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Africa's first female billionaire

Daily Mail
Saturday, January 26, 2013

AFRICA has its first female billionaire Isabel Dos Santos, daughter of Angolan President Jose Eduardo Dos Santos.

The 40-year-old studied engineering at King's College, London, before opening her first business at the age of 24 - a restaurant called Miami Beach.

She has come a long way since then, currently sitting on the boards of several companies in Angola and Portugal and owning large stakes in wealthy corporations including a bank and a cable TV company.

Her assets include a 19.5 per cent share of Banco BPI, one of Portugal's largest publicly traded bank worth an estimated $465 million and a 25 per cent stake in the Angola's Banco BIC worth a conservative $160 million.

Last year she reportedly increased her share in Portugal's largest cable TV company ZON Multimedia from 4.9 per cent to 28.8 per cent worth around $385 million.

Those stakes combined with other assets push her net worth over the $1 billion mark.

However according to Forbesbusiness magazine sources within Angola say she also owns a 25 per cent stake in Unitel - one of the country's two mobile phone networks which according to analysts is worth a minimum of a billion on its own.

Angola, a country of 18 million people, lies on the western coast of southern Africa and is rich in diamonds and oil.

Jose Eduardo dos Santos has been president of the country since 1979, four years after it gained independence from Portugal.

He recently changed the constitution to give himself a further ten years in power if his MPLA party is successful in the forthcoming elections.

The country was wracked by 27 years of civil war which finally ended in 2002 leading to a huge jump in oil revenues from $3 billion in 2002 to $66 billion in 2008.

Transparency International, the respected NGO that investigates government fraud, recently ranked Angola 168th out of 178 countries in its corruption perception index.

In an attempt to understand dos Santos's meteoric rise, Forbes asked Peter Lewis, a professor of African Studies at Johns Hopkins University's School for Advanced International Studies to shed some light on Angolan business matters.

He said: 'The source of funds and corporate governance are very murky. The central problem in Angola is the complete lack of transparency. We can't trace the provenance of these funds.

'When you tease out the ownership and controlling interests in Angola it reads like a Who's Who of family members and party and military chiefs.'

Professor Lewis suggested that while the Angolan government appeared to be investing some money into the country's infrastructure it was awash in cash with $5 billion having already been documented in illicit financial flows.

A spokeswoman for Isabel dos Santos in Portugal insisted all her investments have been presented with maximum transparency from publicly listed companies.

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