45. She leads the world in women who are determined to make a difference in her immediate communities of Angola, other countries of Africa, and the deep socioeconomic disparities around the world.

Dos Santos believes that focusing on the well-being of local communities, inspiring her country’s rapidly increasing population of youth, and empowering African women in business and entrepreneurial endeavors is the key to moving Africa into enduring growth and prosperity.


How the Cards Fell

As the daughter of Angola’s former president, Jose Eduardo dos Santos (1979-2017), Isabel dos Santos has seen her country’s progress and strife from different perspectives. Witnessing and experiencing both adversity and prosperity in her own life, dos Santos developed a sense of business acumen and socioeconomic responsibility at a young age. The idea that dos Santos would develop these sensibilities, given her upbringing, is not surprising; what is remarkable is her tremendous success and increasing influence as a woman in a historically male-dominated society. Dos Santos attributes a large part of her traits as a businesswoman and strong entrepreneurial spirit to the attitude of her mother and father, who never once implied that she would be suppressed by a male-dominated world or dependent on her brothers, future husband, or anyone else for her prosperity or well-being. They instead encouraged her to think for herself and aspire to be anything she wanted to be, perhaps a computer scientist or an astronaut. Dos Santos encourages all mothers and fathers to treat boys and girls with equal expectations of excellence and independence for their futures, and to help lead the way for other parents.

At the early age of six, Isabel dos Santos exhibited her penchant for business by selling chicken eggs to support her cotton candy habit. As a young girl, she attended Cobham Hall, a prestigious all-girl boarding school in England, and then with an aptitude for the sciences, she went on to study engineering at the University of London (King’s College). After earning her bachelor’s degree in Engineering Science and Management, dos Santos returned to Angola and started working as an engineer and project manager for Urbana 2000, a sanitation company that had won a contract for the cleanup of Angola.


Cashing in on the Technology Chips

During Isabel dos Santos’ employment at Urbana 2000, she kept a watchful eye on any new business opportunities, at one point selling her car to gain the capital to start a trucking company, the first of her many businesses to come. The trucking company’s use of walkie-talkies inspired dos Santos’ later endeavors into telecommunications and led to her role as Co-founder of UNITEL, now the largest telecommunications company in Angola. As head of UNITEL, dos Santos vastly improved her country’s telecommunications infrastructure, providing the ability for both urban and rural areas to communicate with each other, allowing them access to information from the rest of the world, and in the process, her company created more than 50,000 jobs.

Isabel dos Santos has since ventured into several different industries that now comprise an impressive portfolio, including telecommunications, media, retail, finance, energy, construction, education, entertainment as well as many recognized charitable endeavors.


Empowerment of Women – The Hand That’s Dealt

Isabel dos Santos believes in the importance of empowering African women as the key to transforming societies. Her entrepreneurial spirit and successes in business, as well as her everyday struggles with gender discrimination in a male-dominated world, are the foundation for her ability to represent, inspire, and provide opportunities to women across the continent.

In her address to a 2018 United Nations conference on equal rights for women, dos Santos campaigned for more entrepreneurial opportunities for women by improving accessibility to education, disseminating knowledge of present and future opportunities, and most importantly, ending discriminatory limitations in capital lending practices. And dos Santos is not bluffing about creating these opportunities; she recently funded an agricultural project, a strawberry farm in Humpata, Uganda, with her own money. The farm now employs more than 120 women.

Isabel dos Santos encourages other African entrepreneurs to contribute to their countries similarly, building the nation one community at a time. She states on 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.”


Aspiring to Inspire Youth – Building a Full House

Isabel dos Santos inspires Africa’s youth not just by example alone. She seeks out opportunities to tell her own success story but also highlights stories of exceptional young entrepreneurs who persevere against all odds to build something from nothing. Just by recognizing the success stories of Africa’s youth, dos Santos shines a beacon of hope to other young people and encourages them to make a difference themselves by working toward their personal independence, education, short term and lifetime goals, and their social responsibility by way of giving back to their communities.

In an address as a keynote speaker to the Yale Undergraduate Association for African Peace and Development, an organization promoting conflict resolution, peace, and development in Africa and the African diaspora, dos Santos emphasizes the importance of dedication to one’s success and perseverance to that goal.

A Supporting Hand

In her desire to continue reaching out to young people and connecting with those who have the same spirit and passion for entrepreneurism, empowerment of women, and youth across the world, Isabel dos Santos started her own blog, “Sharing.” In a recent post, she stated:

“I believe in talent and, every day, I bet on empowering the next generation of leaders. Because the development of Africa and my country is my priority as an Angolan businesswoman. “

Isabel dos Santos, a true leader herself, will undoubtedly empower the next generation of true leaders in Africa and around the world.


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