In the past, wealthy individuals have often come from one group in society — white males. However, as the world becomes increasingly globalized and opportunities become more dispersed, this paradigm has slowly begun to change. One clear marker of this is the emergence of female black billionaires in the world. Looking to the lives of these individuals, such as Isabel dos Santos, helps to show just how drastically economic trends are changing. Below, we’ve given an overview of the lives of the world’s three current female black billionaires to help illustrate those changes and to show readers how they might also benefit from them.

Isabel dos Santos

Where some of the world’s wealthiest individuals concentrate their efforts on one field, the Angolan businesswoman has had a varied career that has found success in a wide range of industries. These fields have included telecommunications, construction, finance, hospitality, and education. Much of this work has been focused in Angola, though she has also engaged in efforts elsewhere in Africa and has worked with numerous international organizations and companies to broaden her influence to the international stage.

One of her best-known roles has been as the head of Unitel, the largest telecommunications company in Angola. As the head of the company, she helped expand its reach to service individuals in some of the country’s most remote areas. This is in addition to work to better the company’s service in urban areas and help connect the maximum number of residents possible.

Development efforts

Isabel dos Santos has also made development work another focus of her life and has concentrated that work in Africa. Much of what she does in this realm is aimed at improving access to technology and education for those living in underdeveloped communities. This includes the creation of scholarship opportunities to help rural farmers receive formalized education that can help improve quality of life.

Another focus of her development work has been an emphasis on technology and how it can be used to broaden access to opportunity. She has spoken on this need at international conferences and before governmental bodies, such as the European Parliament. In addition, she has used her influence to create initiatives that have improved access to technology for communities she’s served. An example of this has been the laying of optical cabling in Angola that will be used to create a high-speed network to bring quality internet to residents.

Educational background

The focus by Isabel dos Santos on international relations and technology is perhaps unsurprising in light of her educational upbringing. She attended primary and secondary school in Kent, England, where she was exposed to life beyond her home country. She opted to stay in England during her pursuit of higher education, attending King’s College for a degree in engineering. That degree not only impressed upon her the importance of critical thinking and problem solving, it also brought her a familiarity with technology that would continue into her later work.

Folorunsho Alakija

Alakija found her success in the fields of fashion, real estate, and energy. Her early career was spent working in finance as an executive secretary for a number of different banks. She eventually left the field to start her own tailoring company, originally called Supreme Stitches. This venture led to success in the field of fashion and eventually became well-known in her home country of Nigeria under the name Rose of Sharon House of Fashion. On the back of this success, she served as the president of the Fashion Designers Association of Nigeria, of which she is a lifelong trustee.

Her most resounding success, however, has come in the field of energy. After applying for an oil prospecting license in 1993, the businesswoman was granted permission to explore an area 70 miles offshore in Nigeria’s Agbami Field. This area in the Niger Delta is approximately 220 miles from Lagos and presented an intriguing, yet speculative, prospect at the time for possible oil deposits. After entering into a partnership with Star Deep Water Petroleum Limited, the exploration team found oil in the area and was able to set up an operation to retrieve and distribute the oil for sale.

Education and philanthropy

Alakija’s formal education spans both her home country of Nigeria as well as schools across England. Her early school years were spent in Lagos, but eventually she moved to the UK for primary education in Llangernyw, Wales. She returned to Nigeria for high school before finishing her studies at Pitman’s Central College in London. To support her later work in fashion, she attended American College, London and the Central School of Fashion for fashion design.

In recognition of the ways that both her career and her education have benefited her life, the businesswoman has made the two areas a focus of her philanthropic work. In this regard, she has established the Rose of Sharon Foundation to work with widows and orphans in order to bring opportunity to their lives. This is most commonly done through the disbursement of scholarships and business grants in order to help mitigate the effects of financial hardship.

Oprah Winfrey

Winfrey, who is a household name in the US and many other parts of the world, has a varied career that has primarily centered around media and entertainment. She got her start as an on-screen personality as a news anchor for locals news stations in Nashville and Baltimore. She followed that stint by moving away from the news and into the talk show format, eventually coming on as the host of The Oprah Winfrey Show in 1986.

Winfrey’s talk show became a national phenomenon and started drawing a wide audience soon after its creation. The show garnered higher ratings than more established and well-known competitors, with many pointing to her emotionally-connected and empathetic delivery style as the defining factor that set her apart. With her rise in popularity came increased access to celebrity interviews and an increase in cultural influence that helped her build her brand beyond the talk show itself.

Other Ventures

The talk show host is also known for a wide number of successful business ventures beyond her television work. She has co-authored several books, including a popular weight-loss book written with her personal trainer. She also published a magazine for years and has promoted literature through her book club, which will often significantly boost sales of any book that is featured on its lists.

She also formed the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) in 2011, opting to head the network herself. OWN features a variety of lifestyle and entertainment programming and has also met with extended success since its launch. It has featured a number of talk shows over the years and has made efforts to create content that can speak directly to an African American audience.


The media personality and businesswoman has also become well known for her philanthropic efforts in a wide number of different areas. Much of this work has been conducted through her charitable organization known as Oprah’s Angel Network. One area of focus for the organization has been recovery efforts in the wake of natural disasters. For instance, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the organization raised funds to help build homes across the areas affected.

Winfrey has also worked to improve access to education in underdeveloped communities. This was prominently featured in 2004 when she traveled to South Africa to call attention to the plight of children affected by HIV and poverty. This work brought in so much attention that she made the area a focus of her philanthropic work, eventually creating a leadership academy for girls south of Johannesburg, South Africa. The school works to bring high-end technology and teaching methods to students that attend.

Broad look

Looking to the lives of these three women who have risen to prominent places in their respective fields helps to illuminate how others can find levels of success in their own work. Isabel dos Santos, Folorunsho Alakija, and Oprah Winfrey represent some of the most high-profile successes among black females worldwide, showing a level of tenacity that sets them apart from peers. Their collective focus on education, hard work, and philanthropy help illustrate that a diverse skill set and willingness to help others can be key components to any modern life’s work.

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