Isabel dos Santos named first female billionaire

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40-year old daughter of Angola’s President Eduardo dos Santos is reportedly the first female African billionaire.

Isabel dos Santos (Picture: Viking1924)

The US financial magazine Forbes has named Isabel dos Santos as the first female billionaire in Africa.Dos Santos is the eldest daughter of Angola’s longstanding president Jose Eduardo dos Santos.

Born in Azerbaijan in 1973 while her father was still a guerrilla soldier fighting for Angola’s independence from Portugal, dos Santos was educated in the United Kingdom before returning to Angola and embarking on a number of business ventures of varying success.

Dos Santos’ business interests began to grow rapidly during the 1990s, with investments in both Angola and Portugal paying huge dividends.

Since 2008 dos Santos has held a stake in telecommunications, media, retail, finance and the energy industry, in both Angola and in Portugal.

According to Forbes, Dos Santos is the biggest shareholder in Zon, a Portuguese media conglomerate, with 28.8% of the stock, worth $385m; she also owns 19.5% of the Portuguese bank Banco BPI, worth $465m; and 25% of Angola’s Banco BIC, worth an estimated $160m . Dos Santos also owns 25% of the Angolan telecoms company Unitel.

However, critics have dismissed the notion that dos Santos is a role model for African business-women. Nicknamed “the Princess”, the forty year-old is perceived to have heavily benefited from her father’s position. Indeed, President dos Santos has amassed a huge personal fortune in a country where the majority of its inhabitants survive on less than US $2 a day.

The Forbes report quotes Peter Lewis, a professor in African studies professor at Johns Hopkins University: “The source of funds and corporate governance are very murky. The central problem in Angola is the complete lack of transparency. We can’t trace the provenance of these funds…When you tease out the ownership and controlling interests in Angola it reads like a Who’s Who of family members and party and military chiefs.”

Transparency International, the respected NGO that investigates government fraud, recently ranked Angola 168th out of 178 countries in its corruption perception index. Meanwhile, the United Nations Human Development index, a composite statistic measuring life expectancy, education, and income, ranks Angola 148th out of 187 countries.

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