Isabel dos Santos

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Isabel dos Santos
Born Isabel dos Santos
(1973-04-20) 20 April 1973 (age 43)[1]
Baku, Azerbaijan SSR
Residence Luanda, Angola
Nationality Angola
Alma mater King's College London
Occupation Investor
Net worth Rise US$ 3.4 billion (November 2015)[2]
Spouse(s) Sindika Dokolo (m. 2002)
Children 3[3]
Parent(s) José Eduardo dos Santos

Isabel dos Santos (born 20 April 1973)[4] is an Angolan investor[5] considered by Forbes to be the richest woman not only in Angola, but the whole of Africa.[6][7][8] In 2013, according to research by Forbes, her net worth had reached more than three billion US dollars, making her Africa’s first billionaire woman. She is the daughter of Angola's President José Eduardo dos Santos, who has ruled the country since 1979.

Family and education[edit]

Isabel dos Santos was born in Baku, Azerbaijan SSR,[4] the oldest daughter of Angola's President José Eduardo dos Santos and his first wife, the Russian-born Tatiana Kukanova, whom he met while studying in Azerbaijan.[9][10][11] Her father's parents came from São Tomé and Príncipe.[12][13] She studied electrical engineering[14] at King's College in London.[15] There she met her husband from Zaire (now Democratic Republic of the Congo), Sindika Dokolo,[16] a son of a millionaire from Kinshasa and his Danish wife.[17] There were reports that when they got married in Luanda in December 2002[18] the wedding ceremony cost about US$4 million, with a special choir flown in from Belgium and two planes chartered to bring food from France.[19] About 800 guests were present at the wedding, half of them relatives of the couple,[18] and also several African presidents.[19]

Over the last 20 years she has been manager and has held management positions in companies listed on European stock exchanges. In June 2016, she was appointed by her father as chairwoman of Sonangol, the Angolan state oil company.[20]

In March 2017, on the sidelines of the international Energy Conference CERAWeek ,[21] in Houston, Isabel dos Santos announced that Sonangol had already achieved reduced logistics costs by 50% between 2015 and 2017 under the restructuring program that is being implemented in the company.[22]

Still on the sidelines of this meeting, Isabel dos Santos revealed that Sonangol's vision is to "create the new generation of NOC (national oil companies)".[23]

In the meantime, growing discontent in Angola with José Eduardo dos Santos' appointing several of his children to key posts, Angolan media announced she would within short leave Sonangol again.[24] However, in an interview with Reuters at the energy conference CERAWeek, Isabel dos Santos guaranteed that her position and Sonangol's board will remain in place. "We're not part of the government ... We have a clear mandate that has been given to the company and we will fulfill the mandate," she said.[25][26]

Business activities[edit]

In the early 1990s, Isabel dos Santos returned from London to join her father in Luanda and started working as a project manager engineer for Urbana 2000, a subsidiary of Jembas Group, that won the contract for cleaning and disinfection of the city.[27] Following that, she set up a trucking business. The widespread use of walkie-talkie tecchnology paved the way for her subsequent foray into telecoms.[28] In 1997, at the age of 24, she started her first business by opening the Miami Beach Club,[29] one of the first night clubs and beach restaurants on the Luanda Island. Over a period of nearly 20 years she expanded her business interests, leading to the creation of several holdings, in Angola and mostly abroad, and to make substantial investments in a series of prestigious entreprises, especially in Portugal.[30][31]

In December 2014, the Togolese magazine Africa Top Success named Isabel dos Santos as "African of the Year". The Angolan businesswoman competed against five opponents, namely Angélique Kidjo, Lupita Nyong'o, Daphne Mashile-Nkosi, Fatou Bensouda and Koki Mutungi.[32]

In November 2015, the BBC named Isabel dos Santos as one of the 100 most influential women in the world.[33] As part of the BBC series 100 Women, which elects women who every year made a difference in their area of operation,[34] Isabel dos Santos was chosen for the list for her leading role in the economy and development of the African continent.[35][36] In an interview with British public service broadcaster, issued on BBC World News channel, Isabel dos Santos stated that we are seeing a change in the way investors look at Africa, and that education remains a big gap in Angola’s development. Isabel dos Santos was also asked about the role of women in politics and business, stating that “there’s a young generation of African women who are highly educated and also are very exposed to the world and (…) they want to change History. And that’s our dream, make Africa a place like anywhere else in the world.”[37]

In 2016, Isabel dos Santos participated as a speaker at the "Leader del Futuro" meeting, within the 42nd edition of The European House - Ambrosetti Forum, one of the most influential think tanks in Europe.[38][39] Speaking about "Leadership and Business" in a panel on Africa, Isabel dos Santos said that "an idea and the ability to innovate is at the heart of any business" and "we must never let expectations or stereotypes hinder our way."[40][41]

In December 2016 Isabel Dos Santos was selected by Politico to be part of the Politico 28 list, "given her remarkable performance in business".[42] According to the site, Politico 28 is a guide to the people most likely to shape our world in 2017. Politico 28 list for Europe celebrates the 28 individuals who have most influenced Europe’s agenda – politicians and business leaders, entrepreneurs and innovators, artists and activists, wheelers, dealers and dreamers – and who are shaping European politics and driving change on the continent.

