In a world where people are known to be intoxicated by wealth, the story of Folorunso Alakija is one for the history books. As of 2020, Forbes ranked Alakija as the 20th Richest Africa’s billionaire and the third richest woman of African descent globally. However, having oil constitute the bigger sum of her wallet, Folorunso’s net worth declined in the early part of 2021 following the recent drop in oil price in the international market. Her net worth came down to a figure slightly below $1 billion. Regardless, she still maintains her position as the richest woman in Africa.
She is the executive vice chairman of Famfa Oil Limited, group managing director of The Rose of Sharon Group, which consists of, The Rose of Sharon Fashion House, The Rose of Sharon Prints & Promotions Limited, and Digital Reality Prints Limited. Furthermore, she founded a real estate company recognized as Dayspring Property Development Company Limited, where she is the vice chairman. Learn more interesting things about the private life of this successful businesswoman and all of the ways through which she has made a fortune for herself.
Folorunso Alakija is a Yoruba Woman From Lagos State
Folorunso Alakija was born on 15th July 1951 into an upper-middle-class family of Chief L. A. Ogbara in Ikorodu, Lagos State. She spent her early childhood in her hometown in Ikorodu together with her family. There, she attended nursery school at Our Ladies of Apostles, Lagos, from 1955 to 1958. She is a highly educated and well-traveled lady.
At age seven, Folorunso traveled to the United Kingdom to continue her primary school education at the Dinorben School for Girls in Hafodunos Hall in Wales. On completing her primary education, she returned to Nigeria, where she attended high school at Muslim High School Sagamu, Ogun State, Nigeria. She later went back to the U.K for her secretarial studies at Pitman’s Central College in London. Afterward, she studied fashion at the Central School of Fashion also in London.
How Folorunso became a Billionaire Businesswoman
Folorunso Alakija’s net worth is $1 billion. Over time, the Nigerian oil mogul has diversified her sources of income, firstly, earning from the banking sector, fashion industry, book printing, real estate, and oil drilling. She has remained a force to reckon with in the Nigerian oil production scene. Meanwhile, she did not automatically become a successful businesswoman but went through stages that brought her to the position she is in now.
She started her career in 1974 as a Banker
Upon graduating from the tertiary institution and fashion school, Folorunsho went on to start her career. In 1974, she landed a job as an executive secretary at Sijuade Enterprises, Lagos, Nigeria. After a while, she moved on to work with the former First National Bank of Chicago, which transitioned to FinBank, and is now acquired by FCMB (First City Monument Bank). Her career as a banker took off in the office of the managing director as an executive secretary.
Subsequently, she was promoted to the Corporate Affairs Department, where she took up the role as the head. In the same bank also, she worked as an office assistant at the Treasury department. Being a business-oriented person, Alakija, while in paid employment, was selling jewelry from which she made extra income. Although she currently makes way exceedingly more as a business owner, Folorunso made a decent living through her career in the banking sector.
Her Foray into the World of Fashion Helped Her Build an Empire
After working with the bank for 12 years, Folorunsho Alakija decided to delve into the world of business. She started a fashion business to make use of her skills in tailoring as she was already armed with qualifications she gained from the Central School of Fashion also in London, she by her passion for fashion. She launched her fashion label Supreme Stitches in 1996, which she subsequently renamed The Rose of Sharon House of Fashion. The fashion house gained ground within a few years of its launch to become a household name in the country.
The Rose of Sharon House of Fashion grew to become very famous and has only high-profile individuals like the former First Lady of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Maryann Babangida, in its clientele. It sees to the fashion needs of first-class citizens of the country. What’s more, Folorunso Alakija grew in her fashion business to become the National President of the Fashion Designer’s Association of Nigeria (FADAN). She made an astounding mark in the glitz world of success, promoting the culture and traditions of Nigeria through fashion and style. Even though she diverted a greater part of her attention to the oil sector, Folorunso remained very active in the fashion industry as FADAN’s trustee.
A Huge Portion of Her Money Comes From the Oil Sector
Her venture into the petroleum business started when she applied for an oil prospecting license (OPL) in May 1993. The license was successfully granted to Alakija’s company, Famfa Limited, which enabled the exploration for oil on a 617,000-acre block—now referred to as OPL 216. The block’s location is approximately 220 miles southeast of Lagos and 70 miles offshore of Nigeria in a place known as Agbami Field of the central Niger Delta.
Going forward, she partnered with Star Deep Water Petroleum Limited, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Texaco, in September 1996, through a joint venture agreement. In this agreement, 40% of the Famfa oil company stake was transferred to Star Deep. However, Alakija reached a new milestone in 2014, when she was listed as the 96th most powerful woman globally by Forbes. According to Forbes, she was listed among the world’s 100 most powerful women alongside Nigeria’s then-Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. She took the 87th spot.
