Oprah has lost her place as the world’s richest black woman, usurped by Nigeria’s Folorunsho Alakija. Though Forbes lists the 61-year-old oil tycoon’s worth at $600 million dollars, her properties can be valued between $3.3 and $6.44 billion. Despite the fact that she made the bulk of her fortune through oil, Alakija has worked in a number of different industries, being called “one of the foremost pioneers of Nigerian fashion.”
Alakija fortune that may eclipse Oprah’s by half a billion dollars or more, she began her legendary career as a secretary in the 70s. She studied fashion design in England before founding her own label Supreme Stiches in Nigeria. The brand attracted high class Nigerian women, providing a platform for Alakija’s move to oil.
In 1993, Alakija applied for an Oil Prospecting License (OPL) through her company Famfa Oil. The Nigerian granted Famfa a license to prospect on a 617,000 acre block of land in the Niger Delta. Famfa’s oil properties, now known as OML 127, eventually came to be worth billions, with Alakija holding a 60 percent stake.
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When the Nigerian government discovered the full value of the land in 2000, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) seized OML 127 illegally, without paying Famfa Oil for the forced acquisition of 50 percent of the oil reserves. Alakija spent years in court fighting the illegal seizure, but in May 2012 Famfa was finally granted control of the other half of its property from the government, propelling Alakija back into the category of the worst’s highest earners.
Alakija also participates in philanthropic work, having founded the rose of Sharon Foundation, a group that offers grants to widowed women in Nigeria. Her husband Modupe is the chairman of Famfa Oil, and runs the company along with her children.