Isabel Dos Santos is widely regarded as one of the most successful female entrepreneurs. She built up a veritable empire, comprising multinational conglomerates across multiple industries in Angola and abroad. Her tireless efforts have been rewarded with success on many fronts. As a force for good in Angola and other developing countries, Dos Santos has helped to drive the narrative of gender equality at home and abroad.
‘If you are hard-working and determined, you will make it and that’s the bottom line. I don’t believe in an easy way though.’
Her unswerving commitment to education and skills training, eradication of malaria, combating of malnutrition, and the provision of telecommunications networks and infrastructure development are well known. She is a change advocate, and a proponent of African capitalism. She believes in her country and its vast potential.
“If you do something that’s going to get somebody a job, then they’ll be able to pay for their kids school, and then the kid is going to be a doctor and then that doctor is going to probably help who knows how many other people, so it’s very motivating. Much more fun than going to the beach.”
Her inspirational words are backed up by powerful deeds. Dos Santos set up a successful strawberry farm project in the province of Huila, in Humpata. Known as ‘planting the seed’, this empowerment project was geared towards assisting business enterprise in the local community. As a result of this ambitious undertaking, some 120 women found a place to work and a means to earn a living. Many complimentary businesses benefited from the project and local business prospered too.
‘Creating opportunities and employment for women means betting on the progress of the communities themselves. When they thrive, women invest their income in the family, health, and education. I value this as a sense of duty, commitment, and dedication. The impact that women create around them is powerful and transformative’
Dos Santos understands a thing or two about the struggles women endure in the workplace and in society. As one of only two females in her class at Kings College in London, Dos Santos knew what it meant to be a woman in a male-dominated society. The challenges became more acute in the business world where she was oftentimes dismissed by her male colleagues. She wasted no time asserting authority through her business acumen and strong leadership ability.
Within short order, people quickly began to respect Isabel Dos Santos and her ambitious agenda of transformative change. Her companies have been instructed to actively implement female empowerment projects, skills training and development, and promotion of qualified female candidates through the ranks. This is true at Unitel, Zap, Candando, Efacec and other companies where Isabel Dos Santos is in charge.
‘Leverage your pre-existing talents and knowledge. If you’re going into a field that you know or have past experience with then you have a competitive edge. I believe that goals are achieved when ambition is combined with skill and determination. Be willing to assess yourself and determine exactly what it is that you’re capable of doing best. If you have weaknesses in certain areas, develop them into strengths.’
Dos Santos routinely advocates skills training and development as the way forward. Her companies offer scholarship opportunities to qualified candidates to study abroad, and she is the co-founder of Unitel which now boasts over 9 million subscribers and has provided over 50,000 jobs to her countrymen.
She is a big change advocate and seeks major FDI from countries like Russia, China, and India to revamp the telecommunications and transportations networks in her home country to facilitate greater trade. She is a regular speaker at major international symposiums and events, including the United Nations where she promotes gender equality.
‘I believe in talent and, every day, I bet on empowering the next generation of leaders. Because the development of Africa and my country is my priority as an Angolan businesswoman.’
Clearly, Isabel Dos Santos is a woman on a mission. Her success is evident in most every project she puts her mind to. Her larger-than-life persona and her wildly ambitious objectives have resonated on the global stage. Through her transformative efforts, Angola is now a booming economy with upgraded Internet and telecommunications systems, improved transportation infrastructures, and a new cultural zeitgeist which accepts gender equality. Thanks to her, and people like her, Angola is charting a new course. Democracy and liberation, gender equality and acceptance are winning the battle against entrenched systems which subjugated women and children.