Angola's Dos Santos: a family business

Tuesday September 26 2017

Jose Eduardo dos Santos (left), who is due to hand over the presidency of Angola to his successor Joao Lourenço on September 26, 2017, has placed his family members in key positions in the country. PHOTO | MARCO LONGARI | AFP



Critics of outgoing Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos accuse him of stripping his country of much of its vast oil wealth to enrich himself and his family.

Dos Santos, who will step down on Tuesday after 38 years of iron-fisted rule, has appointed several family members to key economic jobs during his presidency.

Banking, telecoms, media and most significantly oil are among the industries that have felt the far-reaching influence of the Dos Santos brood.

"The president has privatised the state to benefit his family and a handful of associates," said investigative journalist Rafael Marques de Morais, who has been critical of Dos Santos' alleged plunder for many years.

"For them it's above all about having cash at their disposal so they can live like the global super-rich without worrying about what is happening to the people."


Here is a summary of the principal figures in the "family business":


Known derisively as "the princess", 44-year-old Isabel is the public face of the Dos Santos business empire.

Her father appointed her last year to head the state oil company Sonangol. Even through the collapse in the oil price in recent years, crude has remained Angola's leading revenue source, contributing 70 percent of the country's income.

Isabel dos Santos described herself as an "entrepreneur" on her Twitter account and the US-based Forbes magazine claims that she is Africa's richest woman.

It estimates that her personal fortune could be as much as $3.3 billion (2.8 billion euros).

She is also active in the telecoms sector and notably controls Unitel, Angola's leading mobile phone operator, as well as satellite TV network Zap.

She also holds 25 percent of the capital of Portuguese media giant NOS and has invested heavily in the banking sector.

She sits on the boards of Banco de Fomento Angola, Banco BIC — as well as its Portuguese affiliate — and the market leader BFA.

As well as running Sonangol, she holds seven percent of Galp Energia, Portugal's third largest energy company.

And along with her flamboyant husband Sindika Dokolo she owns the luxury Swiss jeweller De Grisogono.

Investments in the cement industry round off Isabel's eclectic and substantial portfolio.


In 2013, Jose Filomeno de Sousa dos Santos  — whose nickname is Zenu — was appointed to head up a sovereign wealth fund that had been launched a year earlier to develop the country which despite vast oil riches remains one of the world's poorest.

Now aged just 35, Filomeno controls the fund worth $5 billion which would have grown by some $3.5 billion every year had the global oil price not collapsed three years ago.

'Tchize', the other daughter

Married to a Portuguese businessman, Welwitschia dos Santos is a leading figure in the Angolan media landscape.

Aged 39, she held different positions at TPA, a public broadcaster and leads two tabloid-style print titles.

Lower profile than her half-sister Isabel, Welwitschia — whose nickname is "Tchize" — controls one of Angola's leading multimedia and advertising agencies.

She also became the first Angolan woman to lead a major football club after she took the reins at Benfica de Luanda.

A member of parliament since 2008, she was elected to the central committee of the ruling Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) during the party's 2016 congress.


Ana Paula is a former air hostess who is Jose Eduardo dos Santos' second wife and according to the local media is involved in several diamond miners.

According to Angola's monthly economics journal Expensao, 53-year-old Ana Paula Cristovao Lemos also directly holds five percent of Sol bank in addition to the 10 percent stake she holds in the business through her foundation.