Isabel dos Santos (born 20 April 1973) [5] is an Angolan investor 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

Isabel dos Santos was born in Baku , Azerbaijan SSR , [5] 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] [2] [2] Her father's parents came from São Tomé and Príncipe . [12] [2] She studied electrical engineering [2] at King's College in London. [2] There she met her husband from the Democratic Republic of the Congo , Sindika Dokolo , [2] a son of a millionaire from Kinshasa and his Danish wife. [2]

Business activities

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. [3] Then, she set up a trucking business. Here the development of a walkie-talkie system paved the way for her subsequent foray into telecoms. [19] In 1997, at the age of 24, she started her first business by opening the Miami Beach Club , [3] 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 continuously and this led her to create several holdings, in Angola and mostly abroad, and to make substantial investments in a series of prestigious enterprises, especially in Portugal. [3] [3]

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 . [3]

In November 2015 BBC named Isabel dos Santos as one of the 100 most influential women in the world. [3] As part of the BBC series 100 Women , which elects women who every year made a difference in their area of operation, [3] Isabel dos Santos was chosen for the list for her leading role in the economy and development of the African continent. [3] [3] 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.” [28]

Investments in Portugal

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 . [30] [31]

Through the Netherlands -based Unitel International Holdings BV , [32] a company controlled by Isabel dos Santos, [33] [34] the Angolan businesswoman is the main shareholder of ZON Multimédia with 29% since July 2012. [35] [36] She is member of the board of Angolan bank in Lisbon, Banco BIC Português, [37] and through Santoro Holding she holds 20% stakes at Banco Português de Investimento . [38] [39] 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 . [40] Isabel dos Santos is a founding member and Board member of Banco BIC Português, [41] which recently acquired Banco Português de Negócios, a nationalized bank.

Since November 2012 Isabel dos Santos is a non-executive board member of ZON. [42] In December 2012, Isabel dos Santos announced the invitation for a merger of ZON with Sonaecom, proved in March 2013 by the General Assembly. [32] 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. [43] [44] [45] [46] 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. On October 1, 2013, Isabel dos Santos attended the first General Assembly of Zon Optimus. Isabel dos Santos’ investments in Portugal are in listed companies, which are therefore subject to official supervision of the Portuguese Securities Market Commission (CMVM).

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. 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).

Investments in Angola

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.

In June 2016, José Eduardo dos Santos appointed her as chairwoman of Sonangol , the Angolan state oil company.

Focus on Telecommunications

The starting point, however, was the creation of Unitel in partnership with Portugal Telecom , after a tender process she considered fair. [19]

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. [6] 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. [6]

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. [6] [6]

In November 2014, Isabel dos Santos participated in the 5th edition of the Global Entrepreneurship Summit held in Marrakech , Morocco . [6] During her speech, the Angolan businesswoman classified Africa's economic environment and African market as "very attractive" [6] 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 USA . [6]


Holdings of Isabel dos Santos in the recent years: [6] [6]

  • 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”. [6] 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. [19]

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.