Folorunso Alakija (born 15 July 1951) is 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 of 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.
Early Life and Education: Folorunsho was born on 15 July 1951 to the family of Chief L. A. Ogbara in Ikorodu, Lagos State. At age seven, she traveled to the United Kingdom to begin a four-year primary education at Dinorben School for Girls in Hafodunos Hall in Llangernyw, Wales. After returning to Nigeria, she attended Muslim High School Sagamu, Ogun State, Nigeria. Afterward, 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.
Achievements: Alakija started her career in 1974 as an executive secretary at Sijuade Enterprises, Lagos, Nigeria. She moved to the former First National Bank of Chicago, which later became 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, Alakija 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—was granted to Alakija’s company, Famfa 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. 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 Nigerian government snatched a 40% stake. Later, they took an additional 10%. For twelve years, she fought the government in court. The government argument was if Alakija and family were allowed to keep their bloc, they stood to make $10 million a day. Still, she persisted and in the end, she won.
Legacy: In 2014, she was listed as the 96th most powerful woman in the world by Forbes. In May 2015 she was one of two Nigerian women who were listed among the world’s 100 most powerful women according to Forbes. Alakija was 87th on the list. She 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 schemes 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 Niger State University. The money was used to complete the construction of a 350 Seat Lecture Theater, which was named after her. She serves as the Chief Matron of Africa’s Young Entrepreneurs.