Talk show maven Oprah Winfrey, who long reigned supreme as the world’s richest Black woman, has been usurped by Folorunsho Alakija, according to Ventures Africa, an African business magazine and news service.
The newest top-ranking Black female billionaire hails from Nigeria. Alakija is a clothing designer and oil tycoon who is worth somewhere in the $3.3 billion-range, topping Oprah’s piggy bank savings by $500 million. At last count, Oprah’s media dynasty hovered in the neighborhood of about $2.7 billion, according to Forbes magazine.
As the founder and owner of Famfa Oil, one of Nigeria’s most prolific oil blocks, Aliakija began her career as a secretary for a now-defunct investment bank in Nigeria. The mid-Eighties brought about a career turnaround for Alakija, who delved into clothing design, after having studied it in England. Alajika’s entrepreneurial spirit led her to start her own clothing line, Supreme Stitches, which catered to a wealthy clientele.
Even though Alajika had established a successful clothing business, she actually earned her windfall in oil.
In 1993, Nigerian President Ibrahim Babangida awarded her company, Famfa Oil, an oil prospecting license which went on to become OML 127, one of Nigeria’s most prolific oil blocks. The block is located approximately 220 miles South East of Lagos and 70 miles offshore Nigeria in the central Niger Delta.
At the time, many wealthy Nigerians had been allocated oil blocks, most of which were quickly flipped to international oil companies for immediate profits. Alajika was an exception; even though she did not have any expertise in running an oil field, she still opted not to sell her license.
The 61-year-old wife of Modupe Alakija and mother of four sons helped run Famfa, but ran into an obstacle with the Nigerian government under former President Olusegun Obasanjo, which unconstitutionally acquired a 50 percent interest in her oil block without duly compensating Alakija or her company. Famfa Oil went to court to challenge the acquisition and in May the Nigerian Supreme Court reinstated Famfa Oil’s stake.
If anyone still doubts Alajika’s net worth as compared to Oprah’s, the editors at Ventures Africa also state that Alajika, who owns more than $100 million in real estate, owns a Bombardier Global Express 6000 private jet that she purchased this year for $46 million.
Alajika also spends her time and wealth taking care of widows and orphans, according to the magazine.