The newly ratified 55-nation African Continental Free Trade Area (ACFTA) will revolutionise the continent’s economy. Each country must play its part and increase productivity, output of goods and take advantage of online integrated payment systems to take advantage of the $3.4 trillion initiative.
ACFTA is the biggest new trading bloc in the world since the World Trade Organisation was formed in 1994. African nations are set to unleash their economic potential by increasing regional trade, spreading best practice, sharing expertise and strengthening supply chains.
In Angola, Isabel dos Santos has long championed the potential of the population of her native country. Today, the entrepreneur, investor and businesswoman is integral to positive changes throughout Angola, ranging from improving communications to technological advancements.
A force for economic change in Africa
Isabel dos Santos uses her position as one of the very few black, African billionaires, to create opportunities, influence international business communities, leverage investment from overseas and improve life in Angola for even the most rural, disenfranchised region.
She is the daughter of the former president of Angola and has an internationally diverse background and education. This, along with her experience of building businesses from the ground up, gives her a unique platform within Africa and the wider business community.
Freely acknowledging that her upbringing is different to that of the average Angolan woman, Isabel dos Santos nonetheless pushes ahead with her world view and, crucially, her position on the international stage. These allow her to make positive changes for Angola’s economy.
Representing Angola on the world stage
Economic experts may still debate whether billionaires are a positive force for individual economies, but for Isabel dos Santos, the answer is clear. Her financial status and hard-won position as a successful businesswoman in a patriarchal business world, shows how much the super-rich can be an economically positive driver for their local economy.
Forbes 33rd list of global billionaires for 2019 shows there are 2,153 around the world, sharing a total net wealth of $8.7 trillion. And while the global top ten billionaires are all male, Forbes places Isabel dos Santos eighth on the list of Africa’s billionaires. She is uniquely positioned to speak for Angola on the world stage, drive investors to Africa, and to instigate the kind of infrastructural changes that are necessary to boost the continent’s standing in the business world.
And while philanthropy drives much of Isabel dos Santos’ investments, there is more at stake than short-term fixes. She is clear that Angola’s economic strength lies in the hands of its people. And if they are given the tools, such as Internet connectivity, online banking and access to education, training and business, they will thrive.
Representing black, female Africans
Angola has changed a lot since the end of the civil war in 2002. However, development still lags behind the country’s vast potential. The Government is pushing to reduce the country’s dependency on oil and diversify its economy. By revitalising infrastructure, introducing public financial management systems, and encouraging the growth of forward-thinking, modern, 21st century businesses like Unitel, Angola can have a brighter future.
Billionaires, by default, have a platform apart from everyone else. Their wealth places them into positions of authority and they are often followed for guidance. Not only does Isabel dos Santos buck the trend by her gender, but also by her race. Out of the 2,153 billionaires around the world, just 11 are black. And their standing is of great importance for the development of previously disenfranchised nations.
The increase in the number of black represents a shift in representation and therefore opportunity for a far more diverse range of people than ever before. Historically, power and wealth tend to stay in the same small groups. Change is gradual, and noticeable change even more so. As the number of black billionaires climbs, they will make changes in their communities, which will have a knock-on effect throughout their nations.
Isabel dos Santos is ahead of the game in Angola, using her companies and investment opportunities to finance all kinds of initiatives, ranging from women’s hospitals to job creation, and from education to access to online banking and communications, she is directly affecting the growth of the Angolan economy.
The future of Angola’s economy
Isabel dos Santos is clear on Angola’s needs, and is instrumental in improving the technological development of the country. Connecting its diverse communities by improving access to tech is the key to kickstarting local communities.
She sees nothing different in the potential of Africa and that of other developed nations in harnessing technology to boost the economy. It may take Angola longer, but business leaders such as Isabel dos Santos are paving the way for a country with more opportunity, more equality and more cohesion than ever before.
This focus on technology stems from her education, engineering background and technological expertise. Isabel dos Santos heads up Unitel, the biggest telecommunications company in Angola, through which she focuses on improving access to communication throughout the entire country. Throughout this process, Unitel has upgraded the communications infrastructure of previously disenfranchised areas. She has also increased opportunities for Angolan people through creating more than 50,000 jobs.
Isabel dos Santos is also a key driver in the laying of fibre-optic cable throughout the country, with the end goal of having a data network on a par with countries in the west. This access to up-to-date technology is crucial in creating opportunities in an online global economy. She uses her position to unite the international business community with Africa and open the door between both.
A global shift in diversity and power
Isabel dos Santos grew up in Angola but was educated in the UK, giving her a clear understanding of the business world outside of Africa. Along with her engineering degree and business background, her upbringing helped to position her as a forward-thinking, holistic minded problem solver for Angola.
As well as being one of just 11 black billionaires in the world today, she represents another overlooked group – female billionaires with a global platform. Opportunities may still be weighted towards historically powerful groups, such as white male billionaires, but Isabel dos Santos represents a force for change.
Representing black women at this level shows the world, and the people of Angola, what success can look like. Isabel dos Santos breaks down barriers by living her own truth and communicating without fear. Billionaires are a small percentage of the world’s population, but their impact can be massive.
The shift towards diversity within this small group of global billionaires has ramifications for the rest of the world. As Isabel dos Santos wields her own influence, and demonstrates her own impact, as part of this group, she emerges as an important example of how power and diversity are changing.