The Angolan Princess in Charge of Africa's Biggest Oil Producer

Isabel dos Santos and husband Sindika Dokolo.
Angolan businesswoman Isabel dos Santos and husband Sindika Dokolo arrive at a charity event in Cap d'Antibes, France, May 19. Dos Santos has just been made chief of the state oil firm in Angola, Africa's biggest oil producer. Ian Gavan/Getty Images

The new chief of the state oil firm in Angola—currently Africa's biggest oil producer—is a glamorous businesswoman who is friends with the Kardashians and was recently named by Transparency International as among the world's 15 most corrupt people and institutions.

She also happens to be the daughter of long-serving President José Eduardo dos Santos, who has ruled the southwest African country since 1979.

The president appointed his only daughter Isabel dos Santos as the head of Sonangol, the state oil firm, after sacking the entire board in April in a restructuring move designed to "increase efficiency and profitability," Reuters reported.

Angola's oil revenues have been hit by the fall in global oil prices, and a statement from the businesswoman's office said that she wished to "ensure transparency" while improving Angola's ability to compete in the global energy market.

Dos Santos comes into the role with an impressive business pedigree. She has a plethora of business interests in Angola and Portugal— the African country's former colonial power—including a 25 percent stake in Angola's biggest mobile phone network Unitel and a 7 percent chunk of Portuguese oil and gas firm Galp Energia, whose chairman Americo Amorim is Portugal's richest man.

She was heralded Africa's first female billionaire by Forbes in 2013 and is currently estimated to be worth $3.3 billion, making her Angola's richest person. Besides her business interests, the president's daughter also has some rather well-known pals—her social media feed shows her hanging out with Kim Kardashian and the rest of reality TV's most famous family at Cannes Film Festival.

Born in Baku, Azerbaijan, where the Angolan president was studying at the time, Dos Santos has always been keen to emphasize that her fortune is the result of hard graft and a business acumen that saw her start selling chicken's eggs at the age of six. Now 42, she told The Wall Street Journal in February that she was "not financed by any state money or any public funds," a riposte to allegations in Angola and abroad that she has benefited economically from her father's position.

After Transparency International ranked her among its most corrupt 15 people and institutions, Dos Santos issued a curt response describing herself as "an independent businesswoman and private investor" and said that her investments in Portugal and Angola "are transparent" and were made "based on the arm's length principle, involving external entities, such as banks and reputable law firms."

Yet in Angola—where 70 percent of the population live on less than $2 per day, the World Bank said in 2014—it seems that some people are not convinced. Dos Santos is sarcastically known as "The Princess," a nod to allegations that she has benefited from her position of privilege.

Dos Santos' new position is only likely to increase suspicion around her wealth. Petroleum exports account for more than 95 percent of the nation's exports, according to OPEC, and Angola has temporarily overtaken Nigeria as the continent's biggest oil producer after a spate of attacks on pipelines and oil facilities in the latter.

Being in charge of Sonangol is "next to the presidency...the most powerful position in the country," Aslak Orre, an Angola analyst at the Chr. Michelsen Institute in Norway, told BBC's Newsday program. With her new position, it is likely that the intrigue surrounding Dos Santos is likely only to grow.