Angola State Owned, Family Run Oil Company Fires Subsidiary’s Board

Luanda, Angola – The head of Angola’s state oil company Sonangol has dismissed the executive committee of subsidiary Sonangol Exploration and Production, Globe Afrique Media has learned this week.

Sonangol’s chief executive Isabel dos Santos, the billionaire daughter of Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, has told the Financial Times she plans to riven the company into three units.

Sonangol’s chief executive Isabel dos Santos

Dos Santos has said she wants to advance transparency at Sonangol, esteemed as one of the most impervious institutions in Africa.

Sonangol mentioned “management weakness” and monetary concerns for the dismissals.

“This decision is in line with the stance of the new Board of Directors of the oil company to be consistent with the principles of rigor and transparency,” its statement said.

Sonangol Exploration and Production is also involved in prospecting.

The Financial Times quoted Dos Santos as saying Sonangol would be divided into three units: exploration and production, logistics and a division that handles its concessions to international oil companies. Non-oil interests will be placed in a fund.

Angola, a member of OPEC and currently Africa’s top oil producer and third largest economy, has been hit hard by the slump in global crude prices. Oil export revenues account for more than 90 percent of its foreign exchange revenues, which critics say have been dissipated and drained off for decades.

Isabel dos Santos (born 20 April 1973) is an Angolan investor considered by Forbes to be the richest woman not only in Angola, but the whole of Africa. In 2013, per research by Forbes, her net worth had reached more than three billion US dollars, making her Africa’s first billionaire woman. She is the daughter of Angola’s President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, who has ruled the country since 1979.

Sonangol’s oil exploration capacity

Isabel dos Santos was born in Baku, Azerbaijan SSR, the oldest daughter of Angola’s President Jose Eduardo dos Santos and his first wife, the Russian-born Tatiana Kukanova, whom he met while studying in Azerbaijan. Her father’s parents came from Sao Tome and Principe. She studied electrical engineering at King’s College in London. There she met her husband from Zaire (now Democratic Republic of the Congo) Sindika Dokolo, a son of a millionaire from Kinshasa and his Danish wife. There were reports that when they got married in Luanda in December 2002 the wedding ceremony cost about US$4 million, with a special choir flown in from Belgium and two planes chartered to bring food from France. About 800 guests were present at the wedding, half of them relatives of the couple, and several African presidents.

One of Sonangol’s Cruel Oil Vessels

In the early 1990s, Isabel dos Santos returned from London to join her father in Luanda, and started working as a project manager engineer for Urbana 2000, a subsidiary of Jembas Group, that won the contract for cleaning and disinfection of the city. Then, she set up a trucking business. Here the development of a walkie-talkie system paved the way for her subsequent foray into telecoms.

In 1997, at the age of 24, she started her first business by opening the Miami Beach Club, one of the first night clubs and beach restaurants on the Luanda Island. Over a period of nearly 20 years she expanded her business interests continuously and this led her to create several holdings, in Angola and mostly abroad, and to make substantial investments in a series of prestigious enterprises, especially in Portugal.

In December 2014, the Togolese magazine Africa Top Success named Isabel dos Santos as “African of the Year”. The Angolan businesswoman competed against five opponents, namely Angelique Kidjo, Lupita Nyong’o, Daphne Mashile-Nkosi, Fatou Bensouda and Koki Mutungi.

In November 2015, the BBC named Isabel dos Santos as one of the 100 most influential women in the world. As part of the BBC series 100 Women, which elects women who every year made a difference in their area of operation, Isabel dos Santos was chosen for the list for her leading role in the economy and development of the African continent.

In an interview with British public service broadcaster, issued on BBC World News channel, Isabel dos Santos stated that we are seeing a change in the way investors look at Africa, and that education remains a big gap in Angola’s development. Isabel dos Santos was also asked about the role of women in politics and business, stating that “there’s a young generation of African women who are highly educated and are very exposed to the world and (…) they want to change History. And that’s our dream, make Africa a place like anywhere else in the world.”

In 2016, Isabel dos Santos participated as a speaker at the “Leader del Futuro” meeting, within the 42nd edition of The European House – Ambrosetti Forum, one of the most influential think tanks in Europe. Speaking about “Leadership and Business” in a panel on Africa, Isabel dos Santos said that “an idea and the ability to innovate is at the heart of any business” and “we must never let expectations or stereotypes hinder our way.”

Since 2008 she has had relevant interests in telecommunications, media, retails, finance, and the energy industry, both in Angola and in Portugal. In addition to her commercial interest in oil and diamonds, Isabel dos Santos also owns shares in the Angola cement company Nova Cimangola. Jadeium, a company held by Isabel dos Santos, acquired 4.918% of ZON Multimedia shares from Spain’s Telefonica.

