Isabel dos Santos, oldest daughter of Angolan President José Eduardo dos Santos, has amassed a fortune of more than $3 billion USD, making her the richest woman in Africa. With investments in a wide array of sectors, dos Santos has long been a controversial figure. Her wealth is far and beyond the imagination of most Angolans, where the average wages are less than $2 USD per day. Here are 12 things you didn’t know about Africa’s only female billionaire, Angolan billionaire Isabel dos Santos.
Isabel dos Santos is the daughter of President dos Santos and his first wife, Tatiana Kukanova, a Russian chess champion
Isabel dos Santos was born in Baku, Azerbaijan, where her parents were both studying engineering at the time. She grew up as the war for independence between Angola and its colonial ruler, Portugal, came to a head. Even after her father became president in 1979, she spent some time in a state school in Luanda before moving to London to live with her mother after her parents separated. She attended school there
Selling chicken eggs at age 6 was her first foray into business
Growing up, Isabel was always business-minded, first selling chicken eggs at age of six to feed her candy-floss (cotton candy) habit. She also set up a garbage collection business at a young age that never went anywhere, but allowed her to learn from the failed venture and hone her business sense.
In addition to being the first and only billionaire in Africa, Isabel is also the continent’s youngest billionaire. Born in 1973, she is just 41 years old. She is often referred to derisively as “the princess” due to her rich upbringing in the presidential palace and subsequent success in the business world.
Her first investment was in a beachside bar and restaurant in Luanda
In 1997, the owner of Miami Beach, a run-down bar-restaurant in Luanda brought Isabel in as an investor. Though her initial investment was fairly minimal, the gravitas associated with her name helped the bar deal with government regulators that were after the bar over health and tax issues.
Isabel’s wedding cost an estimated $4 million USD
In 2003, dos Santos wed Congolese art collector Sindika Dokolo – and son of banking tycoon Sanu Dokolo – in an extravagant ceremony. There were rumors that a choir from Belgium was flown in for the event, and several African presidents were at the elaborate affair with more than 100 guests.
She has homes in four countries
Partially due to her diverse business interests, and in part thanks to the international nature of her family, Isabel and her husband have homes in Luanda, London, Lisbon, and Johannesburg. She also speaks several languages, though leaves all of her dealings with the media to spokespeople, preferring to maintain a low personal profile.
She has a 25% stake in Unitel, Angola’s first private mobile phone operator
In 1999, President Dos Santos and his government granted Unitel the rights to be the first private mobile telephone operator in Angola, and maintained the power to approve projects and direct the shareholding structure of the company. Isabel emerged from the deal with a 25-percent stake in Unitel. She said she invested her own capital. It remains unclear how much the initial investment was. Today, Unitel is Angola’s largest private company with annual revenue of more than $2 billion USD, and Isabel’s share is about $1 billion USD.