Isabel dos Santos is the richest woman in Africa and the first African female billionaire according to Forbes. The 45 years old Angolan entrepreneur, eldest child of Angola’s former President José Eduardo dos Santos, even though she came from a wealthy family, she still had her eyes on greatness and with her vigorous and determined heart, she is where she is now.
Isabel Dos Santos is the owner of Zon Multimedia and currently, her net worth is $2.2 billion. She owns shares in top companies in Angola and also in Portugal like banks and telecoms.
In an interview, Isabel dos Santos share her life journey and disclosed how her determination as a woman made her what she is today.
How have men in your life impacted you to become what you are today?
I grew up with the equality mentality, I have never had a scenario while growing up that I would be told; “girls don’t do this”. I do everything my brothers and father do, so this has placed the “women can also do it” mentality in me from childhood and I am very grateful to my father for that, and my husband has been very supportive and cheering, this has helped me in my business and other areas of my life.
In a male-dominated society, what are some of the biggest challenges you face as a businesswoman and how did you overcome it?
Discrimination and prejudice exist because the business world is highly dominated by men. On various occasions in business meetings, it has happened to me that the other party with whom I am negotiating will look solely at my male advisor or male lawyer, to see what he has to say, even though I am the owner /shareholder of the business and have already clearly stated my decision.
I always stand my ground as Isabel Dos Santos and make my decision firm after I have considered all options and discussed it with my close team. Whatever decision I take I stand by it and I always frown at women discrimination at any level, so people relating with me can see that such discrimination is not welcome at all.
Are there particular challenges that you face as an African woman?
Generally, there are challenges as a black person then adding a woman to the equation makes it a double challenge, in a normal scenario The narrative around African economies and African business isn’t favorable, it’s full of negative connotations.
In recent times the African success story is now in the face of everyone around the world and now that Africans are getting involved in holding the pillars of the world respect and recognition are also building.
How do you maintain your strength to carry forward?
Education is very important I was lucky to have a good educational background. A major drive for me is the constant reminder that I have the duty to do more for others, for my country, and for our people. To inspire and help others build their dreams, build their business, get good jobs, and educate their children.
What opportunities exist currently in Angola or other countries in Africa
Opportunities for me always start with a simple question, I speak to myself “Isabel Dos Santos What do you know how to do? What are you good at?” And there you will find your opportunity. This is how most of my business ventures started and what drove me to success, all these questions are guiding steps for me and it should also be a guiding step for anyone willing to achieve greatness.
Africa has a lot of untapped resources, Angola, in particular, has many untapped resources: from minerals and agriculture, manufacturing to services and tourism. Each one comes with a different level of complexity, different needs for investment, but all are strong and possible starting points.
A good opportunity in Africa would be the medium scale production of agriculture produce or animal farming or manufacturing. Also in some countries, there is a growing middle class with a growing disposable income, and thus internal tourism such as lodges, and countryside bed and breakfasts are also a developing opportunity for small family-owned businesses. Good quality private education and private health care clinics are also sectors of potential business growth in Africa, as people want to invest in education for their children. Bigger opportunities, for more capital intensive investments and bigger deals, lie in industries, such as glass or steal manufacturing for construction, or mineral exploration.
The African space is very rich and big enough to take everyone to greater heights, no one should stay comfortable where he/she is, just like me I came fro a royal family but I wanted more, this pushed me as a woman to dive into investment and the establishment of my own company, not just relaxing there, but ensuring the companies and investment attain greatness.