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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

‘In today’s Christianity, we are religious, not spiritual’

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Prophet Olumayowa Ayobami Gbadero is the visionary of the Sanctuary of God for Salvation and Fruitfulness Ministries. In this interview with OLAIDE SOKOYA, he speaks on passion for the liberation of the country and his vision for Christianity in the country.

 

What is your take on the many challenges facing the country?

Going by the many challenges in the country and concurrent calamities in the society, no one can claim he or she is satisfied. I think the main issue is the problem of leadership; our leadership system is bad. Many that are in the leadership position of the country don’t have the mind of God. They are not doing things as if they will give account to God. They would say different things when they were aspiring for positions and act differently when they are in power and this has caused a serious problem, especially for the younger generation.

 

What can the church do to make things right in the country?

Recently, I was on my social media handle to charge all church leaders to act like the bold prophets in the Bible, prophets including Nathan and Joshua, among others, who didn’t talk to individuals excepts the government and leaders. So, I am also using this medium to once again call on all ministers of God to say the heart of God to our leaders and everyone holding sensitive positions in the country. It is important clerics speak the truth and stay by it irrespective of what it may cost. What the sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, did and stood for in his days is still a reference point today. This is our main responsibility and God will be delighted and have mercy on the nation if truth is yielded to.

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With your experience in the vineyard, how would you assess Christianity in the country?

In today’s Christianity, we are religious and not spiritual. There is a difference between spirituality and religiosity. Many people now pretend to be genuine Christians so as to appear so to others and even their pastors. They go to church and do all sorts in the church premises as camouflage, but deep down, they know they are not for Christ. They only go to church as a cover up. Some now even pray without any purpose because they see people pray and prayer is not just said by what you feel. When you are spiritual, the Holy Spirit will give you a hint on how to make prayers that would be answered.

 

Why did you choose to be a pastor?

I didn’t pick this as a profession, God called me and the call has been on before my birth. My late grandfather was a man of God. He was the first seer of the Cherubim and Seraphim Church, Murtala, Ilorin, Kwara State. I learnt that my grandfather prophesied that one of his grandchildren would take after him. The same revelation came forth to my parent when I was born. I grew up loving to be in the house of God and I joined virtually all the societies in our church. Then I did not know I was going to be called. It was after my graduation at The Polytechnic Ibadan where I studied Public Administration that God told me I had left what I was supposed to do. Many men of God I came across, including Prophet Timothy Obadare, confirmed and urged me to heed the call. I eventually heeded the call and the experience has been awesome.

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The country will clock 59 in a few days.What message do you have for Nigerians?

It is only about giving a message of hope to Nigerians I have taken up the responsibility to intercede for the country and citizens. The programme, which has become an annual event tagged: “Bethel Encounter 2019,” has a lot to do with our Independence Day. This is where we seek the face of God on behalf of the country. God told me that I should do  exactly what Jacob did that changed his name to Israel on Nigeria’s Independence Day. I am confident Nigeria and the citizens will have a new experience as a result of this year’s programme, which will hold on September 30 to the dawn of October 1. Nigeria is in the hands of both leaders and citizens, so, we cannot afford to fold our arms without making efforts to liberate the nation.

 

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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.

 

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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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