African billionaires include the world’s richest black woman, 61-year-old oil tycoon Folorunsho Alakija. Her path to becoming one of Africa’s 55 billionaires began as a fashion design student in London in the 1980s and continued when she returned back to Africa where she started Supreme Stitches, “which became an exclusive label catering to a wealthy clientele including Mariam Babangida, wife of former Nigerian military dictator Ibrahim Babangida,” reported the Associated Press via Yahoo on Oct. 8, 2013.
African billionaires and oil tycoon Folorunsho Alakija’s story were the topic of an article published by the pan-African, Lagos-based magazine Ventures Africa which reported in its latest edition this week that Africa has many more billionaires than previously known. Among the African billionaires found, 55 are worth $143.88 billion. According to Ventures Africa’s magazine report, the woman among the African billionaires, 61-year-old oil tycoon Folorunsho Alakija, is worth $7.3 billion.
In 1993, after having established her Supreme Stiches label, the Babangida regime gave Folorunsho Alakija a license to explore for oil in a block that has become one of the most prolific in the oil-rich country, producing some 200,000 barrels a day.
Unlike other African entrepreneurs or African military generals, Folorunsho Alakija did not sell off her license to be able to explore for oil in Africa to other international oil companies but entered a joint venture with an international oil exploration company.
“Alakija fought a court case for more than a decade when a civilian government forcefully awarded itself a 50 percent interest in her company, after the field was confirmed in 2000 to hold reserves in excess of 1 billion barrels. A court last year voided the government's acquisition and returned the stake to Alakija's Famfa Oil.”
Today, the richest black woman among the 55 African billionaires is running her company as a family business with her husband and four sons.
Similar to other African billionaires, Folorunsho Alakija is returning some of her wealth to the community. Folorunsho Alakija's Rose of Sharon Foundation helps support widows and orphans all over Nigeria.
Besides the world's richest black woman, the oldest African billionaires include 84-year-old Kenyan industrialist Manu Chandaria and 84-year-old Egyptian property tycoon Mohammed Al-Fayed. “The youngest billionaires are Mohammed Dewji of Tanzania and Nigerian oil trader Igho Sanomi, both 38 years old.”
Folorunsho Alakija is not the only Nigerian billionaire. Ventures Africa reports that Nigeria has 20 of the 55 African billionaires including the richest African billionaire worth $20.2 billion, Nigerian manufacturer Aliko Dangote. The list of top African billionaires, their stories, and their profiles are available at Ventures Africa's website.
Ventures Africa’s editor-in-chief Uzodinma Iweala commented on Tuesday that he was excited to find several Africans who have become wealthy through manufacturing and financial services showing that Africa is "moving away from a continent that is just resource-based."
Even though Africa’s richest black woman and the other African billionaires live a continent away, it appears that their path is not unlike that of American billionaires.
Ventures Africa reported that it dedicated three months to research about African billionaires spread across the continent because it "champions African capitalism by celebrating African success, free enterprise and the entrepreneurial spirit.”