How Billionaire Folorunsho Alakija Became Nigeria’s Wealthiest Woman

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    Image credit- folorunshoalakija.com

Many believe that females are meant for the kitchen but here is the story of a great female who was not only made for the kitchen by parents and her husband but allowed herself to make history using her talent and ideas. Although she was born with a silver spoon, she never depended on her family’s wealth.

A typical definition of ” what a man can do, a woman will do better”, Folorunsho Alakija was the former National president of Fashion Designers Association of Nigeria (FADAN) in 1974 and presently the permanent Trustee of the organisation. She is the group managing director of The Rose of Sharon Group, a non- profit organization which assist the less privileged in the society, the widows and orphans. The Rose of Sharon Group consist of the Rose of Sharon prints and promotion Limited and Digital prints Limited. Fulorunsho is the executive vice-Chiarperson of Famfa oil Limited. She is the first female Chancellor in Nigeria, the Chancellor of Osun State University.

On July 1st 2013, she was appointed as the vice – chairperson of Nigerian Heritage Council and Endowment for the Arts and a matron of Africa’s young entrepreneurs.
Folorunsho Alakija is the richest woman in Nigeria according to Forbes and was listed as the second most powerful woman in Africa and the 87th most powerful woman in the world with a net worth of $2.1 billion.

Personal Life

Folorunsho Alakija, a business tycoon was born to the family of Chief L. A.Ogbara, a prominent family in Lagos. Her mother was the first wife out of eight wives. Her father had 52 children but 46 of the children survived. Folorunsho got married to a Lawyer, her best friend, adviser and supporter, Modupe Alakija in November 1976. She is a mother of four sons without a daughter and a grand mother. A nephew to the Nigerian DJ Xclusive.

How she started

Fulorunsho became a traveller at the age of 7. She was sent abroad with her younger sister for a four years primary education at Dinorben School for girls in Hafodunos Hall in Northern Wales. In the school, they were the only black girls and their names were difficult for the white girls to pronounce. Hence, their names where shortened to Flo for Folorunsho and Doyle for Doyin her younger sister. On the completion of their primary education, they were moved back to Nigeria by their parents so they would not lose their culture, tradition, religion and African values. On returning to Nigeria, she attended Muslim High school Sagamu in Ogun State, Nigeria. She later travelled back to United Kingdom for secretarial studies at Pitman’s Central College in London. As a student in Pitman’s central College, she used one stone to kill three birds. She fell in love with fashion and studied fashion designing at the American College London and the Central school of fashion.
Folorunsho started as an executive secretary at Sijuade Enterprise, Lagos, Nigeria in 1974. From where she moved to First National Bank of Chicago which was changed to FinBank and now acquired by FCMB (First City Monument Bank).
After acquiring the experience as a secretary and a staff, she decided to make use of her knowledge in fashion designing and established a tailoring company which she called Supreme Stitches in 1984. Her knowledge on tailoring was boasted by helping her mother and watching her do what she does. Her mother used to be a fabric merchant. Supreme Stitches started up in a 3-bedroom apartment in Surulere, Lagos but with hardwork and God’s favour, the Company gained fame and became the best designer in the Country just within few years of establishment. Supreme Stitches was later changed to a household name “The Rose of Sharon”. She gained a great influence in fashion so she became the National president of the Fashion Designers Association of Nigeria (FADAN ). Today, she is the permanent Trustee of FADAN.

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The saying, “make good contact wherever you find yourself” could be seen in Folurunsho story. While she was still into the world of fashion, she met a friend who talked her into oil business. In 1993, she applied for an allocation for an Oil Prospecting License (OPL) and got the license successfully. She was allocated an oil bloc nobody wanted at that time because they could not see what the future holds. The company was named Famfa oil Limited. The oil bloc which was accepted by faith is now a Chief Corner stone in Africa and enables the exploitation of oil on a 617,000 acres bloc (now referred to as OPL 216). The oil bloc is located at 70 miles offshore of Nigeria in the Agbami field of the central Niger Delta and approximately 220 miles south-east of Lagos. Although all her children studied abroad, they are all engaged one way or the other in the family business while her husband, Modupe Alakija is the Chairman of Famfa oil and she is the executive vice-president.

In September 1996, the company was approached by Star Deep Water Petroleum Limited (a subsidiary of Texaco) for a joint venture agreement, since they became sure of the potentials of the oil bloc. The negotiations lasted for three months before they came to a common term. In the agreement, 40% of Famfa oil Company was transferred to Star Deep petroleum Limited. Texaco later became Chevron and they struck oil in commercial quantity from the oil bloc.
Folorunsho journey in business was not all easy. She encountered bumpy roads while on the journey as a wife, mother and a business tycoon.

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The road to success is not an easy one, only those who could be patient enough to endure scales through. She was defrauded by three siblings from the same parents of # 3 million.
As her success story was all over the country, the Nigerian Government took 40% stake from the company and later took another 10% which sums up to 50% leaving her with 10% after transferring 40% to Star Deep petroleum Limited. After investing everything the family had on the business both time and resources since it was a family business. Folorunsho stood up for her right together with the family, took a bold step to take the Government to court. They fought the government in court for 12 years without giving up. After 12 years of persistent, they won the case and immediately Star Deep sold 8 % of its stake in OPL 216 to Petronas,  a Brazilian company.

 

Achievements

Due to her courage and persistence, she became the Chancellor of Osun State University on the 9th of March, 2016. She made history as the first female Chancellor in Nigeria

Folorunsho Alakija was first listed as the 96th most powerful woman in the world by Forbes in 2014. As at 2015, she was listed as the second most powerful woman in Africa and the 87th most powerful woman in the world with a net worth of $ 2.1 billion.
She owns lots of landed properties both home and abroad with the most magnificent home which cost over $70 million dollars and the most expensive residential building in Africa. The building was designed by Adeniyi Coker Consultants Limited (ACCL) and built by Julius Berger Construction company. She owns a private jet which cost $46 million dollars.

Apart from earning so much, she is also a philanthropist who helps the less privileged. As the founder of the Rose of Sharon Foundation, a non-profit organization, she helps widows and orphans by empowering them through scholarship and business grants. The foundation has been able to bring back hopes to 2,751 widows, 963 widow’s children, 66 orphans and 11 widows at the University through the foundation. Folorunsho’s company is also a major sponsor of Agbami Medical and Engineering Scholarship Scheme, a reliable scholarship scheme with thousands of people as beneficiaries yearly.
Folorunsho is also a supporter of education in Nigeria. In 2014, she donated a huge amount of money to Ibrahim Badamasi University Lapai, Niger State University for the construction of 350 seat lecture theater and was later named after her.

 

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Lessons to garner from her story

Despite her position in the World, Folorunsho is still humble to her position as a wife and mother to the family. According to an interview with Punch, she explained that her wealth had little effect on whom she is and her marriage. She further stated that all her wealth came from her encounter with the glory of God with whom she covenanted with for blessings in return for a lifelong work and walk with Him.
According to Folorunsho, even though she works in the same office with her husband, she always secure kissing twice a day, morning and night, prepare his special vegetable dish, does manicure and pedicure and also pick him from the airport whenever he returns from foreign trips.
Folorunsho Alakija lifestyle is worthy of emulation especially for females who thinks their lives ends in the kitchen, and also a lesson for children from wealthy homes who grew up to become nuisance to the society.

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About the writer:

This was written by Chiamaka Uduezue, content contributor at MyAfribusiness.com. She is a graduate of Environmental Management and enjoys learning new things and sharing knowledge with others.

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