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.

She is Africa’s youngest billionaire

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.

Dos Santos is the biggest shareholder in Portuguese media conglomerate, Zon

Dos Santos owns 28.8-percent of Zon, a Portuguese media conglomerate. Her investment is valued at more than $385 million USD. She is also a major controller in several other Portuguese companies including Banco BPI, in which she controls 19.5-percent of stock, valued at $465 million USD. She has been making moves to buy the majority stake in Portugal Telecom, a company that owns more than a quarter of Brazilian telecom operator Oi.

She has been celebrated by state-run media outlets, such as Jornal de Angola

In 2012, the state-owned newspaper Jornal de Angola awarded Isabel the title Entrepreneur of the Year, and for years has been on a positive-spin campaign on her behalf. After Forbes Magazine publicly declared dos Santos a billionaire, the Jornal wrote, “While we give out best for Angola without poverty, we are elated with the fact that businesswoman Isabel dos Santos has become a reference in the world of finances. This is good for Angola and it fills Angolans with pride.”

Isabel sees her role in Angola as opportunity creator

Despite criticism that her vast wealth is at odds with the majority of Angolans who live below the poverty line, Isabel points to the fact that the middle class is growing, and she says poverty is lessening in her country as a direct result of the improving economy. “How do you get inequality lower? Well, by creating opportunities and creating more and more development,” she said. “You wake up in the morning and work, do something. It will take a lot of time but the more things happen, the more things are built.”



  1. I love how you are celebrating someone who acquired over $1billion in wealth in a country that lives of of just $2 a day. According to Forbes, “every major Angolan investment held by Dos Santos stems either from taking a chunk of a company that wants to do business in the country or from a stroke of the president’s pen that cut her into the action.” Basically her dad is looting the country through her.

    • Totally agree. Both her and her father are both corrupt and plundering the country of Angola to this day. Just finished watching a very informative documantary on this dismal family.

      “The real story, however, is how Dos Santos–the oldest daughter of Angolan President José Eduardo dos Santos–acquired her wealth. For the past year FORBES has been tracing Isabel dos Santos’ path to riches, reviewing a score of documents and speaking with dozens of people on the ground. As best as we can trace, every major Angolan investment held by Dos Santos stems either from taking a chunk of a company that wants to do business in the country or from a stroke of the president’s pen that cut her into the action. Her story is a rare window into the same, tragic kleptocratic narrative that grips resource-rich countries around the world.

      For President Dos Santos it’s a foolproof way to extract money from his country, while keeping a putative arm’s-length distance away. If the 71-year-old president gets overthrown, he can reclaim the assets from his daughter. If he dies in power, she keeps the loot in the family. Isabel may decide, if she is generous, to share some of it with her seven known half-siblings. Or not. The siblings are known around Angola for despising one another. ”


    • Our appetite and tolerance for celebrating thieves amazes me. Some of these reporters help to perpetuate this fraud narrative. She shouldn’t be on any list for that matter, we all know very well that this is loot and share ,on the highest level. These types of reporting died so many years ago, and it has no relevance in 21st century news reporting.

  2. These leaders are opportunistic individuals who basically steal from their people that they were meant to serve. Dos santos have been in power respectively from 1979, 1982 and 1980, more than 30 years and do not give a chance to the new generation to express themselves as if their countries have become a monarchy like Morocco, Swaziland. Sad state of affairs indeed…

  3. Definitely stolen in the presence of her corrupt father assisted by former colonial powers such as Portuguese and others in the west (while many Angolans are dying by the easily controllable yellow fever) – Angolans must rise and show the regime! Anyway better to die for your own rights rather than die with yellow fever!

  4. I am still researching on her and her family, I hope it is not the typical case in Africa were most of our billionaires wealth can be traced to the corridors of power, even in my country Nigeria were the richest man got a large chunk of his wealth from a former dictator, it is quite unfortunate.

  5. hi am a south African hoping u to help us with a development as we r in need of help; we have 39 villages without shopping centre and banks chemist and shops We have to travel 70 km just to get a cough mixture and bank statement .I have a land that is 50 hacters that is 5000 square meters that you can invest on that land ; please help

  6. I personnally view the African ,market WOMEN as RICHEST .They at least sell veg,and send their kids to higher places of education. ISABELL dos SANTOS IS NOT RICH. I see a bitter and racistic young lady whose father,for the loss of her mother,compensats with loads of looted ANGOLA money…


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