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Africa’s Richest Woman Folorunsho Alakija: “It Has Not Been a Rag to Riches Fairytale”



Folorunsho Alakija - August 2014 - 01

Nigerian billionaire and Africa’s Richest Woman Folorunsho Alakija was invited to address students at the University of Lagos (UNILAG) for the 2014 United Nations International Youth Day in Lagos.

While motivating the students, she opened up about her background and gave an inspiring speech about making it no matter where you are from, or your age.

She finished by telling the students that she did not go to a University but advised that the students to concentrate on their studies.


“I come from Ikorodu, Lagos state. I am married to a dashing young lawyer of 70 years of age. And we have four grown up gentlemen and grandchildren. But it has not been a rag to riches fairytale.

It has not been an overnight phenomenon like in some cases, which you find here and there all over the world.

For as long as I can remember, I have always wanted my own business. Hardwork, I am trying to tell you how I got to where I am, if you want those millions.

Hardwork, diligence, persistence, days when you nearly gave up but I never gave up. It would have been easy to compromise but I chose not to and I stayed focus.

I could have stayed a secretary as my father desired according to his plan for me but I had bigger aspirations. I dreamt big.

God strengthened me and gave me wisdom. I had a passion and burning desire to succeed. Being a secretary, a banker, a fashion icon, a corporate promoter and printer, a real estate owner, an oil magnate, that I can assure you was no easy feat.

Firm belief, that what is worth doing is what doing well or not doing at all. I took charge of my life with the tools I have shared with you.

I chose to become born again at the age of 40. I chose to make a covenant with God that if he would bless me, I would work for him all the days of my life.

I chose to hold on to the cross and look up to him every step of the way. Today additional accomplishment includes a wife of almost 40 years, a mother, grandmother, ministry, counseling, outreach, NGO Rose of Sharon Foundation for widows and Author, writer, author of several inspirational books.

All I say to the glory of God. So I am 63 and I am not yet done. So what is your excuse? I never went to a University and I am proud to say so because I don’t think I have done too badly. You do not have to have a University education to be able to make it so count yourselves privileged to have that education as part of the feather in your cap”



  1. Caligula

    August 29, 2014 at 3:49 am

    College educated or not; she inspires me. She motivates me and she is someone I aspire to be like, God willing..

  2. Rick

    August 29, 2014 at 3:59 am

    Yeah, “God”

  3. Ebenezer O. M

    August 29, 2014 at 4:29 am


  4. Lindsey

    August 29, 2014 at 4:55 am

    But she was given an oil block as a gift…so what is she yapping about?

    • Open Sesame

      August 29, 2014 at 8:41 am

      She’s ‘yapping’ about hard work & the doors it opens for you. One opportunity leads to another; if she hadn’t worked hard on her other businesses who knows if whoever gave her this oil block as you claim would have known her or even thought she could handle it.

      We don’t have to be negative about everything; take the good, leave the (imagined or not) bad and have a fabulous day. x

    • Open Sesame

      August 29, 2014 at 8:43 am

      @ Lindsey

      She’s ‘yapping’ about hard work & the doors it opens for you. One opportunity leads to another; if she hadn’t worked hard on her other businesses who knows if whoever gave her this oil block as you claim would have known her or even thought she could handle it.

      We don’t have to be negative about everything; take the good, leave the (imagined or not) bad and have a fabulous day. x

    • slice

      August 29, 2014 at 1:14 pm

      ok, in case you don’t know Maryam Babaginda gave her stolen oil block. Babaginda was a dictator that looted nigeria just like a common armed robber. oil is not something you can give to anyone. that is national property

    • oyaga

      August 29, 2014 at 9:01 am

      I tire oo. I have no words jare. I’m outta here.

    • olu

      August 29, 2014 at 9:15 am

      Yapping that u should work hard too.

    • Ayo

      August 29, 2014 at 9:47 am

      Whats stopping u from receiving the oil block gift? Or r u a lesser being???

  5. Grown Woman

    August 29, 2014 at 6:00 am

    Inspiring article, you can still be a drop out and make it in life.I don’t think these days people take such chances.

