Angola’s President Jose Eduardo dos Santos has been asked to respond to an inquiry from the Supreme Court on why he chose to appoint his daughter as the head of state-owned oil firm, Sanongol. The court was acting in response to a suit instituted by 14 Angolan lawyers accusing the President of nepotism and blatant cronyism, according to Reuters.
In June, President dos Santos shocked many when he sacked Sanongol’s entire board and appointed his daughter Isabel as the new CEO. Following the appointment, opposition groups and human rights activists immediately criticized the move, slamming it as an attempt to further entrench a dos Santos dynasty in Angola’s economic and political landscape. The President previously appointed one of his sons chairman of Fundo Soberano de Angola, the country’s sovereign wealth fund.
President dos Santos insists that Isabel’s appointment and the dismissal of the board will help reposition the oil corporation and enable it to be more profitable.
Earlier this year, Angola leapfrogged Nigeria to become Africa’s largest oil producer following a series of renewed militant attacks on the country’s oil installations.
However, slumping international oil prices have forced officials to cut back on government spending and review projected growth forecasts.
Rise to Power
After being sworn in, Isabel told reporters that she plans to overhaul the operations of Sanongol to improve its efficiency and offset the impact of depressed oil prices by splitting the government-owned firm into three separate units: operations, logistics, and concessions.
The 40-year-old is Africa’s richest woman with an estimated worth of $3 billion, according to Forbes. Her business interests include telecoms, banking, media, energy, and retail.
She graduated with an electrical engineering degree before delving into business with the opening of Miami Beach Club, a restaurant and nightclub on Luanda island. She would go on to expand her business to include logistics management and telecommunication.
While there is little doubt regarding Isabela’s drive, her business and managerial acumen, she has benefited greatly from government patronage. A 2013 Forbes article noted that “every major Angolan investment held by Dos Santos [Isabel] stems either from taking a chunk of a company that wants to do business in the country or from a stroke of the President’s pen that cut her into the action.”
President Dos Santos, who has ruled Angola since 1979, has worked closely with his daughter to set up an elaborate business and financial network that allows the family to maintain a semblance of legitimacy while building an immense fortune.