Business Maverick


Africa’s Richest Woman Reappointed to Board of Unitel

Africa’s richest woman secured a fresh mandate as board member of Angola’s biggest telecommunications company when shareholders met Tuesday to discuss corporate governance in the wake of legal action by one of the firm’s biggest investors.

The meeting at Unitel SA, in which Isabel dos Santos owns 25 percent stake and has been chairwoman, came after an arbitration court ruled that Brazilian telecommunications company Oi SA was entitled to receive $654 million from other shareholders. The court said they violated several clauses of an agreement among Unitel shareholders and Oi didn’t receive dividends it was owed.

Angolan state-owned oil company Sonangol, which owns a 25 percent stake, has repeatedly said it wants a new board at Unitel, while Oi has publicly expressed its disapproval with management for withholding the dividends.

Unitel shareholders unanimously elected Isabel dos Santos and four other members to the board of the company. Miguel Geraldes, a former senior consultant at Huawei Technologies in South Africa, will replace Antony Dolton as general director of Unitel. The new board will take office on May 6 and elect a new chairperson, according to Unitel, which didn’t indicate in its statement who is likely to be chosen.

The daughter of former Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, Isabel amassed a fortune during her father’s almost four-decade rule and has an estimated net worth of about $2 billion, according to Bloomberg. Besides Unitel, her business interests include media, retail, finance and energy, both in Angola and in Portugal.

President Joao Lourenco, who replaced dos Santos in 2017, has made the battle against graft the cornerstone of his administration, dismantling the influence of his predecessor’s family over key sectors.

Read more about President Joao Lourenco’s campaign against corruption

“We can’t accept that a single shareholder with 25 percent stake can take unilateral decisions at the company,” Sonangol Chairman Carlos Saturnino told reporters on Feb. 25. “We need to reach an agreement to appoint a new board.” DM


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