    • Non professional opinion

      August 29, 2014 at 9:11 am

      She isn’t a dropout, she never attended like the majority of women of her generation. She went to England to do secretarial studies which was fashionable for girls of a certain class at the time. Similar to the law degree girls get nowadays before becoming stylists or handbag designers.

    • MC

      August 29, 2014 at 10:05 am

      And make up artists

  6. 90s

    August 29, 2014 at 6:12 am

    I jus love dis woman, cast all ur cares nd problem 2 God, nd He’ll b dere 4 u,jus d kinda news I needed 2 read dis morning

  7. Miss H

    August 29, 2014 at 7:12 am

    I really love her drive. She is an inspiration to all women. Please haters, don’t come on here ranting about “how” she got rich! Just tap the anointing.

    • Trina

      August 29, 2014 at 9:15 am

      This comment right here, is the problem with Nigeria’s special brand of Christianity.

      “How” she got rich shouldn’t be in focus shey? All we need to do is “tap the annointing”. Hence why known corrupt politicians and notorious 419 scam artists are flocking to the church to sit in the front pews and brazenly give tithes and offering. Because we don’t care how they got rich. Just let it flow. Because this is what the Kingdom of God is about abi?

    • blah blah

      August 29, 2014 at 9:27 am

      That’s how you people tap into what you can’t handle. Nigerians and tapping into everything and anything.

  8. Zh

    August 29, 2014 at 8:20 am

    So inspiring!!!

  9. Open Sesame

    August 29, 2014 at 8:42 am

    She’s ‘yapping’ about hard work & the doors it opens for you. One opportunity leads to another; if she hadn’t worked hard on her other businesses who knows if whoever gave her this oil block as you claim would have known her or even thought she could handle it.

    We don’t have to be negative about everything; take the good, leave the (imagined or not) bad and have a fabulous day. x

  10. looters

    August 29, 2014 at 9:06 am

    When I read comments on here, it’s like people don’t seem to think before they type. So long as the person has loads of cash (by whatever means) you aspire to be like them. Your aspirations are very questionable. This lady and a good number of hausas own oil blocks that are offshore, on the gulf of guinea. Alakija owns 60% of Agbami, Chevron Nigeria’s bread and butter. I am not sure you guys realise what 60% of a very prolific offshore, deep water oil field is. These were all stolen. A human being cannot own an offshore oil field, it belongs to the federal government. It is only onshore oil fields that individuals own and this is if you own the land and an oil company happen to have discovered oil on your own land. Otherwise everything single thing belongs to the federal government. This is an offshore deep water oilfield in the gulf of guinea, no individual on this earth owns a body of water talk more of an oil field located there. Please stop aspiring to be something you do not understand, These people are the real looters of Nigerian wealth.

    • Ms Geeky 30

      August 29, 2014 at 11:02 am

      Well said @looters (on both comments). Nothing more to add,

  11. looters

    August 29, 2014 at 9:14 am

    If Nigerian media could just for one second focus on honest hardworking citizens, you have no idea the impact it can make in our minds. The media is a very powerful thing, it literally has the power to control a nation’s perception. And the perception which Nigerian media has created ever since independence is, ‘a crook is a star’. Corruption and her leaders are celebrated like nothing else, that is why young people blindly grown up aspiring to be like these guys. If the media could just for a split second have honest hardworking citizens on the spotlight, everyday, it will make a difference because there are tons of Nigerians who have worked like crazy to be the successful people they are today, tons of them. You would be surprised.

    • Changing Faces

      August 29, 2014 at 12:52 pm

      You’ve said it all… hard work my foot! a few people share the wealth of a nation, and some are here tapping into the anointing. The best advice she gave the students is to stay in school… no one is giving you an oil block!

    • Lindsey

      August 29, 2014 at 4:39 pm

      Thank you jare. Bloody IBB and his wife decides to gift out a country’s asset to an individual and now we are praising her for hard work? Only in Nigeria. SMDH. The new norm nowadays is rather mind boggling.

  12. Omas

    August 29, 2014 at 9:19 am

    what about her husband?nobody talks about him

    • Lindsey

      August 29, 2014 at 4:42 pm

      That’s cos the oil block aside, modupe alakija is just another Barrister lawyer. They gave her one of Nigeria’s deep water oil blocks, it became a cash cow, and she became a billionaire.

