Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country with a population of almost 180 million, is home to at least twenty of the continent’s fifty five billionaires, including Africa’s richest woman, Folorunsho Alakija.
Folorunsho, one of fifty two of her father’s children, left Nigeria to attend school in Wales with one of her sisters. She returned to the United Kingdom twice more as a young adult to study secretarial skills and later fashion design.
For almost twelve years she worked in the banking sector in Nigeria where she laid a solid foundation to build her own fashion label, Supreme Stitches. After much success, she eventually move into the extremely lucrative oil and gas business, and in 1993 she was granted an oil prospecting license from the government. This gave her a dominant position along the Nigerian coastline.
Folorunsho has a philanthropic soul. She used to give money to anyone who walked into her company offices asking for help. But one day, while quietly praying and reading her Bible in her office, she was directed to the book of James Chapter One verse 27.
“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”
It was this calling from God that led Folorunsho to found and launch the Rose of Sharon Foundation in 2008. She put friends and family on the Board of Trustees to ensure those in need always feel empowered, loved and like family. The non-profit organisation aims to support widows and orphans in a range of ventures, which includes flexible repayments on loads, educational scholarships for children and orphans, medical support, training programs, relocation to better homes, counselling and prayer. To reach more people the Rose of Sharon has teamed up with other non-profit organisations and philanthropists. The ultimate goal of the organisation is not to limit the amount of people they can help – they will help anyone they possibly can.
Folorunsho is proud to say she did not get a university qualification, but actively encourages young people to follow their educational goals alongside their dreams. Her success came, not overnight, but from “hard work, diligence, persistence”. She has achieved status as a fashion icon, a banker, a corporate promoter, an inspirational writer and an oil magnate from dreaming big, never giving up or compromising, exuding passion, having a burning desire to succeed and taking charge of her life. But her strength and wisdom comes from the Lord. This has led her to be Reborn and to get more involved in ministry and out-reach programs.
Folorunsho Alakija, an inspiration to those in Nigeria and around the world, challenges women to dream to deliver and even though she is in her 60s, she is not yet finished. Addressing a group of university students in Nigeria, she ended her delivery with, “I am not yet done, what is your excuse?” Something for us all to think about.