Women & BusinessCareerEntrepreneurWomen of Substance

Folorunsho Alakija: From a middle-class home to becoming Nigeria’s richest woman

Hardly would you find a list of Nigeria’s richest entrepreneurs without the name – Folorunsho Alakija popping up. Several rankings have acclaimed her to be the richest woman in Nigeria, and the 2020 list of Africa’s Billionaires places her at 20th position in Africa. Though most public knowledge attributes her wealth to her interests in the oil sector, Alakija also has interests in other sectors like fashion and real estate.

She was born on July 15, 1951, to Chief L.A. Ogbara, of Ikorodu, Lagos State. It was quite a large family and Folorunsho had lots of siblings.

She started her nursery schooling at Our Ladies of Apostles, Lagos from 1955 to 1958, and at the age of seven, she travelled to the United Kingdom to attend Dinorben School for Girls in Harfodunos Hall, Llangernyw, Wales. She returned to Nigeria in 1963 for her secondary education in Sagamu, Ogun state before returning again to London for her Secretarial studies at Pitman’s Central College.

At the time, it was quite commonplace for females to opt to study along the secretarial lines, Tourism and hospitality or Fashion designing. In addition to her Secretarial studies, Folorunsho went to the American College, London and the Central School of Fashion for a degree in Fashion Designing.

Now qualified as a secretary and fashion designer, Folorunsho returned to Nigeria to work. She started out as an Executive Secretary at Sijuade Enterprises in Lagos, in 1974. Next, she worked as the Executive Secretary to the Managing Director with First National Bank of Chicago, which was renamed FinBank and later acquired by First City Monument Bank (FCMB). Briefly, she held the position of Office Assistant to the Treasury Department, and Head of the Corporate Affairs Department.

After spending some years in banking, Folorunsho decided to start her fashion design company, Supreme Stitches. She worked hard at it to set the brand in motion, and the name was later changed to Rose of Sharon House of Fashion.

Later, in September 1991, FAMFA Oil Limited was incorporated and in 1993, Alakija was granted an Oil Prospecting License (OPL) on OPL 216, a 617,000-acre oil block located in the Agbami Field of the central Niger Delta.

Three years later, she entered a joint venture agreement with Star Deep Water Petroleum Limited (a wholly-owned subsidiary of Texaco). She went on to appoint Star Deep Water as technical adviser for the exploration of her license and transferred 40% of her 100% stake to the company. Star Deep ceded 8% of the 40% to Petrobras, thus bringing in even more players. It was no surprise, therefore, that they succeeded in their exploration and soon grew to become one of the largest indigenous exporters of crude oil in Nigeria.

Alakija dived into other interests like printing and real estate. The Rose of Sharon Group consists of The Rose of Sharon Prints & Promotions Limited, Digital Reality Prints Limited and Famfa Oil Limited where she is the Executive Vice-Chairman. Her real estate interests are in the DaySpring Property Development Company, where she has majority stakes.

Alakija had a bone to pick with the FG
After some years of exploring, they struck oil in the OPL 216. As soon as the news went public, the government swooped in and snatched a 40% stake, and soon after, another 10% stakes of the oil bloc. The argument from the government was that if they allowed Alakija keep all those shares, they could be making as much as $10 million daily. For more than a decade, Folorunso Alakija fought the government in court, refusing to let it go.

“We felt like it was unfair. We had taken the sole risk and invested everything we had in the business. It had become a family business. We spent six years as a family to ensure this worked out and now that it was bearing fruit. They just stepped in and took away everything we had struggled and worked extremely hard for. I said to myself, ‘Folorunsho Alakija does not give up, my husband does not give up and my children do not give up’” she later said of it.

In the end, they won the case and got back the stakes from the government.

Recognitions and philanthropic gestures
In 2015, Forbes listed Mrs Alakija as the second most powerful woman in Africa and the 86th most powerful woman in the world. She was also ranked as the richest woman in Nigeria with a net worth of about $1 billion as of 2020.

