BusinessFEB 19 EDITION

Meet Africa’s Richest Woman: Folorunsho Alakija

By: Stanley Nwachkwu

Folorunsho Alakija was born on 15 July 1951, a Nigerian billionaire businesswoman, one of the richest African women, and one of the richest black women in the world . In 2014 , she temporarily unseated Oprah Winfrey as the richest woman of African descent in the world. She is involved in the fashion, oil and printing industries. She is the group managing director of The Rose of Sharon Group which consists of The Rose of Sharon Prints & Promotions Limited and Digital Reality Prints  Limited and the executive vice- chairman of Famfa Oil Limited. Alakija is ranked by Forbes as the richest woman in Nigeria with an estimated net worth of $2.1 billion. As at 2015, she is listed as the second most powerful woman in Africa after Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and the 87th most powerful woman in the world by Forbes.

HER FAMILY

Folorunsho is married to a lawyer, Modupe Alakija in November 1976. The couple reside in Lagos, Nigeria. They have 4 adult sons in their family. 3 of them are already married. These are Folarin Alakija, Rotimi Alakija, Ladi Alakija, Dele Alakija . Her nephew is the Nigerian, DJ  Xclusive.

HER EARLY LIFE AND EDUCATION

Folorunsho was born in 15 July 1951 to the family of Chief L. A. Ogbara in Ikorodu, Lagos State. At age seven, she travelled to the United Kingdom to begin a four – year primary education at Dinorben School for Llangernyw, Wales. After returning to Nigeria, she attended Muslim High School Sagamu Ogun State, Nigeria. Afterwards, she returned abroad for her secretarial studies at Pitman’s Central College, London. She also studied fashion design at the American College, London and the  Central School of  Fashion.

Folorunsho Alakija with her husband, Modupe in a Church Service.
Photo Source: tonlinepicture.com
Folorunsho Alakija at a University Graduation Ceremony

HER CAREER

Mrs Alakija in a working mode

Folorunsho started her career in 1974 as an executive secretary at Sijuade Enterprises, Lagos, Nigeria. She moved on to the former First National Bank of Chicago, now FinBank now acquired by FCMB (First City Monument Bank) where she worked for some years before establishing a tailoring company called Supreme Stitches. It rose to prominence and fame within a few years, and as Rose of Sharon House of Fashion. Became a household name. As national president and lifelong trustee of the Fashion Designers Association of Nigeria (FADAN), she left an indelible mark, promoting Nigerian culture through fashion and style. In May 1993, Folorunsho applied for the allocation of an oil prospecting  license (OPL). The license to explore for oil on a 617,000-acre block—now referred to as OPL 216 — w a s granted to Alakija’s company, Famfa Oil Limited. The block is located approximately 220 miles south east  of Lagos and 70 miles offshore of Nigeria in the Agbami Field of the central Niger Delta.

Folorunsho Alakija looking stunning in a beaded lace attire.

In September 1996, she entered into a joint venture agreement with Star Deep Water Petroleum Limited (a wholly owned subsidiary of Texaco) and appointed the company as a technical adviser for the exploration of the license, transferring 40 percent of her 100 percent stake to Star Deep. Once word got out they struck oil the unthinkable happened: the Nigerian government snatched a 40% stake! Later, they took an additional 10%. According to her: We felt like it was unfair. We had taken the sole risk and invested everything we had in the business. It had become a family business. We spent six years as a family to ensure this worked out and now that it is bearing fruit, they just stepped in and took away everything we had struggled and worked extremely hard for. I said to myself, ‘Folorunsho  Alakija does not give up , my husband does not give up and my children do not give up.’ She took them to court. For 12 years she fought the government in court. The stakes were high. The government argued if Alakija and family were allowed to keep their bloc they stood to make $10 million a day! she persisted and in the end she won. Subsequently, Star Deep sold off 8 percent of its stake in OPL 216 to Petrobras, a Brazilian company. On March 9 2016, Nigeria had its first female chancellor as she became the chancellor of Osun State University.

HER RECOGNITION

In 2014, she was listed as the 96th most powerful woman in the world by Forbes. In May 2015, Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and Alakija were listed among the world’s 100 most powerful women according to Forbes. Alakija was 87th on the list. Folorunsho has a foundation called the Rose of Sharon Foundation that helps widows and orphans by empowering them through scholarships and business grants. Her company is also a major sponsor of the Agbami medical and engineering scholarship scheme, one of the most reliable scholarship scheme in Nigeria with over a thousand people yearly as beneficiaries. Mrs Alakija is a fervent supporter of education in Nigeria. For example, in 2014 she donated a substantial amount of money to Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida University Lapai, the  Babangida University Lapai, in Niger State . The money was used to complete the construction of a 350 Seat Lecture Theater, which was named after her.

The Alakija’s at the wedding of their son

On July 1 2013, the Federal Government of Nigeria inaugurated the National Heritage Council and Endowment for the Arts, and appointed Alakija as vice-chairman of the body. While inaugurating the council, Nigeria’s Minister of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation, Edem Duke, said Nigeria had identified 100 new  heritage sites, which “are unique and uncommon assets that we intend to preserve and promote.” He charged the council, which is headed by Igho Sanomi, to “ensure the protection and conservation of places and objects of heritage significance and the registration of such places and  objects. Mrs Folorunsho Alakija is the Chancellor of the Osun State University and only last month she clinched The Sun Humanitarian Award for 2018.

Related Articles