Arguably Nigeria’s oil baroness, Folorunsho Alakija, 61, is Africa’s richest woman with a net worth of $600m as at November when Forbes released its ‘Africa’s 40 richest’. The married mother of four who owns a £64M (N16,049,664,000) flat in One Hyde Park, London, started her career in the mid-1970s as a secretary at the now-defunct International Merchant Bank of Nigeria, one of the West African nation’s earliest investment banks.
In the 1980s, after studying fashion design in England, she founded Supreme Stitches, a Nigerian fashion label that catered to upscale clientele and six years later, she emerged the best designer in the country in 1986. Alakija struck gold in 1993 when then Nigerian President, Ibrahim Babangida awarded her company, Famfa Oil, an oil prospecting license which went on to become OML 127, one of Nigeria’s most prolific oil blocks that reportedly rakes in N157 million a day.
But it wasn’t all a rosy affair as she’d a running battle with the Nigerian government under former President Olusegun Obasanjo, which unconstitutionally acquired a 50% interest in the block without duly compensating Alakija or her company.
Famfa Oil went to court to challenge the acquisition, and in May this year, the Nigerian Supreme Court reinstated the 50% stake to Famfa Oil. Alakija through her charity, the Rose of Sharon Foundation, supports widows throughout Nigeria.