Motivational Personality of the Week- Folorunso Alakija
- Folorunso Alakija is a Nigerian businesswoman, one of the richest African women, and one of the richest black women in the world, who was born on 15 July 1951, into the family of Chief L.A. Ogbara, in Ikorodu, Lagos State. She is the number 8 out of the 52 children of her father, who had 8 wives.
- At age seven, she travelled 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. Afterwards, 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.
- Folorunso started her career in 1974 as an Executive Secretary at Sijuade Enterprises, Lagos, Nigeria. She moved on to the former First National Bank of Chicago, now FinBank now acquired by FCMB (First City Monument Bank) where she worked for some years before establishing a tailoring company called Supreme Stitches. It later became Rose of Sharon House of Fashion and rose to prominence and fame within a few years. She received patronage from Nigeria’s elite women (including the wife of former Nigerian President Ibrahim Babangida) and emerged as the best designer in the country in 1986.
- 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. Ever the entrepreneur, Mrs. Alakija has set up related businesses: The Rose of Sharon Prints & Promotions which specialized in monogramming, heat/picture transfer and screen printing for promotional and gift items later metamorphosed into Digital Reality Print Ltd. The company expanded into highly technical digital large format printing and also included a direct imaging paper printing press to coincide with her 60th birthday in July 2011.
- Folorunso delved into oil in May 1993 when she 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 Oil 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% of her 100% stake to Star Deep.
- Folorunso 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 scheme 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.
- On 1 July 2013, the federal government of Nigeria inaugurated the National Heritage Council and Endowment for the Arts and appointed Alakija as Vice-Chairman of the body. She oversees the Rose of Sharon Group as the Group Managing Director and is also the Executive Vice Chairman of her family’s oil exploration and production business, FAMFA Oil Limited, seeing to its strategic planning and day to day administration. In addition to these, Folorunso is the Executive Vice Chairman of Dayspring Property Development Company Limited, a real estate company.
- Africa had her first female chancellor of a public university on 9 March 2016, in the person of Mrs. Folorunso Alakija, as she became the Chancellor of Osun State University. She also serves as the Chief Matron of Africa’s Young Entrepreneurs.
She lives in Lagos, Nigeria with Modupe Alakija (a lawyer), her beloved husband of over four decades, including four sons with their spouses and grandchildren.