Angola’s new President Joao Lourenco has sacked Africa’s richest woman from chairing the state-owned oil company in a major boardroom cull just weeks after coming to power.
Isabel dos Santos, the ousted chair of Sonangol, is the daughter of former Angolan president Jose Eduardo dos Santos who stepped down in September. She was appointed only eighteen months ago by presidential decree, but will be replaced by former Sonangol executive Carlos Saturnino who she fired last year.
The rest of the Sonangol board will also be replaced as part of President Lourenco’s sweeping reforms to Angolan business since winning the election with the promise to reform the country’s economy.
Angola is Africa’s second largest oil producer and relies heavily on hydrocarbon exports to grow its economy after 27 years of war, which ended in 2002.
President Lourenco has vowed to reduce the nation’s dependence on oil after the market crash three years ago that stalled the country’s economic recovery amid growing concerns of cronyism in the government.
In recent weeks the President has fired the governor of the central bank, the head of diamond company Endiama and the boards of all three state-owned media companies.
In particular, he is intent on dismantling the political and financial control constructed by the Dos Santos family during Jose Eduardo’s 38 year rule over the west African country.
Dos Santos, who is estimated to be worth $2.5bn, owns Angola’s largest mobile-phone company Unitel as well as a supermarket chain, and has stakes in Angolan lenders Banco BIC and BFA.
Her brother, Jose Filomeno dos Santos, heads Angola’s $5bn sovereign wealth fund, which generates most of its wealth from oil and appeared in the Paradise Papers because of alleged investments in financial vehicles based in Mauritius, a well known tax haven.
The fund said media reports linking its activities to the widespread tax avoidance practises is “unfounded”. It added that the fund “conducts operations in a legitimate and accountable manner in every jurisdiction”.