Investments in Portugal[edit]

Since 2008 she has had relevant interests in telecommunications, media, retail, finance and the energy industry, both in Angola and in Portugal. In addition to her commercial interest in oil and diamonds, Isabel dos Santos also owns shares in the Angola cement company Nova Cimangola. Jadeium, a company held by Isabel dos Santos, acquired 4.918% of ZON Multimedia shares from Spain’s Telefonica.[43][44]

Through the Netherlands-based Unitel International Holdings BV,[45] a company controlled by Isabel dos Santos,[46][47] the Angolan businesswoman is the main shareholder of ZON Multimédia with 29% since July 2012.[48][49] She is member of the board of Angolan bank in Lisbon, Banco BIC Português,[50] and through Santoro Holding she holds 20% stakes at Banco Português de Investimento.[51][52] She has other major stakes with the Angolan state oil company Sonangol through their mutual European Law holding, based in the Netherlands, named Esperanza Holding, in Portuguese Galp Energia.[53] Isabel dos Santos is a founding member and Board member of Banco BIC Português,[54] which recently acquired Banco Português de Negócios, a nationalized bank.[55]

Since November 2012 Isabel dos Santos is a non-executive board member of ZON.[56] In December 2012, Isabel dos Santos announced the invitation for a merger of ZON with Sonaecom, proved in March 2013 by the General Assembly.[45] Eight months later, after the green light from the Competition Authority, the merger of the two companies was formalized on August 27, 2013, with the transfer to ZOPT, a special purpose vehicle created to advance the operation which became the owner of more 50% of the capital of the new group, the shares that Isabel dos Santos and Sonaecom hold on Zon and Optimus respectively. There was a capital increase of ZOPT through contribution in kind from 50 to 716 million euros, while Sonaecom subscribed 358 million shares of the company, by delivering 81.8% of its stake in Optimus. The Angolan businesswoman, on her turn, subscribed exactly the same number of shares of ZOPT, through her holdings Kento and Unitel International, delivering 28.8% of the stake in ZON.[57][58][59][60] With this transfer of shareholdings in Optimus and Zon, Sonaecom and Isabel dos Santos became holders of over 50% stake in the merged company: Zon Optimus SGPS. On this occasion, a new strategy for the company was announced by Isabel dos Santos, with a multimarket vision.[61][62] On October 1, 2013, Isabel dos Santos attended the first General Assembly of Zon Optimus.[63] Isabel dos Santos’ investments in Portugal are in listed companies, which are therefore subject to official supervision of the Portuguese Securities Market Commission (CMVM).[64]

In November 2014, Isabel dos Santos launched a takeover bid for Portugal Telecom, SGPS, S.A., valuing the firm’s shares at €1.35 a share, in what was seen as a rival bid to a previous €7 billion offer from Altice. Though the offer made by Altice is on PT Portugal, not on PT SGPS.[65] On December 1, 2014, the Angolan businesswoman formally registered her offer at the Portuguese Securities Market Commission (Comissão do Mercado de Valores Mobiliários, CMVM, in Portuguese).[66]

In January 2017 Unitel, led by Isabel dos Santos, officialized the purchase of 2% of Banco Fomento de Angola (BFA bank) from BPI for 28 million euros and now controls 51.9% of the bank's capital.[67] The operation was approved by sector regulators, namely the National Bank of Angola (BNA) in December 2016. In February 2017 Isabel dos Santos decides to sell her position in Banco BPI, following the takeover bid launched by CaixaBank. All in all, Isabel dos Santos arrived in 2009, stepped out in 2017 and won more than 80 million euros: Santos’ capital gain comes not only from the sale of the 18.5% holding on BPI, but also from the dividends from 2008 and 2009, worth around 12.6 million euros.[68]

Investments in Angola[edit]

With 51% control of Condis, Isabel dos Santos signed a joint partnership with the Portuguese Sonae group in April 2011 for the development and operation of a retail trading company in Angola. The entry in Angola by the Portuguese group led by Paulo de Azevedo will be performed by the Continente (Angola), which will open the first supermarket by 2013 in Angola.[69]

