SOCHI, RUSSIA - Media
OutReach - 22
October 2019 - Russia-Africa
Summit will welcome many African leaders , mainly men and many in the political
sphere. One well-known woman will stand out. Isabel dos Santos is a globally known African
investor and she speaks more than 5 languages including Russian.
female-owned businesses are the fastest growing economic force in the U.S. but
we have yet to see this same pace in other regions of the world. The challenges
are the same. The challenges that black women face as entrepreneurs are lack of
startup capital, resources and loans, along with racial and gender
discrimination within the largely, male-dominated sectors of financing and
Russia's ties to the African continent
were built up to new heights during the Soviet era as the superpower sought to
aid independence movements in opposition and support post-independence
Speaking at the Moscow State
Institute of international Affairs last month, Russian Foreign Affairs minister
Sergei Lavrov said that following the collapse of the
Soviet Union, "Russian businesses began to look at promising projects abroad,
and we began to return to Africa. This process has been ongoing for the past 15
As Russia seeks to reassert itself
on the global stage, rekindling these Africans ties are a top
priority for Moscow. Trade and investment between the two parties increased 185
in just 10 years, between 2005 and 2015.
This week Isabel dos Santos is sure
to make some heads turn at the Russia-Africa Summit and Economic Forum in Sochi
to mark the first of its kind, being the first large-scale congregation of
African leaders and businesses on Russian soil since the Soviet Union's
collapse. As one of Africa's largest investor and a businesswoman, she says "I
am looking to fruitful discussions on how to keep Africa rising."
French-language Jeune Afrique
cited Isabel dos Santos as one of the 100 Most Influential People in Africa,
but it should also include Portugal. Portuguese
GDP was expected to grow by 2.1% in 2018 (two decimal points above the eurozone
average), 1.7% in 2019 (four decimal points above eurozone's average), and 1.7%
in 2020 (again, one decimal point above eurozone's GDP growth).
As a graduate in
engineering, she started her professional career at Coopers & Lybrand
Portugal, later working as Project. She developed her first business in the
early 90's, in the Food and Beverage sector, creating a beverage distribution
logistics company and a communications system for Walkie Talkie and Tower Relay
then became founder (1999) and member of the Board of Directors of Unitel, the
second mobile telecommunications operator in Angola.
Her retail company
Candando, with hypermarkets, cinemas and shopping malls in Angola, supports
more than 300 local producers and employs over 30 000 in the country. She
is a founding member and member of the Board of Directors of Banco BIC Angola
and Banco BIC Português.
From June 2016 to
November 2017, she was Chairman of the Board of Directors of Sonangol, Angola's
national oil and gas company during the most challenging time in her home
In Portugal, she is a
member of the Board of Directors of NOS (formerly ZON), a cable TV company
listed on the Stock Exchange, and of Banco BIC Português and Efacec.
Isabel dos Santos says
that "We live in promising times in the awareness of the role of women in
society. From the family, to the world of work, in politics, entertainment or
science, the contribution of women, in all dimensions of life, has achieved an
unparalleled strength. And this strength must be promoted for the good of a
more just, balanced and complete society.
The entrepreneur added that the key
to her success was the high growth of the Angolan economy when she began
investing. "We were lucky. Angola developed. During those 15 years, between
2002 and 2017, the Angolan economy had an average growth rate of almost 8-9%," she
recalled, pointing out that Angola's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) grew in this
period, by almost 900% from $30 billion to $130 billion.
Science, Education, and Innovation for Economic
Development during the Russia-Africa Summit, is a topic
that Ms dos Santos will surely have a few words to say. Africa is a classic
case where traditional charity has largely failed to lift people out of grinding
poverty and in many cases has led to a culture of dependency stated a recent
article in The Guardian newspaper, and in part for this reason, Isabel dos
Santos has launched the Isabel dos Santos Merit Grant. "You have to build your confidence,
and it starts with education,". The
merit grant is a reward for those that are ambitious students with skills to
make a difference in their community, but for multiple reasons are unable to
cover the cost of their education.