Isabel dos Santos
Isabel dos Santos Takes the Red Carpet to Work

This is part two in our series on the businesswoman and entrepreneur, Isabel dos Santos.

The previous article “Meet Isabel dos Santos: Angola’s Most Prominent Businesswoman” posted on highlighted some of the phenomenal accomplishments of this progressive leader.

To recap the main points, Isabel dos Santos is:

  • The richest woman on the African Continent
  • Chairwoman of Unitel, Angola’s telecom/mobile network
  • A stakeholder in the International Credit Bank
  • A chairwoman of Angola’s national oil company Sonangol
  • An owner/operator of the ZAP Viva Network

This list does not include her long list of charity and philanthropy work, boards, and nonprofit organizations she is a part of. Isabel dos Santos leaves a positive mark wherever she goes.

The last item in the list above, ZAP Viva Network, is one of her more recent ventures currently underway. Let’s start with the red carpet event held June 17, 2019 in Lisbon, Portugal. The Angolan channel ZAP Viva, projected an elegant evening launch party called “We Are ZAP Viva.”  The event included various faces of Angolan and Portuguese superstars as well as other well-recognized individuals. This pool of talent showcased their outfits, fashion, talents and design as they walked down the red carpet. Some of the iconic attendees are listed below (list is not comprehensive):

Isabel dos Santos, Sharam Diniz, Anselmo Ralph, Bárbara Bandeira, Maura Faial, Weza Silva, Mariza, C4 Pedro, João Rolo, Rita Pereira, Conan Osíris, Karina Barbosa, Nelson Freitas, Grace Mendes and Fredy Costa among others. The event was ecstatic with live music and performances by dos Tuneza, Jeff Brown, Rui Orlando, Yolanda Semedo and Anselmo Ralph.

The channel ZAP Viva, which operates as an exclusive subsidiary from NOS (Portuguese media holding company), is found on station 125 in HD. The channel starts the day with “Great Mornings”, hosted by Patrícia Pacheco, “ZAP News” hosted by Daniel Nascimento and Henesse Cacoma, “No Cubico dos Tuneza” (comedy) performed by the Tunezas, and “Live Afternoon” hosted by Stela de Caravalho. With more than ten daily hours of viewable programs on ZAP Viva, the station includes much diversity such as soap operas, series, talk-shows, music programs, comedy, fashion, celebrities and reality shows1

This station is controlled by the Angolan entrepreneur Isabel dos Santos, daughter of former Angolan President José Eduardo dos Santos. Dos Santos became active in the Angolan market in April 2010, the Mozambique market in 2011, and the Portugal market since this past May. With nearly one and a half million clients, ZAP may soon be one of the largest Lusophone television distribution services with the exception of Brazil. As José Carlos Lourenço stated, “It’s a natural market”. This market is not just for Angola and Mozambique, but for Portuguese speakers everywhere.

“Leverage your pre-existing talents and knowledge. If you’re going into a field that you know or have past experience with, then you have a competitive edge. I believe that goals are achieved when ambition is combined with skill and determination. Be willing to assess yourself and determine exactly what it is that you’re capable of doing best. If you have weaknesses in certain areas, develop them into strengths.”

Such success, euphoria, and walking red carpets, however, do not come without grit and unyielding determination. Whether it’s been helping others gain access to technology, creating jobs, supporting opportunities or giving useful information, dos Santos has strived for years to generate equality, inclusivity, and positive outcomes for all. With more than 15,000 employees in the telecom, retail space, networks, and cement/construction, dos Santos’ entrepreneurial endeavors employs one of the largest workforces in Angola.

During her studies at King’s College in London, dos Santos was only one of two females in her class. As mentioned in Entrepreneurship in a box, dos Santos’ challenges became more acute in the business world where she was oftentimes dismissed by her male colleagues. She wasted no time asserting authority through her business acumen and strong leadership ability. She offered some good advice to anyone trying to make it in this competitive business world:

“Leverage your pre-existing talents and knowledge. If you’re going into a field that you know or have past experience with, then you have a competitive edge. I believe that goals are achieved when ambition is combined with skill and determination. Be willing to assess yourself and determine exactly what it is that you’re capable of doing best. If you have weaknesses in certain areas, develop them into strengths.”

In Business Matters Magazine’s July 1, 2019 article “Women in business: Empowerment & equality driving economic growth”, dos Santos was cited as one of the most outspoken advocates of female empowerment. With her multinational corporate experiences, dos Santos tries to “actively engage women in the workplace, train women, equip them with the requisite skills and education to advance through management tiers into the highest positions.” Dos Santos has successfully navigated the gender and equality gaps that exist so prevalently in the world today, and has done so in a humble, but expert way.

Dos Santos has also given dozens of speeches at economic forums, business interviews, and universities around the world about equality and the future of business in general. Last year, dos Santos spoke to a group of Yale Students who invited her to speak to the Yale Undergraduate Association for African Peace and Development (YAAPD). She highlighted the work that businesswomen are doing everywhere and how investing in women and the community improves the lives of everyone involved.

Dos Santos wants it to be known that one person can make a difference. The success of a determined young entrepreneur in the telecommunications business is a perfect example of this. This individual, as the story goes, worked selling telecom equipment in the marketplaces and streets.

After saving enough money to start their own store and hire two employees, this business savvy salesperson went from two stores to twenty-three stores and seventy-five kiosks! Thanks to a little help and guidance from an established charitable organization (supported by Isabel dos Santos) shows that hard work and ambition can make a world of difference in the lives of so many people; and it all started with one driven entrepreneur.

This is just one of several examples that come from her charity organizations and site visits. Simply put, dos Santos wants her work to be as inclusive as possible. With untapped resources and human potential, she sees Africa as hub for both. For this reason, both her charitable and business endeavors hover around where she has interests, influence, experience, and resources. She’s been quoted saying, “What kind of world do we want to build? Who are we going to be in the future? I think we do all have one common concern — that we don’t want to leave anyone behind. We want to make sure that we make an inclusive world, a world where everybody has a role.”

It is her concern and a concern of other Africans that if the world does not invest into the future of Africa, Africa will simply be passed by…again. “Trade, not aid” is a common phrase used to express the importance of this economic empowerment. It’s not surprising that dos Santos recently spoke at both the African Summit 2019 and European Parliament of the European Union about the subject. The theme of the panel was “African Technology Emergency.”

She addressed the lack of infrastructure and the need to invest in the continent’s future. Dos Santos exhorted, “An enormous challenge for Africa is to know how it’s going to become digital. We still don’t have this answer. For us to be competitive, we have to use technology and we have to, above all else, educate the population to know how to utilize this technology.” Coming from a former engineer, CEO, chairwoman, and board member adds power and credibility to her statements and logic. You can rest assured that when dos Santos speaks, people listen.

In summary, whether Isabel dos Santos takes a red carpet, a cement factory floor, or a dirt path to an agrarian village to go to work, people’s lives will be changed and efficiency will follow. Such has been the track record of this unforgettable entrepreneur for decades and with any luck, will continue for decades to come.