Isabel dos Santos Changing Global Conversation on Development

Global Development and Billionaire Isabel dos Santos

The field of development is constantly shifting as new ideas are introduced by those with first-hand experience in the sector and the parts of the world served. Such influencers are helping to make development efforts more efficient and targeted towards the realities of life on the ground in some of the world’s poorest countries. To gain a better understanding of this dynamic, we looked into the work being done by Isabel dos Santos, a leading African entrepreneur. Not only is she often found at speaking engagements, but she regularly collaborates with organizations aimed at improving the quality of international development. Read on for a look at her efforts in this rapidly changing field.


Personal background

One of the reasons that Isabel dos Santos is well-placed to make recommendations on improving the lives of others is that she has extensive experience working in a variety of areas of the economy. As a longtime businesswoman, she has started and run companies in the fields of construction, finance, hospitality, food service, and more. Perhaps her most notable role of late has been as the head of the largest Angolan telecommunications company Unitel, which is known for its efforts in increasing mobile coverage and access to technology throughout that country.

The entrepreneur also has a background in working and living internationally that lends her a unique perspective into the way in which the world’s economy operates and how policy is crafted on a global scale. Originally from Angola, the bulk of her formal education took place abroad, having attended primary and secondary school in Kent, England. She went on to study electrical engineering at King’s College in London, where she not only refined her understanding of science and technology but also her grasp of using problem-solving methods to tackle large and complex systematic issues.


Speaking at institutions

One of the ways in which the businesswoman helps to shift perspective on how to implement development efforts is through talks at various institutions. Such engagements have seen her speak at universities, in corporate environments, and before the European Parliament. Her talks tend to be well-attended, a testament to the respect her ideas have earned in the global discussion on development. Since voices from successful businesspeople living in developing countries are sometimes lacking, her views also present a unique opportunity for others to gain a firsthand account of what it’s like to work in underserved parts of the world.

During such talks, the businesswoman tends to focus on ways in which economic conditions can be improved from the inside out. This often centers around methods that can be used to improve economic opportunity and encourage grassroots entrepreneurs to take action in their own communities. Theory around this area often points to successes that have been seen in the field of development where populations were able to take a more active role in bettering their lives and the lives of those around them. This stands in contrast to actions centered around merely providing material goods without also encouraging educational efforts.


Focus of development

One of the themes Isabel dos Santos returns to often in her talks on development is the importance of technology in spurring economic wellbeing. As a professional in the telecommunications field, she has plenty of first-hand experience seeing how expanded access to communication infrastructure has helped many rural communities gain improved access to economic opportunities. This access can be as simple as making contact with associates in more densely populated areas of a country in order to request goods for resale. It can also be used to contact individuals outside of their day to day life in order to identify possible business opportunities that might otherwise have been inaccessible.

The entrepreneur has also highlighted the ability of technology to make existing develop efforts more effective beyond improved communication. For instance, some of her past talks have examined the idea of urban infrastructure and the way in which high-quality urban planning can drastically improve the lives of city residents. One particularly effective topic of focus here is the ways in which transportation methods can be improved to better serve urban populations. Since existing transportation methods are often deeply inefficient in developing countries, attempts to create more cohesive infrastructures in this space could go far in improving access to goods, services, and other quality of life enhancements.


Efforts to implement change

Beyond speaking engagements, the businesswoman has also worked to model many of the changes she’s encouraging others to make in the field of development. One such change has been technological improvements to internet infrastructures in Angola. Having spoken at length on the importance of equipping African nations with the same high-quality internet technologies as many developed nations, the entrepreneur has begun to make such changes a reality through the installation of fiber optic cables.

The businesswoman has also made a habit of promoting the work of local entrepreneurs through her online presence. Her website and social media feeds feature numerous examples of business owners working to improve their own economic conditions through education, novel idea implementation, and the use of new and emerging technologies. Showcasing these efforts serves a two-pronged goal of assisting the entrepreneurs in meeting their own goals and also providing role models for others who are contemplating business opportunities. Efforts to showcase entrepreneurs are accompanied by assistance in the form of education and standardized programs designed to increase the chances for local businesses to thrive in their fields of focus.

Moving forward, the work taking place in development will continue to evolve to better fit the needs and realities of populations served. These changes will be affected by a number of considerations but will certainly draw plenty of input by world economic leaders familiar with the problems at hand. By looking to the work by Isabel dos Santos and others in her position, we are able to better understand how development efforts are undertaken at present and how they may change moving forward. Such an understanding not only makes us all more connected to these types of efforts, it also leaves us in a better position to contribute to the work in a myriad of ways.


More about her at

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *