Isabel Dos Santos understands a thing or two about entrepreneurship. As a powerful African business lady, she has amassed a worldly knowledge and applied it to successful business ventures. Born in Angola, she endured many of the difficulties faced by women in the workplace. She sat through meetings, pitched her ideas to powerful business leaders, and took the hits along the way. As an African lady rising through the ranks, she was battling against an entrenched patriarchal culture which didn’t always take kindly to women leading the way.
Dos Santos often found herself being sidelined in favour of her male colleagues who were sometimes deemed to be her superiors at meetings. Isabel’s steel spine, grit and determination saw her through all of these challenges. Educated at the prestigious Kings College in London, Dos Santos earned her engineering degree with distinction. Armed with an education and a vision, Isabel set about bringing change to Africa. Angola was square in her sights. An outspoken advocate of equality, women’s rights, and innovative change, Dos Santos fast-tracked corporate enterprise to facilitate the changes she wanted to see across Africa.
How Dos Santos inspires women
Angola, like many other developing countries faces social and economic challenges. The Gini coefficient of Angola indicates that much of the country’s wealth is concentrated in the hands of the top percentile. Isabel is working to address these concerns by actively promoting skills training, education, health and wellness initiatives, local enterprise, and the employment and promotion of women at companies. These bold and refreshing ideas serve as the ultimate enticement to kickstart a social change movement in Angola. Dos Santos extols the merits of her 5-step plan for business development:
- Set a goal
- Conduct market research
- Invest in your concept
- Partner with stakeholders
- Stay the course
Women empowerment is one of the central issues that needs to be tackled in Angola and other African countries. It is less about a reluctance to change, than it is about existing frameworks which make it difficult to facilitate these changes. Women are typically resigned to specific vocations, while neglecting their education and economic empowerment. However, economic freedom is possible when people are empowered to take charge of their own future. It begins with self-belief. Dos Santos certainly talks the talk and walks the walk. She has a broad portfolio of investments spanning energy, telecoms, media, finance and beyond.
The successful strawberry plantation project
One of her most successful grassroots initiatives is the Strawberry Plantation in Huila. These strawberry fields provide employment opportunities to 120 women who use their agricultural expertise and newfound business savvy to reinvest their funds in new ventures. With women empowerment initiatives comes economic growth and development. This allows for the transformation of Africa to better represent the interests of all its people, male, female, rural and urban. To expedite positive change, Dos Santos touts the merits of technology and innovation. She is an ardent supporter of bringing the Internet of things to the masses.
Improving online communications in Angola
Based on the Freedom House report, Angola has an Internet freedom score of 40/100, and it ranks negatively in terms of obstacles to access (14/25), limits on content (7/35), and violations of user rights (19/40). The Internet penetration rate in Angola is 13%, but there is no evidence of social media apps blocked, no political and social content blocked, and no bloggers sanctioned by the government. By improving telecommunications and Internet access, Angolans will have unimpeded access to the global community. This makes it easier to access affordable online communications, e-commerce, and online education. Increasing technological literacy is central to bringing Angola up to speed with the global community.
Isabel’s message to the young people and women of Angola
Isabel Dos Santos is first and foremost a mother, and a family-oriented individual. She is proudly Angolan, and fiercely committed to fighting for the underdog. As a highly educated entrepreneur, she is passionate about the Internet of things, notably electric mobility and business activity. She has come to represent the best of what women are capable of achieving. This caring entrepreneur runs multiple corporate social responsibility initiatives at her companies. These include fun days for sick and underprivileged children, health and wellness campaigns to eradicate the scourge of malaria from Angola, and active promotion of women through the ranks.
Dos Santos and her companies have invested in the children’s paediatric hospital to ensure that the youth have access to top-notch medical treatment so that they can perform at their best in school. She routinely relays the following message to eager listeners around the country: ‘If you do something that’s going to get somebody a job, then they’ll be able to pay for their kid’s school, and then their 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.’