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Interview with Africa’s richest woman, Isabel dos Santos of Angola

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Many people around the world are familiar with Aliko Dangote, a Nigerian who is often described as Africa’s richest man. But Isabel dos Santos, 45, an Angolan businesswoman, is Africa’s richest woman and the eldest child of Angola’s former President José Eduardo dos Santos, who was in power from 1979 to 2017.

In 2013, according to research by Forbes, her net worth had reached more than three billion US dollars, making her Africa’s first billionaire woman. Five years have passed ever since and her wealth has continued to grow.

But being a woman in a male-dominated business world is not always easy, especially for African women.

In this interview, she talks about business, being a woman in a world dominated by men and how she keeps steaming forward in spite of daily challenges.

How have the men in your life (father, husband, others) supported your growth as a female leader in business, and what advice can you give to men to help contribute to the growth of female leaders?

I realised quite late in life that my education had been quite rare for an African girl. My father raised me exactly has he had done my brothers, and never told me: ”girls don’t do this” or “girls can not be that”. At age 18, going to university, I was undecided on what to apply for, and I remember my father persuading me to become an astronaut or a computer scientist, it never crossed my mind  that this is something that African girls don’t do and can not be.

Finally, I choose to study Engineering at University, and there was only one other girl (Chinese) in my class.

I do not ever recall hearing things like, “Don’t worry, your brothers will work and take care of you”, or “you are girl; one day will marry and find a  nice man to take care of you”. I was taught to make my own way in life, and never to depend on any man being it father, brother, or husband.

This built in me a strong spirit of independence. My parents were both insistent on an education that focused on confidence and competitiveness.

As a woman I have also been lucky to have found and married an opened-minded husband who is also African, and who never saw my personal career or success as a threat, and who allowed me the time and space that I needed to dedicate to my work.

My husband has been a pillar of support throughout my career – crucial to my success. He has provided me always with honest advice and encouragement. He is a great father to all of our four children, being there for them when I am absent, during my long work schedules and overseas trips.

The advice I would give to parents is to establish very early on a sense of confidence and responsibility in their girls. Teach them to fend for themselves and to rely only on themselves. Teach your daughter life skills. Teach your daughter the skills on how to best manage her finances, her salary, and her investments wisely. And moreover, treat her as an independent person and whole human being with a true role in society, equal to that of a man’s.

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In a male-dominated society, what are some of the biggest challenges you face as a female business woman? 

In the business world there are very few female peers, and it is till undoubtedly a very male-dominated society.  Discrimination and prejudice exists. On various occasions in business meetings it has happened to me that the other party with whom I am negotiating will look solely at my male advisor or male lawyer, to see what he has to say, even though I am the owner /shareholder of the business and have already clearly stated my decision.

Your opinions are frequently second guessed simply because you are a woman. I am also often asked : “what business does your husband do? ” People just assume that as a woman and a mother you are someone less able to be negotiating at the table or that you built your own business. The toughest thing for women is to raise capital and investment for their business, as the financial system has “more confidence” in male-led projects.

Are there particular challenges that you face as an African woman? 

Being very often the only black person in the room … is a challenge, people tend to treat you differently.  Africa, has unfortunately been marketed in a very poor way. The narrative around African economies and African business isn’t favourable, it’s full of negative connotations. Africa needs better marketing in order to promote its success stories better. There is very little knowledge of African businesses or key business players out there.

How do you maintain your strength to carry forward?

As an African person, I was lucky to receive a top education. In this way I am privileged, and this provides me with a great sense of duty, to do more for others, for my country and for our people. To inspire and help others build their dreams, build their business, get good jobs, and educate their children.

What opportunities exist currently in Angola or other countries in the continent for women who wish to make money and build successful enterprises? 

Opportunities for me always start with a simple question: What do you know how to do? What are you good at?  And there you will find your opportunity.

