Businesswoman Isabel Dos Santos, daughter of long-serving Angolan president Jose Eduardo Dos Santos, is Africa’s first female billionaire, The 40-year-old’s investments in publicly traded companies in Portugal, including shares in a cable TV firm, as well her assets in at least one Angolan bank, “have pushed her net worth over the $1 billion mark.
Her first business endeavor was in 1997 when she opened a restaurant in Angola’s capital, Luanda. Since then, she’s expanded her business interests to a number of industries, sitting on the boards of several Angolan and Portuguese companies.
A former Portuguese colony, Angola is the second largest oil producer in the continent. Over the last decade, the southwestern African country has emerged from the wreckage of a 27-year civil war to become one of the continent’s major economic players.
President Dos Santos, who has been in power since 1979, has presided over Angola’s post-war economic growth and rebuilding efforts. He won a new term last year when the ruling MPLA party was declared winner of the August 31 elections.
Greased by growing oil revenues and China’s credit lines of billions of dollars, Angola’s economy rocketed by an average annual growth of 17% from 2004 to 2008 before falling to single-digit figures after the 2008 global financial crisis.
Corruption is also prevalent, with Angola ranked 157th out of 176 countries and territories on Transparency International’s 2012 Corruption Perceptions Index.
“Corruption is a major problem and the perception of corruption in Angola by investors is increasing,” says Alex Vines, head of the Africa Program at London-based think tank Chatham House.
Isabel Dos Santos is the biggest shareholder in Zon Multimedia, the biggest cable TV operator in Portugal, owning a 28.8% stake. She also has a 19.5% holding at Banco BPI, one of Portugal’s largest publicly traded banks.
In Angola, the president’s daughter sits on the board of Banco BIC and is reported to own a 25% stake in the bank.
“There is nothing wrong with the president’s daughter being a business entrepreneur as long as she’s obtained those contracts in an open and competitive process,” says Vines.