The life of Mrs. Folorunsho Alakija is a clear example that you can be rich and still be godly. Her life is a perfect reference that contradicts the devilish notion that poverty is synonymous to Christianity – a pathway to heaven. Alakija, a Forbes-rated billionaire is one of the richest women on the African continent and the richest woman in Nigeria. Yet, she is a devoted Christian that commits her life to living a godly life and impacting the world according to Matt.7:15.
Alakija, who in 2015 was listed as the second most powerful woman in Africa after the incumbent Director-General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, she was also said to be the global 87th most powerful woman on earth. Her investment interests spread across real estate, printing, fashion and, oil and gas. She is the Group Managing Director of The Rose of Sharon Group and the Executive Vice-Chairman of Famfa Oil Limited.
In the real estate industry, she is the major stakeholder in DaySpring Property Development Company, a luxury real estate and property development company that is one of Nigeria’s most prestigious property development company delivering exceptional residential, commercial, and hospitality developments for individuals and businesses in Lagos and across the globe.
Alakija was born into a family of traders on 15th July 1951 in Lagos state. As a child, she cut her teeth in the textiles trade. “My siblings and I used to help my mum in the store and that is where we learned a lot about textiles, textures, colours, patterns and merchandising. That is where I learned all the practical steps that I later on applied to my fashion business.”
She had her education in Lagos and Ogun States and the United Kingdom. After the completion of a Secretarial Course at Pitman’s Central College London, she began her career in 1974 as an Executive Secretary at Sijuade enterprises before she moved to FinBank as the Executive Secretary to the Managing Director. Due to her dedication and diligence she would later became the Office Assistant to the Treasury Department.
She delved into the fashion world with her Supreme Stitches label after attending The American College in London and the Central School of Fashion. In 1996, Alakija would later rename the company- The Rose of Sharon House of Fashion. She made her impact felt in the fashion industry in Nigeria, taking the Nigeria brand to the world and promoting the Nigerian culture through fashion and style as Rose of Sharon House of Fashion became a household name in the fashion industry. Alakija at a time was the National President of the Fashion Designers Association of Nigeria (FADAN) and also a lifelong trustee of the association.
In the early 90s Alakija took the bold step of applying for the allocation of an oil prospecting license (OPL), the beginning of her journey into the money-spinning oil and gas industry in the country. She eventually got the license to explore for oil on OPL 216 that was granted to her oil and gas firm, Famfa Limited.
For a woman to achieve so huge feat in the majorly male dominated industries would only take passion, determination, vision, and diligence. But Alakija revealed in an interview published by Forbes that the secret to her wealth lies in her relationship with Christ. She said she entered into a covenant with God decades ago when she gave her live to Christ. “I entered into an agreement that if He would bless me, I would serve him all the days of my life.”
In spite her busy schedule in the business and corporate world, Alakija finds time to impact spiritual guidance into the younger generation through her various programmes. She founded the Rose of Sharon Glorious Ministry International, where people meet every Tuesday for fellowship and prayer. They are dedicated to a common purpose- to serve God. She also has the Rose of Sharon Foundation, a non-profit organization that provides care, financial support and scholarships to widows and orphans. These are some of the ways she keeps her bargain with God.
There is also the Flourish Africa Movement, an empowerment movement she founded to serve as a catalyst for female empowerment and development. The movement was borne out of her passion to see women become truly fulfilled and empowered.The movement creates a platform for both female millennials and adults alike, to have access to information that will help them grow in the areas of career, living, love and relationship and inspirational messages from leading change-makers.
In 2021, the Flourish Africa announced the launch of a N1 billion fund to promote female owned businesses in Africa. Alakija said the initiative would focus on supporting the entrepreneurial activities of at least 2500 female-owned businesses through funding and structured training over a period of 5 years. The fund which was to mark her 70th birthday was a gift to hardworking and enterprising women that would focus on empowering them economically and socially for the benefit of their immediate families and the society.
She said a minimum of 500 female micro-entrepreneurs would be trained annually. After which, 100 audacious entrepreneurs from the pool would be able to access grants to the tune of N2 million each for their businesses from an annual fund of 200 million Naira.