Folorunsho Alakija is a name that rings a bell in Nigeria, Africa and the world at large. She is a Nigerian billionaire businesswoman and philanthropist. She was born on 15th of July 1951 and she’s from Ikorodu, Lagos, Nigeria.
Alakija is one of the richest women in Africa and one of the richest black women in the world. She has once (in 2014) unseated the American Oprah Winfrey as the richest woman of African descent in the world.
Alakija is into fashion, oil, real estate and printing industries. The Lagos-born businesswoman is the group managing director of the Rose of Sharon Group which consists of the Rose of Sharon Prints & Promotions Limited, Digital Reality Prints Limited. She is the executive vice-chairman of Famfa oil limited. She also has a majority stake in Dayspring Property Development Company.
Her Early Life and Career
Alakija was born into the family of Chief L.A Ogbara in Ikorodu, Lagos, Nigeria. She had her primary education in the United Kingdom. She left Nigeria at the age of 7 to attend Dinorben School for Girls in Hafodunos Hall in Llungernyw, Wales. She, however, returned to Nigeria and attended Muslim High School Sagamu, Ogun State, Nigeria. Alakija, who has once stated how she made it even without having a University degree returned abroad for her secretarial studies at Pittman’s Central College, London. She also studied fashion design at the American College, London and the Central School of Fashion.
Her Journey to the top
Alakija started her career in 1974 as an executive secretary at the Sijuade Enterprises, Lagos State, Nigeria. She later worked with a financial institution when she moved to the former First National Bank of Chicago, which later became FinBank, now acquired by FCMB (First City Monument Bank). She worked for some years at the bank before establishing a tailoring company called Supreme Stitches. Her fashion company became well known within a few years and later became Rose of Sharon House of Fashion. She has made an impact in the fashion industry as she promotes Nigerian culture through fashion and style.
She kicked off her career in the oil industry in May 1993 when she applied for the allocation of an oil prospecting license (OPL). Alakija’s company, Famfa Limited, was granted the license to explore for oil on a 617,000-acre block – now referred to as OPL-216. She continued her giant stride in the oil industry in September 1996 when she entered into a joint venture agreement with Star Deep Water Petroleum Limited (a subsidiary of Texaco). She was appointed as the company’s technical adviser for the exploration of the license, transferring 40 percent of the 100 percent stake to Star Deep.
When the Nigerian government learned that Star Deep struck oil, the Nigerian government snatched a 40 percent stake and later added another 10 percent. She, therefore, fought the government in court for 12 years. The Nigerian government argued that if Alakija and her family were allowed to keep their oil block, they stood to make $10 million a day. This situation led to her breakthrough; she persisted and in the end, she won.
Alakija is one of the famous women in Africa and the world. She is ranked by Forbes as the richest woman in Nigeria. She is currently the second richest woman in Africa after Isabel Dos Santos and also the third richest woman of African descent in the world. She has an estimated net worth of $2.1 billion. As of 2015, she’s listed as the second most powerful woman in Africa after another Nigerian, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. She is also listed as the 87th most powerful woman in the world by Forbes in a list of 100 most powerful women.
Her interests in Philanthropy
Alakija’s Rose and Sharon Group consists of the Rose of Sharon Foundation that helps widows and orphans by empowering them through scholarships and business grants. The foundation started with three widows on 23rd May 2008 and has now grown into a network of a thousand widows.
Her company is a sponsor of the Agbami medical and engineering scholarship scheme, which is one of the most reliable scheme in Nigeria with over a thousand people yearly as beneficiaries.
Alakija took interest in Education and, in 2014, she donated a substantial amount to Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida University, Lapai, Niger State, Nigeria. The money was used to complete the construction of a 350-seat Lecture Theatre, which was named after her.
Folorunsho, along with her husband, Modupe Alakija, donated 1 billion naira to the Law faculty building in Ajayi Crowther University, Oyo, Oyo state. A gesture her husband said was to thank God over their family.
Folorunsho Alakija also serves as the Chief Matron of Africa’s Young Entrepreneurs.
Her Personal Life
Folorunsho got married to a lawyer, Modupe Alakija of the Adeyemo Alakija family, in November 1976. Their union is blessed with four sons. The family resides in Lagos, Nigeria. One of Nigeria’s finest disc jockey, DJ Exclusive is a nephew of Folorunsho Alakija.
On her Meteoric Rise
Folorunsho believed that it was the orchestration of God through oil nobody wanted that made her. In a tweet through her official Twitter account, she said:
“My encounter with the glory of God. When I got to my wit’s end, I covenanted with God for blessings in return for a lifelong work and walk with Him.
“To say that I did not see His Glory come into my life would mean I have turned God into a liar.
“It is only God who could have brought me from the back burner to the front burner”
On her Venturing into Politics
Alakija stated that women are on the rise in politics, she, however, dismisses any claim of her ever venturing into Politics. She said God has called her to be a businesswoman and not a politician. She said she does not have an affinity for politics.
Folorunsho Alakija can be described as Nigerian and African “Welfare Queen”.