Women Inspiration & Enterprise (WIE) Africa Symposium is an international network which hosts thought leaders from around the world together. Some of Africa’s most influential women were gathered in Lagos, Nigeria May 1,2014 for this year’s meeting.
During these meetings, female leaders from the worlds of politics, business, media, fashion, entertainment etc are gathered together to empower and inspire the next generation. Nigerian’s first female billionaire and world’s richest black woman, Folorunso Alakija, was one of the highlight speakers at the event.
Alakija is the chair of Famfa Oil and Gas, one of Nigeria’s most prolific oil blocks which produces as much as 200,000 barrels per day.
Many of you would wonder how she got to be the world richest black woman or what kept her aiming for the sky after several rejections from people. In this meeting, Alakija takes us back to how she built her fortune through the oil business with hard work, discipline and dedication.
“It was not a planned thing at all. A friend actually contacted me that some people wanted to buy crude oil and she was wondering if I will be able to get them to make the purchase. I got an appointment with the Minister of Petroleum and he told me that it’s not the way to go because there wasn’t much profit in selling it and because it’s a foreign company that Nigeria is imposed at selling its crude to international market.
That it will be better to look at other things. I went back to my friend and told her what the Minister said. Then it seemed as if that door was shut but something else came up. I chose not to walk away so I went back to offer another service which was catering services. And yet again I was shut down. I did not give up, I just knew that something had to come out of it.
I spoke again to some friends in the oil industry and I was told to ask to be able to supply transportation services for those who are purchasing crude within the country but I was shut down again by the minister.
Then the last time I went to see the Minister, he told me that the government wants Nigerians to be involved in Nigeria’s exploration and production. That it has been the multinationals that have been taking advantage of the oil business in Nigeria.
So I was like OK… probably this is not the likes of me. I felt like there was no point coming back but honestly, I’m not the type to take no for an answer. So I began to ask questions, I began to knock on doors, I began to seek information and in the long run, I applied for an oil bloc. But all through that time, the ministers have been changed 3 times so each time they are changed, it takes me back to the bottom of the ladder and I will have to start all over again but I still did not give up.
The whole thing started in January 1991 till the end of 1993. I kept going, kept going, kept praying, in-between I became a born-again Christian. That was when I knew the Lord. When I was 40, I decided to enter a covenant with the lord that if he blesses me, that I will serve him for the rest of my life and then I got the oil license. It eventually came after 3 years but I did not get the one I wanted.” she said
Speaking about her husband’s role in her business, she said:
“My husband was solidly behind me. There were many times that I will go back home crying and he would tell me to stop crying and he would tell me to stop crying that after all, we are not starving, we are very comfortable. I had his support financially, morally because I had a settled home. I had a balanced relationship with my husband and my children. All that helped me to dare to make a difference.”