Through the Netherlands-based Unitel International Holdings BV, a company controlled by Isabel dos Santos, the Angolan businesswoman is the main shareholder of ZON Multimedia with 29% since July 2012. She is member of the board of Angolan bank in Lisbon, Banco BIC Português, and through Santoro Holding she holds 20% stakes at Banco Portugues de investineto. She has other major stakes with the Angolan state oil company Sonangol through their mutual European Law holding, based in the Netherlands, named Esperanza Holding, in Portuguese Galp Energeia. Isabel dos Santos is a founding member and Board member of Banco BIC Português, which recently acquired Banco Português de Negócios, a nationalized bank.

Since November 2012 Isabel dos Santos is a non-executive board member of ZON. In December 2012, Isabel dos Santos announced the invitation for a merger of ZON with Sonaecom, proved in March 2013 by the General Assembly.

Eight months later, after the green light from the Competition Authority, the merger of the two companies was formalized on August 27, 2013, with the transfer to ZOPT, a special purpose vehicle created to advance the operation which became the owner of more 50% of the capital of the new group, the shares that Isabel dos Santos and Sonaecom hold on Zon and Optimus respectively.

There was a capital increase of ZOPT through contribution in kind from 50 to 716 million euros, while Sonaecom subscribed 358 million shares of the company, by delivering 81.8% of its stake in Optimus. The Angolan businesswoman, on her turn, subscribed the same number of shares of ZOPT, through her holdings Kento and Unitel International, delivering 28.8% of the stake in ZON.

With this transfer of shareholdings in Optimus and Zon, Sonaecom and Isabel dos Santos became holders of over 50% stake in the merged company: Zon Optimus SGPS. On this occasion, Isabel dos Santos announced a new strategy for the company, with a multimarket vision. On October 1, 2013, Isabel dos Santos attended the first General Assembly of Zon Optimus. Isabel dos Santos’ investments in Portugal are in listed companies, which are therefore subject to official supervision of the Portuguese Securities Market Commission (CMVM).

In November 2014, Isabel dos Santos launched a takeover bid for Portugal, SGPS, S.A., valuing the firm’s shares at €1.35 a share, in what was a rival bid to a previous €7 billion offer from Altice. Though the offer made by Altice is on PT Portugal, not on PT SGPS.  On December 1, 2014, the Angolan businesswoman formally registered her offer at the Portuguese Securities Market Commission (Comissão do Mercado de Valores Mobiliários, CMVM, in Portuguese).

With 51% control of Condis, Isabel dos Santos signed a joint partnership with the Portuguese Sonae group in April 2011 for the development and operation of a retail trading company in Angola. The entry in Angola by the Portuguese group led by Paolo de Azevedo will be performed by the Comtinente (Angola, which will open the first supermarket by 2013 in Angola.

In June 2016, José Eduardo dos Santos appointed her as chairwoman of Sonangol, the Angolan state oil company.

Isabel dos Santos is not just the daughter of the country’s president, she is the richest woman in Africa.

The starting point, however, was the creation of Unitel in partnership with Portugal Telecom, after a tender process she considered fair.

Also through Unitel International Holding, a platform for Unitel investments where Portugal Telecom has no presence, she acquired the mobile operator T+, in Cape Verde and gained the license for the establishment of the second telecom operator in São Tomé and Príncipe. Under this investment Isabel dos Santos announced during a visit to São Tomé and Príncipe that Unitel will invest in education in the country to train engineers, managers and other technicians and also focus on job creation.

In an interview during the New York Forum Africa, held in June 2013 in Libreville, Gabon, Isabel dos Santos said that future of telecommunications in Africa is about thinking beyond mobile phones and focusing on connectivity with high capacity and big broad band that can connect the African continent.

In November 2014, Isabel dos Santos participated in the 5th edition of the Global Entrepreneurship Summit held in Marrakech, Morocco. During her speech, the Angolan businesswoman classified Africa’s economic environment and African market as “very attractive” and revealed that Unitel and Google entered a partnership for the installation of a fiber optic submarine cable that will connect Africa to Brazil and Brazil with United States.

Holdings of Isabel dos Santos in the recent years:

  • Trans Africa Investment Services, a Gibraltar based vehicle founded together with her mother for the diamond business
  • Unitel International Holdings B.V.: change of name of Kento and Jadeium, based in Amsterdam company-vehicle for Isabel dos Santos’ investment in telecommunications
  • Santoro Finance: company-vehicle for Isabel dos Santos’ investment in Banco BPI based in Lisbon.
  • Esperaza Holding B.V.: based in Amsterdam, energy, oil etc.
  • Condis: a retail business based in Luanda


Africa has a long history of president’s children becoming extremely wealthy and powerful just because their parents control state power. Below are few people who became rich and very powerful as a result of their parents’ power and authority as presidents.


Saif al-Islam, son of the late Libyan leader Moammar Ghaddafi

Saif al-Islam was described as Libya’s “de facto prime minister” by Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the chief prosecutor of the ICC. He was regarded as the richest young man in Africa until his father was dethroned from power. He is currently facing jail time.


Karim Wade, son of former Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade

Karim Wade, referred to as the “minister of heaven and earth” by his country men and women during his father regime, is a Senegalese ‘politician/bureaucrat’ who served in the government of Senegal as Minister of State for International Cooperation, Regional Development, Air Transport, and Infrastructure from May 2000 to April 2012. He is the son of Abdoulaye Wade, who was President of Senegal from 2000 to 2012. Before joining the government, Karim Wade was President of the National Agency for the Organization of the Islamic Conference and served as an advisor to his father.