She has received no less than 8 Honorary Degree Awards from Universities in Nigeria and the United States of America, the most recent being the one she received from Benson Idahosa University, Benin City on the 17th of July 2021. She became the first female chancellor in Nigeria in 2016 when she was appointed Chancellor of Osun State University in March 2016.

The Rose of Sharon Foundation is one of the avenues through which Alakija helps and empowers widows and orphans through scholarships and business grants. Folorunso Alakija is also the sponsor of the Agbami Medical and Engineering Scholarship Scheme, where over 1000 beneficiaries are awarded scholarships annually. She has also donated a skills acquisition centre to the Yaba College of Technology.

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Alakija Unveiled N1bn Fund to Promote Female Entrepreneurship

Flourish Africa has announced the launch of a N1bn facility to fund and promote female-owned businesses in Africa.


The female empowerment platform, founded by a Nigerian businesswoman and philanthropist, Mrs Folorunsho Alakija, was designed to help women achieve their full potential, according to a statement on Thursday.

The statement said the initiative would focus on supporting the entrepreneurial activities of at least 2,500 female-owned businesses through funding and structured training over a period of five years.

“I am happy to launch the Flourish Africa N1bn fund on my 70th birthday as a gift to hardworking and enterprising women. This initiative will empower women economically and socially for the benefit of their immediate families and the society,” Alakija said.

She said a minimum of 500 female entrepreneurs would be trained annually, after which 100 best performers from the pool would be able to access grants of up to N2m each from an annual fund of N200m.

Expressing her enthusiasm about the initiative, she said she looked forward to empowering one woman at a time as she strongly believes that women are a crucial part of African development.

She reiterated her commitment to empowering as many women as possible in Africa.

According to Alakija, the main objective of Flourish Africa is to create an enabling platform that provides skill development, mentoring and access to marketplace for female entrepreneurs.

“Women have the potential to flourish, if a community of like-minded individuals who share a common goal and purpose pool together and make impact,” she said.

Source: Punchng


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Coca-Cola’s RESWAYE Project End With 159,000kg of Plastic Waste Recovered

The Recycling Scheme for Women and Youth Empowerment (RESWAYE), an environmental sustainability and women empowerment initiative, sponsored by The Coca-Cola Foundation, has come to an end. The project, executed by implementing partners, the Mental and Environmental Development Initiative for Children (MEDIC), to drive environmental protection, marine conservation, and women empowerment, concluded with a closing ceremony at Ibeju Lekki on Friday, May 21, 2021.

Present at the event were key government dignitaries, community leaders, and Coca-Cola representatives including Nwamaka Onyemelukwe, Director, Public Affairs, Communications & Sustainability, Coca-Cola Nigeria Limited, Ifeyinwa Ejindu, Communications Manager, Coca-Cola Nigeria Limited, Doyinsola Ogunye, Founder, MEDIC; Barr. Mrs Rhoda Ogunye, Trustee, MEDIC; Chief (Honourable) Olalekan Bakare, Secretary to the Apapa Local Government Council and Chairman of the body of secretaries to Local Govts and LCDAs in Lagos (Scribes57); Chief Tajudeen Adams, Baale Of Igbolomi and Chairman of Baales, Ibeju-Lekki LCDA; Honourable Tosin Osunnuga, Secretary to the Local Government, Lekki LCDA; Honourable Semiu Waliu, Secretary to the Local Government Council, Ibeju Lekki; and Ogunlana Olaseni, Head, Recycling, Lekki Free Trade Zone, East District 2, Lagos State Waste Management Authority (LAWMA).

Launched in 2020, the RESWAYE project was developed following concerns around Nigeria’s increasingly polluted shorelines and coastal lines as Nigeria is reported to generate 32 million tonnes of plastic waste every year with the majority ending up in landfills, beaches, and other water bodies.

