Ventures Africa is reporting that Mrs Folorunsho Alakija is officially now the richest black woman in the world, and is worth an estimated $3.3 billion.
Meet Folorunsho Alakija, a Nigerian billionaire oil tycoon, Fashion designer and philanthropist who is worth at least $3.3 billion- contrary to a recent Forbes Magazine ranking which pegs her net worth at only $600 million.
Alakija, 61, was born into a wealthy, polygamous Nigerian family. She started out her professional career in the mid 70s as a secretary at the now defunct International Merchant Bank of Nigeria, one of the country’s earliest investment banks. In the early 80s, Alakija quit her job and went on to study Fashion design in England, returning to Nigeria shortly afterwards to start Supreme Stitches, a premium Nigerian fashion label which catered exclusively to upscale clientele.
The business thrived, and Alakija quickly made a tidy fortune selling high-end Nigerian clothing to fashionable wives of military bigwigs and society women.
In May 1993 Alakija applied for an 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 Nigeria in the central Niger Delta.
This was in 1993. Many wealthy Nigerian businessmen and military bigwigs who had been allocated oil blocs by the military administration at the time had no clue as to the technicalities in operating an oil block, so many of them typically acquired OPLs, and then flipped them off to international oil companies for substantial profits.
But Alakija was intelligent. She had no expertise or experience in running an oil field, but she decided not to sell off her license. 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 Petrobas, a Brazilian company. Folorunsho Alakija and her family owned 60 percent.