He was widely seen as a possible successor to his father as president, and his father was widely believed to be grooming him for the position.  He is currently facing jail time for corruption. He is one of the richest men in West Africa.


Father and son: father president, son vice president – Equatorial Guinea. Both addressed the United Nations

Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue is the current Vice President of Equatorial Guinea, in office since 2012. He is a son of Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, the current President of Equatorial Guinea, by his first wife, Constancia Okomo.

He served for years as Minister of Agriculture and Forestry in his father’s government before being appointed as Second Vice-President, in charge of defense and security, in May 2012. He was promoted to First Vice-President in June 2016, and is regarded as the de facto president at the moment. He is one of the richest men in Africa, estimated to be worth $2 – 5 billion dollars in combined assets/revenue from oil.


Robert A. Sirleaf, Liberia’s de facto “prime minister” and son of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

Robert A. Sirleaf  is the son of Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.  Like the children of other African leaders who have amassed wealth using their parents influence, Mr. Robert Sirleaf held more than 4 high-level positions in Liberia: Chairman of the National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL), Senior Advisor to the President, Chairman of the First International Bank, UNESCO Representative, and Commercial Attaché of the Liberian Mission to the EU in Brussels. He is also believed to be the main recruiting agency of the Government, wherein he hires cronies and fires perceived enemies. He is one of the richest men in West Africa.

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While his exact net worth is unknown and unconfirmed in view of what seems to be a well-planned ‘diversifications,’  some western financial analysts and political commentators with interest in Africa allegedly value him at an estimated $1. 3 billion dollars based on ongoing research which is difficult to conclude since he (as a confirmed U.S. citizen) has not filed his U.S. federal taxes for the past several years based on the Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) public records.

Per public records obtained from the IRS and the financial industry, Mr. Sirleaf filed mandatory tax returns when he worked within the financial sector in the U.S. as a junior level Securities and Fixed Income Sales banking supervisor with Wachovia Bank (Corporation) prior to relocating to Liberia after his mother became president of the country in 2006.

Liberia has a history of appointing president’s family members in top positions or family members creating foundations, trust funds and businesses to siphon funds from the State. Former President William R. Tolbert family members in Government included his son AB Tolbert, his brother Frank Tolbert and his infamous brother, Stephen Tolbert, who was appointed Minister of Finance but was killed in sudden plane crash.


Gamal Mubarak, son of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak

Gamal Al Din Mohammed Hosni Ei Sayed Mubarak is the youngest of the two sons of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and former First Lady Suzanne Mubarak.  He is said to be the chief trustee to his father’s estimated $5 billion net worth.

In contrast to his older brother Alaa, Gamal had pursued an active public profile and was starting to wield some influence on political life in the Egypt before the revolution of early 2011. He is one of the wealthiest men in Egypt and Africa.


Papy Bozize

Pay Bozizi is the Francois Bozize.  Prior to the ouster of his father François Bozizé, the former president of the Central African Republic, in 2013, Papy Bozize headed the Research and Investigation Division (IRS) of the National Gendarmerie which was the political police of the Bozizé regime.

 Papy Bozize was found with huge amounts of money, several identity cards and cheque books. Papy Bozize was arrested on Wednesday August 10, 2016 by elements of the Cameroon secret service in the locality of Gamboula Kadie in the Eastern Region, as he walked in Cameroon.


Muhoozi Kainerugaba Museveni, Son of Uganda’s President

Muhoozi Kainerugaba Museveni is a Major General in the Uganda People’s Defense Force and the Commander of the Special Forces Group, which contains the unit known as Presidential Guard Brigade responsible for providing security to the President of Uganda and to Uganda’s constitutional monarchs

The Special Forces Group is also responsible for providing security at Uganda’s oil installations. He is the son of President Yoweri Museveni, who is allegedly grooming him as his successor. He is one of wealthiest men in Uganda and East Africa and is being prepared as the next president of Uganda, probably after his father steps down ASAP.


Chuckie Taylor (center in military uniform)

Charles MacArthur Emmanuel Taylor, also known as Chuckie Taylor (born 1977), is the son of jailed Liberian president and former rebel leader Charles Taylor, the former President of Liberia.

Raised by his mother in Florida until he was 17, Taylor Jr. traveled to Liberia to be with his father. During his father’s presidency, Emmanuel became the commander of the infamously violent Anti-Terrorist Unit (ATU), commonly known in Liberia as the “Demon Forces,” and became one of the riches young men in West Africa.  He is currently serving a 97-year sentence back in Florida for his role in human rights violations carried out by the ATU . He has now converted to the Islamic faith.

Chuckie Taylor, now a Muslim Convert. His father has converted to Judaism in UK’s prisons


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Michael Harrington

Michael Harrington is a researcher and senior contributing reporter with Globe Afrique Media.
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