The oil tycoon is keeping the management of her oil company within her family circle. She is the vice chairman of Famfa Limited. At the same time, her husband, Mr. Modupe Alakija, stands as the chairman, and her two sons, Ladi and Dele, sit on the board of directors.
Folorunso Alakija Owns a Printing Business
The serial businesswoman has also diversified into a printing business wherein she prints on items like bedsheets, towels, table cloths, uniforms, etc. The name of her printing company is The Rose of Sharon Printing and Promotion. The company specializes in large printing format, design and offset printing, industrial and corporate signage, and promotional prints.
She is also a Reputable Author
As earlier mentioned, Folorunso Alakija is a preacher of the gospel. Hence, most of her publications are Christian-based. She went ahead to display her expertise in writing and has got several publications under her belt. Below is a list of her books, and they can be accessed in hard copies and PDF files.
- Growing with the Hand that Gives the Rose
- The Cry of Widows and Orphans
- His Name Is
- Alone with God
- Window Shop for your Spouse
- Folorunso Alakija Speaks- an Inspiration Book for all
- Folorunso Alakija Speaks- an Inspiration Book for Christians
- The University of Marriage- Your Textbook for a Successful Marriage
- Wish for it? Pray for It (Scriptures for Wives)
- Wish for it? Pray for It (Scriptures for Husbands)
Some of Her Notable Recognitions
- 2014- Forbes’ 96th most powerful woman globally
- 2015- Forbes’ 86th most powerful woman in the world
- 2015- Forbes’ second most powerful woman in Nigeria
- March 2016- The first female Chancellor of Osun State University, Nigeria
- 2020- Forbes’ Richest Woman in Africa
- July 2021- Honorary Dr. of Business Administration from Benson Idahosa University, Edo state Nigeria, in recognition of her contribution to the business world
Folorunso Alakija’s Thoughts About Her Wealth
In an interview with Punch, the 70-year-old businesswoman admits that the amount of money she has accrued can change people or basically enhance the innate traits of a person. But in her case, she explained that her humongous wealth has had little effect on who she really is and her marriage, especially as being tagged the ‘richest woman in Africa’ by Forbes. In her words,
On how she came to be in unprecedented wealth, Folorunso stated that it was by the orchestration of God through an oil block nobody wanted. She further disclosed in a tweet that she had an encounter with the glory of God. At a time, she got to her wit’s end and had a covenant with God for blessings in return for a lifelong work and walk with Him. Hence, she practically saw the Glory of God come into her life. According to the mother of 4, who is also a gospel preacher, only God could have brought her from the back burner to the front burner.
Even though she knew deep down that she would be a businesswoman, Folorunsho Alakija says she never knew she would be globally known, especially on such a nominal level which is quite humbling. She also knew that the Lord had planned that she would be successful, but she could never have imagined the magnitude of her present success.
Reacting to the possibility of ever venturing into politics, Alakija candidly posits that though women in politics happen to be on the rise, she does not have an affinity for politics. She would rather focus on other aspects that she is interested in because God has not called her into politics.
According to her, she likes to stay busy as it helps her keep fit both in mind and body. Though she admits that juggling the various aspects of her life can be somewhat tasking, she has managed to strike a balance through the years.
Folorunso Alakija Lavishes on Luxurious Lifestyle
As of 2015, Folorunso was listed as the second most powerful woman in Africa after Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and the 87th most powerful woman globally by Forbes. This enviable position and many others have made people expect nothing from her short of a lavish lifestyle; this she is doing justice to.
She has lots of landed properties both home and abroad, but one of the most amazing homes she has is one that costs over $700 million, which makes it the most expensive residential building in Africa. The building is a masterpiece designed by Adeniyi Coker Consultants Limited (ACCL) and built by Julius Berger construction company. The residence is a two-minute walk from Lagos Lagoon and Omenka gallery.
The business mogul lavishes on customized automobiles and equally gifts her husband and children with expensive brands. Also, not many people can boast of having a private jet, let alone a Nigerian woman. In this case, however, Folunsho Alakija is up to the task as her humungous net worth backs her up. She has a private jet, Bombardier Global Express XRS, which costs a whopping $46 million.
The Nigerian Oil Tycoon Prioritizes Her Family Over Everything
Folorunsho got married to her heartthrob, Modupe Alakija, a lawyer, in November 1976. They have remained together and are still going strong to date. They are also blessed with four children, all boys. Their names are Folarin Alakija, Rotimi Alakija, Dele Alakija, and Ladi Alakija.
On being a mother and a wife, Folorunsho Alakija says that this is a prized possession she wouldn’t trade for the world as her kids and husband mean the world to her. Though the journey to raising her boys and taking care of the family had its bumpy roads, she is grateful to God for seeing her through.