Angola in particular has many untapped resources: from minerals and agriculture, manufacturing to services and tourism. Each one comes with a different level of complexity, different need for investment, but all are strong and possible starting points.

The more complex the business, the more it will require, for you to be experienced and skilled, and the need for more capital. Today, the Angolan banking sector offers financing and loans for good projects and businesses, and it is true that interest rates are still high, and that some collateral or partial guarantees is required, as well as some starting capital (savings or land) as equity from the investors. Angola imports over $9 billion of food commodities and consumer goods. Today Africa as a whole continues to import vast amounts of commodities and consumer goods.

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A good opportunity in Africa would be the medium scale production of agriculture  produce or animal farming or manufacturing. Also in some countries, there is a growing middle class with a growing disposable income, and thus internal tourism such as lodges, and countryside bed and breakfasts are also a developing opportunity for small family-owned businesses. Good quality private education and private health care clinics are also sectors of potential business growth in Africa, as people want to invest in education for their children.

Bigger opportunities, for more capital intensive investments and bigger deals, lie in industries, such as glass or steal manufacturing for construction, or mineral exploration.

How can we get started? 

Your best business bet is you, your skills, your motivation, and your passion.
You must have an idea, make a five year plan, prepare your money, ground your idea in detail, be persistent, and partner yourself with a trusted team. Stay passionate always, and execute –  don’t delegate.

What are some tips and tricks you can share with young women about managing time, juggling responsibilities, and self-care with all your different ventures and responsibilities? 

Time unfortunately is one of those things that none of us has enough of! We always end up sacrificing something, wether it be less time with our family, or our friends, or having our social life. Or even less time at the gym!

It’s a challenge. Priorities are key. You must allocate your time to your priorities, and your priorities must match your life expectations.

How do you manage your time with all your different ventures and responsibilities?

Because you are the richest woman in Africa, many people must ask you for charity and support for their social ventures.

Have you established a formalised way to give back? 

Supporting social ventures has always been a priority. From the start,  I have installed in my companies a specific division for social responsibility and sponsorship programmes. We sponsor several charities, and we run our own programmes.

My vision is that to have a better society; it’s important for us to give back and help others. Today, giving back has become part of our company culture, and we have thousands of employees that are volunteers and help run our programmes in the community.

We created a culture that engages people, and each person has the opportunity to play an active role in our social ventures. We finance and run a large and diverse programme of social responsibility initiatives such as: supporting a children’s Pediatric hospital where we are one of the largest donors and partners; we finance and run the largest nationwide campaign for the fight and prevention against Malaria; we sponsor a charity for clean water initiatives in poor communities; with our volunteers we run a “special day “ programme for underprivileged or sick children in which organise special play days and fun adventures, for over 10.000 children in all the country, to give them the experiences they would never otherwise have. Last year, I have started the first Christmas telethon, on the nationwide television network, it allowed us to partner up with several companies and businesses to further help and support communities needs.

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I have encouraged all our employees to be part of our social responsibility programmes , as volunteers, as I believe we need to multiply our efforts and together we are stronger. I am personally very involved, as a donor, but also personally taking part in these actions, as well as in organizing social ventures and engaging with the community directly, as this is a firm commitment I have made to help improve our society.

How do you decide what causes to support, and when to say no? 

I choose to support those initiatives that are focused on the needs of children, and with education and healthcare at the core of what I do. The fight against malaria is a cause that I carry very close to my heart and I am very committed to help to its eradication.

My commitment is for one day to see Africa brimming with entrepreneurs, from businesses small and big, with  ambitious initiatives,  full of perseverance, support and opportunities. In my vision, I believe that we have a true lever for change in Africa, and it’s not our resources, but our education. The quality of education we are able to give our children will determine  the future of Africa. Anyone that dreams of changing Africa,  education is the key. We must educate our girls, as they are the future mothers, and an encyclopedia of knowledge for their children.

