Inspirational Gems from Africa’s Richest Woman, Isabel Dos Santos

Isabel Dos Santos

Meet Isabel Dos Santos, Africa’s Richest Woman and serial entrepreneur. As at September 2016, Forbes placed her net worth at $3.3 billion.

Her rise to success can be akin to John Mason’s quote, “The world creates room for a person with a purpose”. In a recent interview, Isabel dos Santos shared a bit more about herself and her experiences. She also had some words of wisdom for those who are reaching for greatness.

The rocky path to success

Isabel dos Santos was born in Baku, Azerbaijan on April 20th, 1973. As a young girl, she had made up her mind quite early to make an impact in what many had labelled, “A man’s world”.

Being the daughter of Angola’s longest serving president meant she was born with a silver spoon, however she says she chose to excel through the difficult part.

“I had always told myself that my success wouldn’t be defined by my background,” she says. “I didn’t get financing from the state or public funds, instead I opted to stay away from my parents’ shadow,” Isabel said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal. No doubt, in response to critics who believed she was thriving under the influence of her family’s status.

Education and rise to wealth

Isabel’s journey began at King’s College in London where she majored in electrical engineering, graduating with honours. She later returned to university to acquire a BA in Sciences.

She returned home in the early 1990s to Luanda, where she took up a job in Urbana 2000 as a project manager/engineer. The company is a subsidiary of Jembas Group, which has won a contract to disinfect and clean the country’s capital.

But Isabel dos Santos was not satisfied. Driven by hunger for success, she decided to leave Urbana 2000 and set up a trucking business; the company was to become her foundation before she left to join the world of telecommunications.

In 1997, when Isabel was barely 24 years, she opened Miami Beach Club, one of the first beach clubs on the island of Luanda. Within 20 years, she had expanded her empire to include several companies in Angola and overseas. Her companies also span to Portugal and other Portuguese speaking countries.

In 2007, the business mogul was named by Publico, Portugal’s leading newspaper as the “African personality of the year”, beating five other nominees from the continent.

Investment and holdings

In June 2016, Isabel was appointed as the head of Angola’s state oil firm, Sonangol. Her father, announced in February 2017, that he would not be running for another term. In Angola, Dos Santos assets make up 25% of Unitel, the largest mobile network in the country. She also owns 42% of shares in Banco BIC, one of Angola’s leading financial institutions.

In Portugal, she is holds 6% of shares in Galp Energy, the oil and gas corporation, as well as 19% of Banco GPI, the 4th largest bank in the country.

Clearly, there is no stopping Isabel Dos Santos, as she seeks to expand her empire even further. When asked if she had any advice for upcoming achievers, she said, “Always believe in yourself. It might not come easy at first, but perseverance always wins.”


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