  13. Peyton

    August 29, 2014 at 9:24 am

    so aspiring woman and a mother,i pray God lead me through to ve such a good life

  14. oyaga

    August 29, 2014 at 10:27 am

    God bless you @looters

  15. Nneka

    August 29, 2014 at 11:45 am

    Thank you very much @ Looters. Oil block that was given to her as a gift . Why won’t she be rich? For those that want to tap. Continue tapping, ndi tapper!

  16. Dee

    August 29, 2014 at 12:56 pm

    Endnigerians love to acquire questionable wealth then tell us how it was all God and some mumus will be here asking us to tap into anything. This is part of the Country’s collective wealth tht has been cornered by one person and thatbisnone of the things responsible for the amount of poverty in the Country.

  17. Daniel

    August 29, 2014 at 2:07 pm

    @looters: Interesting perspective but the oil block awarded to Famfa Oil (Alakija) was not stolen. It was basically an oil block which had been awarded to several other oil companies before Famfa. Specifically Statoil was awarded it before Famfa Oil but they rejected it because it was too deep offshore! Now Famfa Oil applied for an oil block in 1992 and finally they were giving an Oil Mining Licence in 1994 (The Babangida’s left office in 1993). No one talks about the titanic battle to drill that well and the financial risks taken by Famfa and how it took fifteen years(1994-2009) before they actually found oil. So this well only started producing in 2009. Those of us in the oil industry know its a story of tenacity and perseverence. Upstream Oil is not for the fainthearted. It could have all gone horribly wrong and they could have lost their shirt as the Abiolas did with Summit Oil. and many other oil companies.

    • Non professional opinion

      August 29, 2014 at 2:53 pm

      When people say “stolen” I don’t think they mean that she went to dig the ground at midnight, and she is only being singled out because this article is about her. I think people resent the practice of awarding oil blocks to individuals and turning them into automatic billionaires, in a nation where basic needs have not been met for most citizens. The oil wasn’t discovered on her personal property, rather in our waters so why shouldn’t everyone benefit. She is a hardworking, god fearing woman with many admirable qualities but her billionaire status has more to do with our corrupt leaders than her entrepreneurial ability.

    • Lindsey

      August 29, 2014 at 4:46 pm

      Stop lying. I work for a big energy company and trust me, in today’s heavy crack down on misappropriation of hydrocarbon resources, there would be no FAMFA oil. Period. Extensive Due diligence has later revealed that was one of the stolen blocks.

  18. chika

    August 29, 2014 at 3:10 pm

    Nawa ooo. hear girama….una no go kee me for dis site sha…………….

    she’s made, she’s made……………no hard feelings

    if u want to be ‘made’ wish her luck shekenah

  19. Miss H

    August 29, 2014 at 4:09 pm

    @looters, you are probably missing something about oil fields and the rights that come with them. Like you rightly said, nobody owns anything whether on land or at sea, but you see, certain entities are given the rights to explore and exploit on acreages. Remember behind any entity there are faces. Her face just happens to be one!!

    • Ms Geeky 30

      September 1, 2014 at 11:24 am

      No No No @ Miss H. You need to do some more research. In America for example, all oil blocks offshore are the property of the state. Florida for example has rights to oil blocks up to 3 miles from its coastline. According to international law, countries own all offshore oil block up to 200 nautical miles from its coast line because outside of the 200 mile mark, you cross into international waters.
      In the case of Famfa Oil, what sort of contract gave them ownership? Surely they should only be granted rights to explore or drill for oil? In Iraq for example, they grant tenancy rights with an accompanying daily penalty if there is no drilling or exploration activity.
      I would have thought that in the interest of Nigerians as a whole, at no point should a single entity be granted ownership? And if we are all mistaken, and they were granted rights to explore rather than ownership, surely tenancy or something similar as well as a percentage of the profits made should be paid to the Federal Government? I would like to know if Famfa Oil is doing this and if so, exactly what and how much is being paid.
      Also, there should be complete transparency in the awarding of these oil blocks. At the moment, nepotism is the order of the day in the Nigerian corridors of power and we have a right to take issue with that I think

  20. el patron

    August 29, 2014 at 4:14 pm

    Lets wake up! The oil will soon finish, So After That what will we fall back on? Let’s take a clue from the UAE!