Focus on telecommunications[edit]

The starting point, however, was the creation of Unitel in partnership with Portugal Telecom, after a tender process she considered fair.[28]

Also through Unitel International Holding, a platform for Unitel investments where Portugal Telecom has no presence, she acquired the mobile operator T+, in Cape Verde and gained the license for the establishment of the second telecom operator in São Tomé and Príncipe.[70][71][72] Under this investment Isabel dos Santos announced during a visit to São Tomé and Príncipe that Unitel will invest in education in the country to train engineers, managers and other technicians and also focus on job creation.[73]

In an interview during the New York Forum Africa, held in June 2013 in Libreville, Gabon, Isabel dos Santos said that future of telecommunications in Africa is about thinking beyond mobile phones and focusing on connectivity with high capacity and big broad band that can connect the African continent.[74][75]

In November 2014, Isabel dos Santos participated in the 5th edition of the Global Entrepreneurship Summit held in Marrakech, Morocco.[76] During her speech, the Angolan businesswoman classified Africa's economic environment and African market as "very attractive"[77] and revealed that Unitel and Google entered into a partnership for the installation of a fiber optic submarine cable that will connect Africa to Brazil and Brazil with United States.[78]


Holdings of Isabel dos Santos in the recent years:[79][80]

  • Trans Africa Investment Services, a Gibraltar based vehicle founded together with her mother for the diamond business
  • Unitel International Holdings B.V.: change of name of Kento and Jadeium, based in Amsterdam, company-vehicle for Isabel dos Santos’ investment in telecommunications
  • Santoro Finance: company-vehicle for Isabel dos Santos’ investment in Banco BPI based in Lisbon
  • Esperaza Holding B.V.: based in Amsterdam, energy, oil etc.
  • Condis: a retail business based in Luanda


In 2007 Isabel dos Santos was described by Portuguese daily newspaper Público as a “good businesswoman, very dynamic and intelligent, who’s also professional and friendly”.[81] The British newspaper Financial Times wrote, in March 2013, that “even some critics acknowledge Isabel dos Santos’s independent prowess as a businesswoman”. In the same interview, Isabel dos Santos says she does business and is not a politician.[28]

The remarkable growth of Isabel dos Santos' involvement in the Portuguese communications sector has led to concern in the Portuguese media. Newspapers expressed discontent with the latest transactions in 2012. According to an editorial, the operation can lead to a monopoly in some areas of the media business by centralizing Angola and Portugal. According to another editorial,[82] Isabel dos Santos has said she has no interest to invest in Portuguese media. Moreover, Isabel dos Santos was also accused of political bias, such as inside information and contacts in Portugal.[83] However Portuguese analysts say "Isabel dos Santos has holdings that are professionally managed, with the appointment of professional managers, with the profile that requires to listed companies and developed markets". There is no news of issues with Isabel dos Santos shareholder on any of the companies.[84] Over the past three years (2009-2012) her share has increased exponentially. The sectors that draw attention are the Telecommunication and the financial system. Both activities are the investment priorities in of her own companies in Angola and abroad. Isabel dos Santos, currently one of the greatest entrepreneurs of her country, expands its business to Europe without diversifying the industries it serves.[83]

A Forbes magazine article described how Isabel dos Santos acquired her wealth by taking stakes in companies that want to do business in Angola, suggesting that her wealth comes almost entirely from her family's power and connections. kleptocracy.[85][86] Recently, Isabel dos Santos stated in an interview to Wall Street Journal: “I’m not financed by any state money or any public funds. I don’t do that. I always had this wish to stand alone and not be in my parents’ shadow.”[87]

By 2015, Isabel dos Santos owned a share of satellite-TV operator ZAP, that had in December 2013 acquired the rights to distribute Forbes in a number of Portuguese speaking countries, namely Portugal, Angola and Mozambique. It had been announced that most of the content would be produced by a local team, complemented by content for the North American edition, therefore potentially allowing influence on Forbes content. It was initially planned that the first edition of the Portuguese language Forbes would be published during the second quarter of 2014. [88]

Isabel dos Santos is President of Angola Red Cross.[89]


