There are many inspiring stories in the news today, but few have the power to ignite around the globe as the works of Isabel dos Santos. Her tireless work in the African country of Angola is driven by a passion for transformative change that begins with an investment in building the skills and education of the next generation.
As Africa’s first female billionaire and one of only 11 female billionaires in the world, dos Santos is poised to become the voice of change for this generation. She is investing her personal energy and the work of her various companies into giving back within Angola and empowering people toward self-sufficiency.
Today, Isabel dos Santos is a businesswoman on a mission — to create opportunities for Angolans and improve lives throughout the region. This starts with tackling some of the toughest economic conditions on the planet in an area riddled with poverty, often lacking even basic communication infrastructure or technology.
“Anyone that dreams of changing Africa, education is the key. We must educate our girls, as they are the future mothers and an encyclopedia of knowledge for their children.”
The Voice of a New Generation
An Angola native, Isabel dos Santos is the oldest daughter of former Angola President Jose Eduardo dos Santos and his wife Tatiana Kukanova of Russia. Fortunately, her father was a firm believer in providing his daughter with the same solid education as her brothers.
Isabel dos Santos majored in electrical engineering at King’s College in London after spending her younger years in boarding school in Kent, England. This provided dos Santos with a wider perspective of women in the world, lighting a burning desire for her to return to Africa and share her vision for a brighter future — a future led by well-educated women with strong entrepreneurial spirits. As dos Santos shared to Africanews: “Anyone that dreams of changing Africa, education is the key. We must educate our girls, as they are the future mothers and an encyclopedia of knowledge for their children”.
Bridging Economic Challenges in Rural Africa
As chairperson of Unitel, Isabel dos Santos has an opportunity to attend meetings with world leaders such as the recent International Economic Forum. This gathering reinforced the commitment to ensure that the communications and transportation infrastructure of Angola specifically, and Africa as a whole, are upgraded to meet the rising standards of the rest of the developed world.
With the passing of the new African Continental Free Trade Area (ACFTA), it’s more important than ever that communities create a free-flowing economy that allows for active trade and access to the building blocks for a more robust economy. The lack of robust transportation options is one of the most difficult tests as it requires improving everything from highways to waterways if Angola hopes to be a player on the global market.
Enhancing Education and Skills Training for Women in Angola
As the center of the family unit in Angola, women face a unique set of hurdles making it challenging for them to enhance their education or learn to be self-sufficient. Starting with education and access to banking via micro-transactions allows women to create the scaffolding for their community that begins with the growth of hyper-local businesses.
Isabel dos Santos and Unitel are investing heavily in the region, providing a series of initiatives focused on education and skills training. This could include everything from helping improve knowledge of agriculture to offering opportunities for training outside the home to improve commercial farming and other operations.
Partnering With China to Educate Youth and Reduce Economic Gaps
One of the key initiatives that Isabel dos Santos is currently heading is a partnership between Unitel and Huawei, providing scholars in Angola with an immersive opportunity for learning in China. This program provides selected students who are receiving top academic marks to visit the Huawei factory in Shenzhen to learn Mandarin and also begin to understand the path to future success for their country. This ongoing relationship between the two regions allows each side to leverage its strengths: China’s infrastructure and Angola’s agricultural bounty. Throughout her career, dos Santos has overcome the bias from male-dominated industries and continued to forge forward on her mission to support the country that she believes in so strongly.
Keep Reading: Isabel dos Santos is Betting on the Future of Africa
Creating a Sustainable Future for Angola
Sustainability is a key focus for Unitel and Isabel dos Santos in Angola. Investments in the region have been short-lived in the past, perhaps not providing the long-term advantage that the residents need. With Angola’s abundant natural offerings such as crude oil and agricultural options, there is a major demand for green solutions and plenty of opportunities for entrepreneurs that are focused in this direction. It’s vital that these sustainable businesses are able to attract individuals with the necessary knowledge to grow their business — accountants, engineers and attorneys, in particular. Without access to adequate education, the dream of defining a future where Angola competes openly on the world stage is much further in the future than hoped. Providing access to early education for children and enhanced opportunities for women will allow Angola the brain trust needed to build strong connections in the world that will help propel the people of Angola from poor living conditions into the future.
One thing is clear, with Isabel dos Santos as a driving force for change, the people of Angola have a strong advocate on their side. The future will be defined by the individuals and families that receive ongoing education, better access to telecommunications infrastructure and technology as well as the training required to improve their communities. Even the most rural regions have rich opportunities for growth in the future as passionate businesswomen like Isabel dos Santos use their voice in the global market to encourage investments within Angola. Africa is on the cusp of opportunities to truly enter the global stage, sharing the natural abundance of this beautiful country with the world.
Creating these global economic opportunities requires a data network that is on par with those in other developed nations, speeding communications and awareness between nations. From education to healthcare, economics to agriculture, the improved telecommunications infrastructure headed up by Unitel — the largest telecommunications company in Angola — is set to provide the necessary boost that individuals need to be successful. With all of this, Isabel dos Santos has a unique opportunity to leverage her personal brand and that of her companies to increase interest in bolstering the Angolan economy and continue to be a shining beacon of hope for women throughout the country.