We, African people, must own our solutions
Isabel dos Santos – The people who are really going to change Africa are going to be the young people with the ideas, with the energy, the time and the will. So, you still have all that energy and all those ideas to make a difference, and that’s great. When we look at how our population is going to grow over the next 20 years, we’re going to double. So, if you can think of a city like, let’s say Johannesburg, is going to be double.
Thriving Network TV – That is big.
Isabel dos Santos – It’s going to be even bigger.
Thriving Network TV – Wow.
Isabel dos Santos – And then you think of yourself as a young person in a continent, in a city or in a country that’s going to double: “what can I do? Who am I going to be? What is the difference that I can make?” I always say if you find something to do that is meaningful, that actually means something to somebody, if you provide a solution that somebody else values, then you will be able to make money out of it. Because at the end of the day, business is about making money. Your business has to make money, to survive and to grow.
The people who are really going to change Africa are going to be the young people with the ideas, with the energy, the time and the will. So, you still have all that energy and all those ideas to make a difference, and that’s great.
Thriving Network TV – That is so true. You spoke a lot about how we should take the fourth industrial revolution in our reality and look at what’s currently in our surroundings and for us to take advantage of it. Entrepreneurs are wondering, how do I involve myself in the fourth industrial revolution and capitalize on what’s already in my environment?
Isabel dos Santos – A lot of people are going to talk about innovation and the terrible part is, for many of us, innovation is about making something new. Good news, it’s not. You don’t need to invent anything. To innovate is about taking something that already exists, a solution that already exists, and making the experience of that solution a little bit better.
Thriving Network TV – You spoke as well that black female own businesses are the fastest growing force in America. And we’re not really seeing that in Africa, you know? What would be some of the challenges that some of the black women, especially entrepreneurs are facing based on your experience?
Isabel dos Santos – Absolutely. I think that girls have to be out first because girls are a mom. A girl is a mother and a mother is like a book to her child. So, when a child is small, everything they learn is from the mothers. So, if the mothers are not well-educated, they will not bring-up a well-educated society. So, the first key is really to get women to be well-educated, girls to be educated and then empower them. One of the things we’re doing in our company, for example, is that half of the people who work with us are girls, are women. Another thing we do is we put women in leadership. So, we really encourage them to become more directors… Directors that run over 30-50 people. And we say “you can! Be confident and you can”.
But it starts at home. This is what really worries me a lot on our continent is that there are very small problems like the fact that girls don’t have sanitary pads in rural communities. So, when they don’t have sanitary pads, they actually don’t go to school.
I think it’s up to us, young Africans, to really solve this. Because only us, we can know our own problems and our own solutions.
Thriving Network TV – That is so true. And now touching on what you mentioned about grooming the young girls from the homeplace, you know? Would you think that mentorship is also very important?
Isabel dos Santos – I think that role models are really important. When I first started working in business, I didn’t communicate a lot. So, a lot of my nephews are asking me now: “Auntie, how come all of a sudden you are on social networks and you are taking pictures of yourself going to things?” And I said “well, you know, for many years I didn’t communicate. I didn’t think that was important, because for me, what was important was to build a sustainable business, to create jobs, you know, to employ people and to develop my economy”. And then I began to realize that if I could inspire others if I could become a role model to other girls, and if there could be hundreds of thousands of girls like me, then we could really make a difference.
Thriving Network TV – You are so inspiring and very amazing… Just one last question then. What would be your one single advice that you learned from your own mentor along the way, and what would you advise at inspiring others?
Isabel dos Santos – Ok. I think I would have two key advice. The first is a business is to make money. So, some people come to me and say “oh I have this great business idea”. And at the end of the day, I say “well, does your idea make money?”. If your idea doesn’t make money, it cannot be a business. So make sure you can have an idea that actually makes money. And the second thing is don’t be afraid to make mistakes. If you fail, it’s ok. It’s ok to fail. I’ve failed a lot of times. And nobody was born big. I wasn’t born with this huge company that’s behind me, you know? I was born and I had to learn how to read, to write, to work, and to build a business. So, you will start small and don’t be afraid to fail.