Through the initiative, Coca-Cola sought to tackle this challenge while ensuring women’s economic empowerment within the target communities. As a result, the initiative was incentivised, providing low-income communities in the Ibeju Lekki area with an opportunity to earn an income while ensuring marine and environmental conservation.

After 18 months of enlisting women and young people in the plastic buy-back scheme across 16 coastal communities in Ibeju Lekki, the project recorded impressive numbers at its conclusion with over 150,000kg of plastic waste reportedly removed from the coastal and shorelines; over 2000 women and youth empowered economically, and 2,124 households impacted – resulting in over 13,000 direct and indirect beneficiaries.

Speaking at the event, Nwamaka Onyemelukwe, Director, Public Affairs, Communications & Sustainability, Coca-Cola Nigeria Limited, lauded the initiative and emphasised the need for corporations to scale up efforts to alleviate the country’s burgeoning plastic waste problem.

“At Coca-Cola, we are aware of the devastating implications of climate change on our environment, health and economy at large. The RESWAYE project was developed to combat this looming problem, and I am pleased with what we have achieved over the past 18 months. By partnering with credible NGOs such as MEDIC, we developed an effective recycling system that met the unique needs of the Ibeju Lekki communities, making recycling more accessible to everyone while also ensuring the economic empowerment of women and youths”, she stated.

Doyinsola Ogunye, founder of MEDIC added, “Seeing the impact we have made in these communities through our network of women and youth recyclers over the past 18 months has been deeply fulfilling. Through Coca-Cola’s support, we have ensured the economic empowerment of women, looked after communities, and cleared an inordinate amount of plastic waste from the oceans even in the turbulent times experienced last year”.

The Secretary to the Local Government Lekki LGA, Chief (Honourable) Olalekan Bakare, also lauded the initiative, commending Coca-Cola for “devising a creative solution to our community’s waste problem” and urged more corporate bodies to do more.

The RESWAYE project is in line with Coca-Cola’s “World Without Waste” mandate which fosters collaboration with multiple stakeholders, including partners, governments, and civil society organisations like MEDIC, to foster continued leadership in reducing its carbon footprint. By 2030, Coca-Cola also aims to help collect and recycle a bottle or can for every one sold by the company.

According to Nwamaka, Coca-Cola will continue to work with communities to better understand their recycling and collection challenges while engendering a recycling culture amongst residents.

Source: Marketing Edge online

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Whitefield Foundation Empowers Over 20,000 Women and Youths


Whitefield Foundation, the financial inclusion of Coca Cola Nigeria limited has sponsored over 20,000 Women and Youths

The initiative is part of the company’s effort to improve and support the livelihood of young Nigerians following the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic which hit in 2020. The SIP program, which held virtually over the course of one year, was targeted at helping youth and women younger than 45 years of age across Nigeria.

Present at the closing ceremony were key dignitaries including the Chairman of Yaba LCDA, Hon. Kayode Omiyale; Vice-Chairman Yaba LCDA, Hon. Alhaji Bolanle Aileru; Whitefield Foundation Trustee, Dr. Oladoyin Sagoe; Founder of Whitefield Foundation, Olufunmilola Johnson; Director Public Affairs, Communications and Sustainability, Coca-Cola Nigeria Limited, Nwamaka Onyemelukwe; Senior Manager, Social Impact Strategy for Africa Operating Unit, Coca-Cola, Uche Ogbonna; and Chairman of Agriculture & Agro-Allied Group, Africanfarmer Mogaji.

In his opening speech, Vice-Chairman, Yaba LCDA, Hon. Alhaji Bolanle Aileru, who represented the Chairman remarked, “I applaud Coca-Cola and Whitefield Foundation for filling a gap in our community by engaging our youths and women. It is evident that partnerships and collaborations fuel outstanding results”. He also highlighted that the turnout from the communities was truly impressive and that Coca-Cola and Whitefield Foundation both exceeded expectations.

