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Angolan Entrepreneur Isabel Dos Santos Invests Heavily in Youth Empowerment

Foreword: Angola’s GDP annual growth rate was last measured at 2.2% (December 2018) with an unemployment rate of 20%, and an inflation rate soaring towards 17%. The country boasts a heavy government Debt to GDP ratio of 80.5%, and a business confidence score of -9. The country relies heavily on its crude oil exports (90% of all exports), with the balance made up of fish, coffee, sisal, and diamonds. China is the country's biggest trading partner, accounting for 40% of Angola's exports, followed close in tow by the US, Taiwan, India, France, Canada, and South Africa. Crude oil production was last measured at 1418.00 BBL/D/1K, with foreign direct investment (FDI) at $7650 million, and external debt of $46,981.70 million.

Angola is a country in flux. New technologies are slowly being introduced to Angola to help alleviate the burden of poverty and poor skills development, thanks to the collective efforts of industry leaders, including people like Isabel Dos Santos. As one of Angola's leading business people, Dos Santos understands the challenges faced by her countrymen. She heads up major corporations, including Unitel, ZAP, CANDANDO, Sodiba and Efacec. Combined, these companies employ thousands of people across multiple sectors in the country. She is particularly invested in empowering women in Angola, through education and skills training opportunities. Her leadership approach is all-encompassing; she believes in change through empowerment.

If you do something that's going to get somebody a job, then they'll be able to pay for their kids school, and then their kid is going to be a doctor, and then that doctor is going to probably help who knows how many other people, so it's very motivating. Much more fun than going to the beach.’                                                                                                              Isabel Dos Santos

The challenges faced by Angolans run deep. To this end, Isabel Dos Santos is actively working on multiple projects simultaneously. These include improved transportation and telecommunication infrastructures, electric vehicle technology, eradication of malaria, and widespread education and skills training initiatives. Isabel has been instrumental in the establishment of a Strawberry Plantation in Humpata, in the province of Huila. This particular project provided 120 women with full-time employment and self-sufficiency. Isabel's management prowess allowed these women to learn the necessary skills for managing their own business, marketing their products, and growing their enterprise. This successful project has benefited local communities, with women able to contribute to their own communities, provide for their families, and improve their skills and abilities.

Empowering the Youth through Investment 

Isabel Dos Santos recently attended the International Economic Forum in St Petersburg, Russia. There she made the case for Africa in clear and uncertain terms. The high-level economic symposium was attended by CEOs and world leaders, including President Xi Jinping of China, President Vladimir Putin of Russia, and President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa. She went to bat for Africa's youth, extolling the virtues of the continent, and her home country of Angola and the need for foreign direct investment by countries like Russia, China, and India. She called for partnership development between the global community and African countries, to help establish the necessary foundation for African success. Among others, she called for investment in literacy campaigns.

‘You really have to think that we (African countries) are very, very different countries; we have different legal systems… to be pragmatic what can we do? Well, I think some of the key issues here have been talked about. So, we’ve talked about education, we’ve talked about energy, infrastructure, and of course there is always the business side. To go back on Education… I heard the numbers that you said “Well, you know, you need to get people to read and write”. But I like to think that we need to be more ambitious than that. I mean, reading and writing is great but we need more than that. We need people, young people, with the right set of skills. We need people who can get a job once they leave school and that job has to be relevant. So, the partnership between schools or universities and employment, businesses, has to be there from the onset….”                                              Isabel Dos Santos International Economic Forum 2019

The promotion of educational opportunities for Angolans is near and dear to Isabel's heart. To this end, Isabel has facilitated six scholarships at the Royal Agricultural University in the UK. Her management teams believe in putting a wide-ranging plan in place that espouses diversification of our economies and investment in Agriculture in Africa. Unitel (her company) partnered with Chinese telecom giant Huawei with a program known as ‘Seeds for the Future’. As part of her broad-ranging corporate social responsibility initiative, Dos Santos has fast-tracked the program to allow Angolan university students an opportunity to get educated in innovative information communications technology. A select group of students will have an opportunity to learn Mandarin in Beijing, China, visit the Shenzhen campus of Huawei, and understand the exigencies of global commercial operations.

Further evidence of her commitment to the youth is found in the SOS Maternal and Child project at Unitel; ZAP TV where her company works hard to improve the living conditions of children in Cabinda, and The Global Lives Project with donations being given to improve the conditions of a children’s shelter. At her companies, Dos Santos has instructed the HR departments to actively promote women through the ranks by providing skills training and development opportunities. Isabel's goal of combating gender inequality is paying dividends, with a growing number of empowered women making a mark on Angolan economic activity. Plus, greater access to Internet communications is cutting the learning curve, and providing learners with access to real-time data. The recent development of an undersea fibre-optic cable between Brazil and Angola is a case in point.



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