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Interviews

Uses WhatsApp the most, has eight hours of sleep… here’s how Barkindo spends his time off

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Mohammed Barkindo, secretary-general of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), says WhatsApp is the most used mobile application on his phone.

In an interview with Bloomberg’s Francine Lacqua, Barkindo also said he is an evening person.

Here’s how OPEC’s secretary-general who recently began his second term in office spends time away from the work.

How many hours of sleep do you get a night?

Normally between seven and eight.

What time do you set your alarm to wake up?

For 6 a.m. to pray al-Fajr.

Are you a morning or evening person?

Evening.

Do you have an essential morning ritual?

My prayers. And a glass of water.

What’s your typical workout?

It is more a mental workout for me.

What’s your favourite sport or sports team?

Football. The Nigerian national football team, the Super Eagles.

Which app is in heavy rotation on your phone?

WhatsApp.

What’s your go-to lunch spot?

Le Couscous in Vienna.

Who is your favourite author?

I have always loved reading Shakespeare. And the great poet and scholar Rumi.

What’s your favourite place to go on vacation?

It has to be returning to my home city of Yola. It’s where I can see family, relax, recharge, and reconnect with my roots.

What living or historical person do you truly admire?

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Dr Rilwanu Lukman, the former OPEC secretary-general. The most decent person I have ever met.

If you had to take a year off, what would you do?

I think I would go back to university. To research and write.

What is your biggest fear?

The breakdown of international institutions and the global order.

If you were 20, what business would you get into?

It would be the oil and gas sector, with a focus on technologies that can help reduce emissions.

Do you ever expect to retire?

Yes, but to return to academia.

 

Sheraton Lagos Hotel captivates audience with momentous Live Concert featuring living legend Femi Kuti

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SGB Rejuvenates Education In Oyo State, Says Bamgbose

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Reverend Muyiwa Bamgbose, an educationist, and the Proprietor, Education Advancement Centre (EAC), Ibadan was a member of Education Committee set up by Oyo state government under the leadership of former Governor Abiola Ajimobi.

In this interview, he told the story of the School Governing Board (SGB) , how it was birthed and successes recorded

Excerpts: 

As an Educationist and one time member of Education Reform Committee set up by Oyo State Government, how will you tell the story of School Governing Board (SGB)?

The story of Oyo State School Governing Board is the story of the birthing of a renaissance! It is a story of turning disadvantage to advantage through resourcefulness. Where there is is a will, there is always a way!

I had the privilege of serving on the committee that birthed the concept and can talk about the feeling of fulfilment that comes with achieving purpose. Everywhere I have had the opportunity of interacting with representatives of the SGB, the feedback has been exciting.

Before the advent of the SGB, the public education system was plagued with decay and lopsided distribution of resources die to the fact there was ‘no ownership’ of the provided resources. We went round this state and saw unbelievable deplorable situations. What was more pathetic was the attitude of the people and students themselves. Everyone looked up to government for provision, direction and implementation while government looked up to the federal government.

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The fact of the situation is that the resources abounded among the people , to help secure the future of their community , alma mater or institution, but there was no sense of belonging. Business mist not continue as usual if we are to avert a looming disaster worse than the failures in WAEC.

What makes the School Governing Board system unique in Oyo state?

While the School Based Management System is not new, the Oyo State SGB is a variant with a significant difference with the adoption of a subtle but powerful innovation that recognised the role of core- stakeholders. It sounded alien to the known schemes , and I can say there were fears and mistrust about the intentions. Some notable groups fought against it but thank God at the end, everyone saw reason and embraced ‘true change’.

In the short period of operation, we thank God for notable testimonies of development. I want to say without any doubt in my heart that what we see is just a tip of the ice-berg. The success of the SGB is much more than these  facilities, and resources. It is the impact it will have on our future, collectively.

The positive competitive spirit among the SGBs will lead to greater manifestation of the wealth of this state and even this region.

