Sunday 1 December 2013

Alakija's Reward for Creativity, Entrepreneurship, Philanthropy

By Tajudeen Sowole
When designer and businesswoman, Folorunsho Alakija was recently honoured with an award of Fellow Designate by Yaba College of Technology (Yabatech) in Lagos, it was a celebration of creativity combined with entrepreneurship and exceptional philanthropy.

Chief (Mrs) Folorunsho Alakija, shortly before receiving her Fellow honour at Yabatech, Lagos…recently. (PHOTO c/o ROSF)

As a creative professional who has excelled in the field of designs, Alakija has also brought the dynamics of creativity into business in general, making her a classic epitome of how culture and entrepreneurial skills are crucial to the development of an emerging economy such as Nigeria’s.

Also honoured with a Fellow award alongside Alakija during the colleges’s 28th convocation was Engr Nuru Yakubu. In her acceptance speech, Alakija, 62, said it was pleasant to be so honoured, particularly on a special day when the school was graduating future leaders of the country. She hoped that the outgoing students would use the knowledge acquired “as a stepping stone and be among those that will change the world for the better”.

As a philanthropist whose not-for profit organization, The Rose of Sharon  Foundation (ROSF) has been in the forefront of assisting the less privileged, Alakija pledged that she would continue to support Yabatech. In fact, “every schools in the college will be assisted”, she assured. 

The Rector of the college, Dr Kudirat Ladipo noted that Alakija’s achievement is a pride to Nigerian women. “Alakija makes us proud that as a girl child, and with determination, it is possible to reach any level in life”.

Artist, fashion designer and lecturer at School of Art, Design and Printing, Yabatech, Stella Awoh argued that the “award given to Mrs Alakija is very significant to us women”. Awoh noted that “from being a dressmaker, Alakija has used her creativity to expand into other areas of business”.

A former president of Fashion Designers Association of Nigeria (FADAN), Alakija is currently one of the leading oil magnates in Africa. According to Forbes rating of Alakija’s Net Worth, she was worth $2.5 bn as of November 2013.

Alakija, started working as a secretary in a Nigerian merchant bank in the 1970s, She quit her job to study fashion design in England. She later founded a design label, Supreme Stitches, which had high profile clientele, including late Maryam Babangida, wife of Nigeria's former military president General Ibrahim Babangida.

Alakija won an oil block for her company, Famfa Oil, during Babangida regime. The oil prospecting license turned out to become OML 127, regarded as one of Nigeria's most prolific oil blocks. Sources said Famfa Oil owned a 60% stake in the block until later ‘when a sitting president acquired a 50% interest in the block”. Famfa Oil, the sources added, challenged the acquisition in court and won after Supreme Court reinstated the 50% stake in May 2012.

Alakija, displaying her Honourary Award.
Alakija’s Not-for-profit organization, The Rose of Sharon Foundation (ROSF) was established in 2008.  Mission statement:  "Our mission statement includes easing the burdens of existence for widows and orphans, which we do through our community network amongst others.
Over 350 distinguished ladies and gentlemen drawn from various sectors of our society attended the event and pledged their support to our projects".

In fact, last week, Alakija led a team of ROSF on a courtesy visit to Benue State where they had a meeting with the Executive Governor of the state, Gabriel Suswam, the First Lady, Arc Mrs Dooshima Suswam and Honourable Commissioner for Culture and Tourism Mrs Comfort Ajene.

Known for giving succour to widows, Alakija’s philanthropic record was well represented during the award ceremony at Yabatech as women dressed in Ankara aso-ebi stormed the venue to honour the philanthropist whose projects have touched the lives of many widows across the country.

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