The Forum International on Mobility and Innovation was recently held in Lisbon, Portugal. Hosted by the Community of Portuguese Language Countries, otherwise known as CPLP, the high-profile event focused on a multitude of issues, notably the promotion of women to leadership positions in Portuguese language countries. These include Equatorial Guinea, Sao Tome and Principe, East Timor, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, Brazil, Angola, Portugal, and Cape Verde. The symposium attracted many prominent leaders, notable among them Isabel Dos Santos from Angola. As a staunch advocate of women̵
The role of women in Portuguese-speaking countries (Lusaphone countries) came into sharp focus at the Lisbon conference on September 23, 2019. Some 200 delegates and business leaders shared their experiences in relation to promotional prospects for women in their home countries. It was apropos therefore that Isabel Dos Santos, the most outspoken advocate for women’s rights took to the podium and discussed the progress being made in Angola, her home country. Isabel spoke at length about the challenges and successes currently being experienced in Angola, and the most productive ways to integrate women into leadership positions in the Angolan economy. The CPLP Federation of Women Entrepreneurs was established over 3 years ago, in 2016, and includes many notable business leaders including Rita Nabeiro (CEO of Adega Mayor), and Marianela Mirpuri (Cape Verdean Businesspeoples Association).
A Focus on Portugal
Isabel Dos Santos has invested heavily in the Portuguese economy, and her companies also have substantial interest in other Lusaphone countries. Isabel took to the stage and indicated that she would continue to invest in the Portuguese economy, creating jobs and providing plenty of opportunities to young people to further their careers, and their lives. She issued statements to journalists, indicating that her financial ties to Portugal span many years, at a time when ‘fewer people and fewer interested parties were involved’. Isabel acknowledged that, ‘Portugal has a lot of talent, I really like working with young Portuguese, with Portuguese universities and there is a lot of innovation and we invest a lot in the research and development sector… so creating jobs in Portugal and giving opportunities to young Portuguese is something I will continue to bet on and will continue to do.’
While Isabel did not focus on specific sectors of the Portuguese economy that she would be investing in, it is clear that her interests span many different sectors, including telecommunications, digital satellite TV, supermarkets, electric vehicle technology, energy, mobility, and engineering. In fact, she is on the board of one of the largest Portuguese energy, engineering, and mobility corporations – EFACEC. Dos Santos is also invested in many other Portuguese companies, notably Banco BIC Portugues, Zon Multimedia, and Galp. Isabel paid tribute to the outsized role that Angola plays on the African continent. As an emerging powerhouse in the oil industry, Angola has partnered with many other countries to develop its oil industry to the maximum potential. She admitted that many challenges remain, such as the provision of basic services to rural communities, health and wellness, the combating of malaria and disease, infrastructure development, and so forth.
Regarding the role of women, Isabel remains optimistic. As a self-styled female leader, she has spearheaded efforts to put women front and centre of economic activity in her home country. Across Africa, women are taking charge of their lives and their careers, helping to develop stronger bonds within communities, and the economy at large. Having said that, much work remains to be done including the provision of financing and credit facilities, and more importantly a socio-economic shift that is more embracing of including women in economic enterprise. Regardless of the challenges, she remains hopeful that women across Africa, and indeed the greater Community of Portuguese Speaking Countries can create an environment conducive to the empowerment of women in the global economy.