The richest self-made woman in Africa and one of just two female billionaires on the continent.
FORBES counts only two female billionaires in Africa: Angola's Isabel dos Santos - Africa’s richest woman with a $3.2 billion fortune, and Nigeria’s Folorunsho Alakija.
Folorunsho was born in 1951 to the family of Chief L. A. Ogbara in Ikorodu, Lagos State. 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, Nigeria. 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.
Folorunsho 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 rose to prominence and fame within a few years, and as Rose of Sharon House of Fashion, became a household name. 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.
In May 1993, Folorunsho 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 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 percent of her 100 percent stake to Star Deep. Subsequently, Star Deep sold off 8 percent of its stake in OPL 216 to Petrobras, a Brazilian company. On 9 March 2016 she became the first female Chancellor (Osun State University) in Nigeria.
As of 2014, she was listed as the 96th most powerful woman in the world by Forbes. In May 2015 two Nigerian women, Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and Alakija were listed among the world's 100 most powerful women according to Forbes. Alakija was 87th on the list.
Folorunsho 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 schemes 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 Theatre, 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 serves as the Chief Matron of Africa's Young Entrepreneurs.
Folorunsho married a lawyer, Modupe Alakija in November 1976. The couple reside in Lagos, Nigeria with their four sons and grandchildren. Her nephew is the Nigerian, DJ Xclusive.