  1. ^ Isabel dos Santos Profile Africa Confidential
  2. ^ Isabel dos Santos Profile on Forbes
  3. ^ Burgis, Tom (March 29, 2013). "Lunch with the FT: Isabel dos Santos". Financial Times. Retrieved January 8, 2016. 
  4. ^ a b ISABEL DOS SANTOS - SEGREDOS E PODER DO DINHEIRO. Filipe S. Fernandes. Documentation (Portuguese)
  5. ^ "Isabel Dos Santos". 
  6. ^ Isabel Dos Santos, Daughter Of Angola's President, Is Africa's First Woman Billionaire retrieved 23 January 2013
  7. ^ Forbes: Africa’s Richest Women May 2, 2011
  8. ^ [1]
  9. ^ The Guardian: "Isabel dos Santos, dubbed 'princess', named Africa's first female billionaire" by David Smith January 25, 2013
  10. ^ Mail & Guardian (Zambia): "Angola: Who's who in the palace?" by Louise Redvers November 2, 2012
  11. ^ The Australian: "Angolan Africa's first woman billionaire" January 25, 2013
  12. ^ Biography at MPLA website (Portuguese)
  13. ^ Mail & Guardian: "Angola: Who's who in the palace?" by Louise Redvers November 02, 2012
  14. ^ Celso Filipe, Report about Isabel dos Santos on Negócios Online, December 2008
  15. ^ "Isabel dos Santos: 'First African female billionaire'". BBC News. 
  16. ^ "La Famille Dokolo : Ndona Tuluka - Nzolantima - Hanne - Manzanza - Sindika - Luzolo". 
  17. ^ "Augustin Dokolo, an African entrepreneur". Retrieved 14 March 2013. 
  18. ^ a b "Isabel dos Santos: A face invisível dos negócios angolanos em Portugal" (in Portuguese). Jornal Público. 2009-12-30. Retrieved 2013-02-24. 
  19. ^ a b "Isabel dos Santos Africas First Female Billionaire". Guardian. 2009-12-30. Retrieved 2013-02-24. 
  20. ^ "All in the family: Angola president picks eldest daughter to head state oil firm, western firms scramble for contracts". MG Africa. 2016-06-03. Retrieved 2017-03-14. 
  21. ^ Group, Global Media (2017-03-07). "Energia - Isabel dos Santos oradora em cimeira mundial de energia". DN (in Portuguese). Retrieved 2017-03-14. 
  22. ^ "Isabel Dos Santos Talks Cost-Cutting at Cera". Retrieved 2017-03-14. 
  23. ^ ECO (2017-03-08). "Petrolíferas precisam de "modelo mais resistente"". ECO. Retrieved 2017-03-14. 
  24. ^ See e.g. Novo Jornal / Luanda, 10/03/2017
  25. ^ "CERAWEEK-Angola slashes oil project costs, but investments still scarce: Sonangol CEO". Retrieved 2017-03-15. 
  26. ^ Laxmidas, Shrikesh (2017-03-07). "Isabel dos Santos diz que vai ficar na Sonangol, qualquer que seja o resultado das eleições". O Jornal Económico (in Portuguese). Retrieved 2017-03-15. 
  27. ^ "Isabel dos Santos: o rosto de Angola" (in Portuguese). Público. July 20, 2007. Retrieved January 8, 2016. 
  28. ^ a b c "Lunch with the FT: Isabel dos Santos". Financial Times. 
  29. ^ "Meet The Forbes Second Richest African Woman: Isabel dos Santos". The African Economist. December 4, 2012. Retrieved January 8, 2016. 
  30. ^ Isabel dos Santos reforça em Portugal com entrada na Zon Diário Económico, 21 December 2009 (pt)
  31. ^ Isabel dos Santos é a 18ª figura mais poderosa da economia portuguesa Jornal de Negócios, 4 August 2011 (pt)
  32. ^ Africa Top Success Awards: Votez pour l’Africaine de l’année 2014 Africa Top Success
  33. ^ BBC 100 Women 2015: Who is on the list? BBC, 17 November 2015
  34. ^ BBC 100 Women 2015 BBC, November 2015
  35. ^ Isabel dos Santos: 'Education is our gap in Angola' BBC, 27 November 2015
  36. ^ Isabel dos Santos eleita uma das 100 mulheres de topo pela BBC Diário de Notícias, 26 November 2015 (pt)
  37. ^ Isabel dos Santos: "What I have achieved is through merit" BBC, 27 November 2015
  38. ^ "Isabel dos Santos: Inovar e saber suspender um negócio são fundamentais no sucesso" (in Portuguese). Expresso. 5 September 2016. Retrieved 20 September 2016. 
  39. ^ "Isabel dos Santos: "Capacidade de inovar está no centro de qualquer negócio"" (in Portuguese). Diário de Notícias. 4 September 2016. Retrieved 20 September 2016. 
