2012 has been a rough year for Oprah Winfrey. First her cable network struggled to stay afloat amid terrible ratings and now she has lost her cherished richest black woman in the world title! I don’t even know why she gets out of bed anymore. Well, before we shed too many tears for Oprah, let’s keep in mind that even if she’s not number one, she still has a net worth of $2.7 billion and an annual income of more than $315 million! So who is the new richest black woman in the world and how did she dethrone the Queen of all media? The story is fascinating and inspirational…
The richest black woman in the world today is 61 year old Nigerian oil magnate Folorunsho Alakija. After winning a landmark legal victory against the Nigerian government earlier this year, Folorunsho Alakija’s net worth skyrocketed to $3.2 billion which makes her $500 million richer than Oprah Winfrey. $3.2 billion also means that Alakija is the fourth richest black person on the planet behind fellow Nigerians Mike Adenuga ($4.3 billion) and Aliko Dangote ($11.2 billion) and Ethiopian Mohammed Al Amoudi ($12.5 billion).
In addition to being the richest black woman, Folorunsho Alakija is also a mother, grand mother, wife of 40 years, fashion designer and active philanthropist. Mrs. Alakija earned her billions as the founder of Famfa Oil. Famfa Oil owns 60% of a Nigerian oil deposit called OML 127 which produces 200,000 barrels of oil each day.
The story of how Folorunsho Alakija became a billionaire is nothing short of inspirational and amazing. Alakija was born in 1951, the daughter of a wealthy Nigerian who had eight wives and 52 children. After attending school in Wales, Alakija returned to Nigeria where she worked as a secretary for the International Merchant Bank. When that bank closed its doors, she moved to London to study fashion design. Soon after graduating, Alakija launched her own fashion line called “Supreme Stitches”. A year later, in 1986, Folorunsho Alakija was named Best Designer in Nigeria. In the early 1990s, Alakija used her new found success and money to apply for an Oil Prospecting License. Today Nigeria is one of the world’s largest producers of oil in the world, but back in 1993, prospecting was still an extremely risky and expensive endeavor. Alakija stuck to her guns and was eventually granted a 620,000 acre plot of land to explore. There was just one problem – Alakija had no idea how to drill for oil. In 1996, Alakija hired oil conglomerate Texaco to prepare a report on the potential oil in her granted area. After four years of research, Texaco reported back that Alakija was sitting on an estimated one billion barrels of oil!
Smooth sailing from there right? Unfortunately it wasn’t so easy. In 2000, soon after the one billion barrel discovery was made, the Nigerian government announced that they were revoking Alakija’s 620,000 acre grant. Initially the government said they just wanted to take back 50% of the grant, but they ended up taking 90%. But Alakija was a fighter! She sued the government for breach of contract and after a bitter 12 year court case, Alakija was vindicated in 2012 by Nigeria’s Supreme Court. Earlier this year, the court increased Alakija’s share from 10% to 60%, instantly increasing her net worth by billions of dollars and securing her spot as the richest black woman in the world.
Today Famfa Oil is run by her sons and husband Modupe Alakija. Folorunsho uses her time spending and giving away her vast fortune. She recently spent more than $100 million to buy property in London’s One Hyde Park development and another $45 million on a Bombardier Global Express 6000 private jet.
Alakija also established the Rose of Sharon Foundation which supports orphans, widows and other needy people throughout the world.
Written by Brian Warner. Videos are from CNN.