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In a simple word, what is your advise  to your constituency on the new face of education in Oyo state?

 

Like Malcolm X said, “Education is our passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to the people who prepare for it today”.

The best is yet to come.

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Billionaire Daughter Rahma Indimi shares how she is fighting Poverty, Inequality

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Rahma Indimi, a Director at Oriental Energy Resources and Founder of Yakolo Indimi Foundation, who is driven by an unwavering passion and determination to support the less privilege gave an insight into how she is giving succour and saving the lives of thousands of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the North-East via her foundation, aptly titled; Rahma Indimi: A Look at The Thousands of Lives saved and improved by her Yakolo Indimi Foundation.

On the making of the NGO, Yakolo Indimi Foundation, Rahma said

“I grew up watching the generosity of my father, Dr. Muhammadu Indimi, OFR. He is always trying to solve problems for people. He speaks often about poverty and how it can be diminished. He instilled in us the awareness of heartbreaking issues in society. Like every parent, he worked hard to make his family comfortable. But he taught us to adapt to different situations. So, the idea of the Yakolo Indimi Foundation was born from lessons shared by my father. I saw the smiles on the faces of those helped by my daddy. I wanted to be like him, helping people. Before Yakolo Indimi Foundation was created, my team and I had been investing in humanitarian activities. Empowering people is one of my greatest motivations. It brings immense happiness and peace in my heart.

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On why Yakolo Indimi Foundation seem to be focusing on the northeast geo-political zone

“Presently, the impact of the insurgency in the North-East is overwhelming, particularly in Borno and Adamawa. The people need all the help they can get. Although the IDPs are in other states, the conditions in the North-East are dire. To make things worse, insecurity cuts off access to many parts of Borno and that makes it impossible to save thousands of children and families. In spite of the long distance, my team and I do not hesitate to go home again and again to help our people. For example, the Muhammadu Indimi Foundation created by my father developed homes for 100 households. The Yakolo Indimi Foundation reached out to the women and gave them sustainable means of earning revenue. Several IDPs have been given sewing machines and flour processing machines. They also received training as well as start-up finances. Little by little, all IDPs will be empowered. That is the vision. Periodically, the Foundation visits to conduct surveys on the needs of IDPs, in collaboration with the office on Sustainable Development Goals, SDGs, in the North-East. Additionally, the Yakolo Indimi Foundation recently started a food security project. We equip beneficiaries with modern farming skills and provide an environment to do so. Livelihood is restored when they can sell produce and keep their families nourished.”

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Yakolo Indimi Foundation’s intervention in the health sector

The Foundation collaborates with a medical team during its outreach. We support the team with medicine. The recent trend of increased pregnancies in the IDP camps was a concern. You could easily come across a woman with 20 children and you would see children roaming the streets. So, the Foundation sensitized the women on birth control. It was successful because some of the women showed interest. The health challenges in the North-East are overwhelming, but not insurmountable. We believe partnership would increase and accelerate impact.

This issue also includes a special feature to celebrate Versace’s 40th anniversary of Iconic world of class and to celebrates this milestone, the magazine had an exclusive interview with the brand’s Vice President and its founder’s little sister, Donatella Versace who joined the company in the creative department in 1988 and there began her distinctive commitment and influence on the brand. Following the tragic murder of Gianni in 1997 in Miami, Donatella has shown redoubtable strength of character and has managed the company up to the present day.

Plus, Donna Wallace, a Jamaican-Briton and proprietress of Oxford Manor College, Abuja who sold her London home to investment in Nigerian Education. Wallace in this interview with Pleasures Magazine shared her start-up experience and why Nigerians being one of the most intelligent races in the world don’t need to pack their bags and pay millions of Naira abroad to get their children educated.

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And as usual, the magazine is incomplete without your usual light stories and other human interest narratives. Read the interesting tourist sites in Kenya, these and many more reports combine in making the magazine a collector’s item and reading pleasure for all and sundry.

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