  40. ^ "Isabel dos Santos: "É importante compreender o ambiente de negócio dos mercados emergentes"" (in Portuguese). Negócios. 4 September 2016. Retrieved 20 September 2016. 
  41. ^ "Isabel dos Santos talks about strategy for Sonangol and oil prices market - Interview CNBC". CNBC. 6 September 2016. Retrieved 20 September 2016. 
  42. ^ "POLITICO 28 - Isabel dos Santos". December 2016. Retrieved 20 February 2017. 
  43. ^ [2] by CMVM
  44. ^ [3] by CMVM
  45. ^ a b ANNOUNCEMENT, CMVM Official website 14.12.2012
  46. ^ Angola: Isabel dos Santos reinforces her presence in Portuguese firms, 9 May 2012
  47. ^ Millennium investment banking: Kento qualified holding comment March 14, 2011 (page 1)
  48. ^ NYSE Euronext Company profile
  49. ^ Zon's shareholders unanimously approved the entry of Isabel dos Santos (pt)
  50. ^ BIC board members (pt)
  51. ^ Shareholders structure BPI June 24, 2011 (pt)
  52. ^ Bloomberg: Isabel dos Santos wants to raise stake at BPI, December 22, 2010
  53. ^ Report on Voice of America (pt)
  54. ^ Banco BIC Português Official website
  55. ^ Isabel dos Santos profile in Forbes
  56. ^ [ Isabel dos Santos integra administração da Zon by LUSA Press agency
  57. ^ [4] by CMVM
  58. ^ [5] by CMVM
  59. ^ [6] by CMVM
  60. ^ [7] by CMVM
  61. ^ Optimus, Zon merger brings potential for expansion - Dos Santos
  62. ^ [8] Isabel dos Santos The strategy of the new company will be open to new geographies]
  63. ^ Isabel dos Santos comparece na AG da Zon Optimus, Jornal de Negócios
  64. ^ [9] CMVM
  65. ^ NOS shareholder bids for Portugal Telecom shares Reuters, 09 November 2014
  66. ^ Dos Santos launches bid for Portugal Telecom SGPS Reuters, 01 December 2014
  67. ^ BFA Announces Board Changes Bloomberg, January 2017
  68. ^ Isabel dos Santos steps out of BPI with 80 million ECO News, 14 February 2017
  69. ^ Portuguese group Sonae authorised to open hypermarkets in Angola Aicep Portugal Global, retrieved 27 December 2011
  70. ^ "Unitel Internacional assina contrato para ser segunda operadora em São Tomé e Príncipe". ANGOP. 
  71. ^ "Unitel takes over control of T+ in Cape Verde". 
  72. ^ "Africa Telecom & IT – Unitel to become second operator in Sao Tome & Principe". 
  73. ^ "Unitel STP to start operating in Sao Tome and Principe this year". Macauhub English. 
  74. ^ "Isabel dos Santos: "O meu modelo seria alguém como a minha avó"". 
  75. ^ "Isabel dos Santos: o que significa ser bilionária e empreendedora em África". Dinheiro Vivo. 
  76. ^ Richard Attias & Associates. "GES 2014 - Speakers". 
  77. ^ Global Entrepreneurship Summit - Interview with Isabel dos Santos. 20 November 2014 – via YouTube. 
  78. ^ Unitel, Google to build submarine fibre network Telecompaper, 21 November 2014
  79. ^ Os negócios de Isabel dos Santos em Portugal Dinheiro Vivo Online, 9 May 2012 (pt)
  80. ^ A Angolana mais rica de Portugal, English: The most rich Angolan in Portugal, 1 August 2012 (pt)
  81. ^ Isabel dos Santos: O rosto de Angola in Público
  82. ^ Isabel dos Santos sem interesse na RTP1 in Diário Económico
  83. ^ a b Empresária angolana adquire importantes participações em duas grandes empresas portuguesas, Observatório dos Países da Lingua Portuguesa, in English: Observatory of the Portuguese Language Countries, 14 May 2012 (Portuguese)
  84. ^ "O que é que Isabel dos Santos quer?". Económico. 
  85. ^ Dolan, Kerry A. (August 14, 2013). "Daddy's Girl: How An African 'Princess' Banked $3 Billion In A Country Living On $2 Per Day". Forbes. Retrieved March 16, 2016. 
  86. ^ "Isabel dos Santos desmente acusações de enriquecimento ilícito feitas pela Forbes". Económico. 
  87. ^ PATRICIA KOWSMANN and PATRICK MCGROARTY. "Africa's Richest Woman Draws Scrutiny Over Source of Wealth". The Wall Street Journal. 
  88. ^ PÚBLICO. "Forbes chega este ano a Portugal e África, pela mão de Isabel dos Santos". PÚBLICO. 
  89. ^ Angola Red Cross Official website

External links[edit]