Angola President Appoints Daughter as Head of State Oil Firm

  • Isabel dos Santos appointed chairwoman after board fired
  • Boston Consulting Group, PricewaterhouseCoopers advising board

Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos appointed his daughter and Africa’s richest woman, Isabel, as chairwoman of the state oil company, tightening his family’s control over sub-Saharan Africa’s third-biggest economy.

Isabel dos Santos
Isabel dos Santos
Photographer: Bruno Fonseca/EPA

Dos Santos, 73, fired Sonangol’s entire board and replaced it with new executives as part of a plan to restructure the business so it runs more efficiently, he said in an e-mailed statement on Thursday. Paulino Fernando de Carvalho Geronimo was appointed chief executive officer, it said. Angola vies with Nigeria as Africa’s biggest oil producer and also produces diamonds.

Jose Eduardo dos Santos, who has ruled the country since 1979, has already appointed one of his sons to head the state sovereign wealth fund and his family is now taking control of an industry that accounts for about two-thirds of state revenue at a time when the oil price has fallen. That’s prompted his government to seek funding from the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and China.

Reducing Costs

“It’s just how the Angolan government tends to operate when it comes to base issues like strategic oil and the sovereign wealth fund,” Gary van Staden, an analyst at NKC African Economics in Paarl, near Cape Town, said by phone Friday. “President dos Santos tends to make sure that the people in charge of those are very close to him.”

The new team aims to make Sonangol more competitive internationally by reducing costs, Isabel dos Santos said in an e-mailed statement. The company will seek to improve profitability and the dividends it pays to the state, she said.

The board plans to “ensure transparency” in the company’s management and apply global corporate-governance standards and will improve relations with suppliers and other partners, she said.

“Isabel’s appointment demonstrates the strategic importance of these reforms for the presidency and that the president wanted someone he fully trusted to lead the reforms,” Alex Vines, head of the Africa Program at the Chatham House research group in London, said in e-mailed comments.

Boston Consulting Group, PricewaterhouseCoopers and Vieira de Almeida & Associados have been picked to advise the board on the execution of its strategy, Isabel dos Santos said.

“In this day and age, I don’t think leaders in countries like Angola should be appointing their children to head key parts of the economy and key parts of government,” Van Staden said. “I think it will be perceived as very negative and I think there will be some fallout for them from this.”

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