The closing ceremony featured the recognition of the individuals who had benefited from the program. Across the 36 states, people were trained and lectured in topics covering building a successful career, jobs of the future, business as a legal entity, customer service, funding your business, IT, the business of agriculture, catering, domestic essentials, and many more.

By the end of the program on April 16, 2021, participants had completed three different stages of courses comprising over 50 AudioVisual lessons which had over 1,000,000 page views on the website. The virtual training was taught by seasoned facilitators in their respective fields.

Speaking at the event, Director, Public Affairs, Communications and Sustainability, Coca-Cola Nigeria Limited, Nwamaka Onyemelukwe explained, “At Coca-Cola, we are proud of the remarkable achievements of this program. As a company, we understand that 2020 was a challenging year for everyone, but it taught us innovation and opened our hearts to more acts of kindness to upscale what we do within our communities. We recognized that unemployment rates were on the rise with the poverty rates reaching a peak, and as a socially-responsible company focused on refreshing the world, we are also committed to making a difference in the lives of people and communities”.

A beneficiary from the training, Anu Oshilaja, founder of Annyz Fabric Bags, shared her life-changing story on the impact of the program and the funding she had received to further her business. As a token of her appreciation, she gifted beautifully hand-crafted bags to the women dignitaries at the event.

Founder, Whitefield Foundation, Olufunmilola Johnson, in her closing remarks stated, “We are excited by the success of The Special Intervention Program (SIP) and this initiative was born out of the need to help make more successful people who will grow our economy in Nigeria. We are focused on addressing seven UN Sustainable Development Goals covering no poverty, gender equality, zero hunger, quality education, partnerships, economic growth, and responsible consumption and production. We appreciate Coca-Cola Nigeria Limited, who deemed us worthy of achieving this feat”. She thanked all stakeholders including the government officials, the facilitators of the classes, Coca-Cola executives, and the participants.

At the end of the event, 50 individuals were announced to receive N30,000 each to fund their business registration and start creating value for themselves. The ceremony ended with immense gratitude and joy from the beneficiaries who expressed their heartfelt gratitude to Coca-Cola Nigeria Limited as well as Whitefield Foundation for their support.

The SIP Program was part of Coca-Cola Nigeria’s COVID-19 Intervention following the impact of the pandemic on the Nigerian economy. This intervention saw the company fund several community-based initiatives focused on aiding the economic recovery of residents from the adverse effects of the pandemic.

Source: Marketing Edge Online

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EntrepreneurWomen of Substance

Hanatu Terry: The Female Carpenter Breaking Stereotypes In Nigeria

Hanatu Terry is a single mother from north-central, Nigeria and a well-established carpenter in the capital Abuja. In Nigeria, both men and women struggle to do jobs that come their way in order to survive, although some jobs are perceived to be the preserve of men, while a few others are for women.

Carpentry is predominantly reserved for men, but the 30-year old has overcome all odds to have a place in this male dominated profession in Africa’s most populous nation.

“Actually, it wasn’t this kind of job I started with. I was into tailoring, however, a condition I encountered made me switch to carpentry. My family was not financially balanced then’’, Hanatu told our Nigerian correspondent, Michael Dibie.

She said as a child, she used to engage in some little carpentry work in the house, like making small stools. That was how Hanatu started.

“So any time you see her working, the passion and zeal she puts in her jobs truly brings the work and makes her exceptional,” site manager Emmanuel Ashita said.

Hanatu’s story was inspired by the fact that she wanted to do something daring due to the economic condition of her family.

The young female carpenter is well known in some localities in Abuja and in the neighboring state of Nasarawa, where she diligently exhibits her skill in carpentry, construction of benches, stools, tables, chairs and roofing of buildings.

“The way we joke, we talk, so I am always happy when I am around my colleagues,” Hanatu added.





Credit: Africa News


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