  21. nene

    August 29, 2014 at 6:01 pm

    it’s irritating and sad that nigeria has so much money but they sold and continue to sell our natural resources to certain individuals who have now become billionaires due to something that doesn’t rightfully belong to them. God will judge you people.

  22. David

    August 29, 2014 at 8:48 pm

    Folks! This woman’s story is not rags to riches…. her late father Alhaji Ogbara’s house was the largest on Awolowo Road Ikoyi.. She was sent to one of the top boarding schools in England at the age of 7 with her sister…… Prior to oil, she sent all her sons to prep schools in England in the 80s and going to expensive secondary schools like Kings School Canterbury years before she applied for oil bloc…….. money has always been with their family! Husband na Adeyemo Alakija grandson no be so?

    • Non professional opinion

      August 30, 2014 at 8:48 am

      This is undisputed. I’ve known their family my whole life and can remember when her atelier was somewhere off Falolu in Surulere. But there is a marked difference between comfortably well off and richest woman in Africa and she didn’t get there with Supreme Stiches or Rose of Sharon. I don’t beef her because she isn’t the first to benefit from a corrupt system but her predecessors chose discretion. I’ve never seen Danjuma on the cover of genevieve so she pursued this publicity which means she was ready for the inevitable backlash.

  23. Naijaman

    August 30, 2014 at 5:22 pm

    Enough said. Exactly what is her career arh to become a billionaire

  24. Naijaman

    August 30, 2014 at 5:23 pm

    Career path

  25. damilola

    August 31, 2014 at 12:39 am

    i was present @ the event. MRS FOLORUNSHO ALAKIJA is a great woman, a woman of substance.. I gained a lot frm her speech alongside GOV LIYEL IMOKE, KATE HENSHAW, JIMI ABGBAJE, FESTUS KEYAMO AND HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVIST DR JOE ODUMAKIN. Million thnks to the organizer of the programme TOYOSI AKERELE OF RISE NETWORKS. All you hating on Mrs Alakija , saying she was given the oil well as a gift shld try and make friends with the people in power so that y’ll can be given oil wells for free.. U guyz shld better think of how u make more money than her and stop gossiping

  26. joshua

    August 31, 2014 at 5:03 pm

    what an inspirational speech

  27. ijebu boy

    September 1, 2014 at 1:52 am

    someone dashing you oil blocks don’t count missy… pls.

  28. Ibukun

    September 1, 2014 at 7:43 pm

    The truth is many people have been given assets greater than oil and are back to poor today, living off bank loans and making it look like they still own. So there has to be some sense in her speech regarding hard work and focus. A lazy man can make ruins of the richest Arab inheritance, that I am sure of…

  29. myview

    September 8, 2014 at 8:06 pm

    “It would have been easy to compromise but I chose not to and I stayed focus”. In our Nigeria? No further comment

  30. firstlady

    January 25, 2016 at 11:38 am

    Folounso Alakija, I got ur back. U are simply a great woman to make money and multiply it in folds. U have greatness entrusted on u, great, but it takes a winnning heart to maintain such. I will wish u well always. I pray God favours me and make fortune smile on me too…Amen

  31. Ndungu David

    February 14, 2016 at 9:50 am

    Very inspiring…. I am from Kenya, and reading how u people of Nigeria are hetting all this… how u sound so an patriotic like u hate ua government and ua country… so pessimistic such that most of u believe that whoever is making it in ua country is corrupt… I thank God for the Kenyan spirit… I thank God i am a Kenyan… people who know that it is the God of Israel who blesses…

  32. Bamideleseguncampnou

    January 20, 2017 at 4:58 pm

    Living a life of meaningful is great legacy that will should agog for in life.and that what mrs modupe folorunsho alakija is implemented of which a serious minded being should try to emulate. And anyone who followed the foot step of this philantrophist woman will sure be honor and be giving regard

  33. Bamideleseguncampnou

    January 20, 2017 at 5:13 pm

    It so awesome to have somebody like her which will passionately emulated. Because her life preached challenges to will upcoming future patriotism

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