Africa’s Richest Woman, Folorunsho Alakija Says At 65, “Money Isn’t Wealth’

For one who
made the Forbes list as the second richest woman to emerge in Africa, when she
talks about money, everyone is eager to listen. As she clocks 65 years today,
she speaks exclusively to Kemi Ashefon on what makes her tick
At over 65
years of age, what do you do to look this young?
can assure you, my secret is in Christ. He is the one who has beautified and
continues to beautify me. God created me the way I am. It has not been as a result
of what I have been able to do but what He has been able to do with and through
me. I think He did a little overtime on me at the very beginning when He was
creating me; He was pleased and so am I. All my life, I have eaten what I like,
when I like. In fact, I started what some would call a diet just today. It is a
new lifestyle of eating habits which I pray I will be able to sustain. I have begun
exercising again and bought a treadmill. 
I also make haphazard attempts at facials a couple of times a year.
Therefore, I can only attribute your complement to the grace of God.
In a word,
describe your personality?
dictates your fashion sense?
My passion for
fashion, my artistic and creative talents, and spirit of perfection and
excellence all combined together dictate my fashion sense. What I wear to any
occasion is determined by the occasion itself: whether the time of the day, the
weather, or the type of occasion; for example: a state function, a business
meeting, or children’s party.  Other
determining factors are the environment, the societal segment, and the part of
the country or world I am in. Once I am decided on the type of outfit or look I
need or want to portray for the occasion, I then ask the Holy Spirit for the
colour and He directs me. On a few occasions when I had chosen not to listen to
that soft inner voice, I had found myself in error when I got to the event.

You tie your gele yourself?
Tying my gele comes to me naturally as it does
not take me more than two minutes to do so. It is an art I thank God for
because many ladies pay others good money for a two minute job. They should
hire me! I tell my make-up artists who offer me the service that they should
rather learn from me and pay me. There are many ways to kill a chicken and in
like manner, tying gele has many
methods. So, I show them my style, for free of course.
What is
your definition of wealth and who is a wealthy woman?
the word ‘wealth’ comes up, what readily comes to people’s mind is money,
affluence. But wealth is beyond that. It can be classified as a large amount of
something, ranging from experience to talent, and many other things. It is
really a word that quantifies and qualifies anything. For instance, you could
say this or that person has a wealth of interesting qualities. Many people have
said the same to me because there are so many parts to being who I am, who I
have become and who God has created me to be. I am a businesswoman, a fashion
designer and milliner by profession: I was an executive secretary, and I am a
philanthropist, an evangelist, a wife, mother and grandmother. The word wealth
qualifies and measures one’s success in achieving set targets and goals,
prosperity, and blessings. Blessings can be in the form of good health, the
education of children and even living to a ripe old age. The Bible even
declares that we shall be fruitful and multiply; it is all part of prosperity
and wealth. Therefore, a wealthy woman is someone who has been able to achieve
some, all or even more than these because grace for wealth is unlimited from
our God. He desires to bless us all on a daily basis.  We just need to learn how to key into it so
that we do not limit ourselves.

Women have
been segregated for a while, how can we come to the limelight? Is it through
politics or the economy?
saying “NO” to no! By saying, (like President Obama), “Yes, we can” and he did;
he has become a two-time black American President in a nation where there has
been race and skin colour barriers for centuries. He refused to take no for an
answer, took it to the Lord in prayer, worked doubly hard and lifted the
barrier. The rest is history. It is always said that where there is no pain,
there is no gain. There are sacrifices to be made at times. Going the extra
mile stands you out for success. After all, proper preparation prevents poor
performance and where there is no preparation, failure is inevitable.
Therefore, women will definitely always have to put in extra work to prove
their point and make a difference. I believe there is nothing a man can do that
a woman cannot do, or even do better if given a chance. God created women with
certain qualities that make them diligent, thorough and extremely hard working
with special strength from the inner man. We can accommodate pain, persevere
and see things through to their logical conclusion. How else could we carry
extra baggage for nine months, go through the excruciating pain of child birth,
the most painful pain in the world and, raise the children to become
presidents, engineers, doctors, lawyers, legislators and the leaders of
tomorrow? Women can come to the limelight through any sphere. There is no hard
and fast rule. Women have made their mark in business, professional fields,
politics, government and even in religious ministries. In Nigeria, there are
female Deputy Governors, Federal Ministers, and Commissioners to name a few. In
other parts of the world they are country Presidents, women leaders and even
female children who have taken the bull by the horn to try to make a difference
in their countries.

Are there
challenges in a woman having the upper hand in socio-economy sector in the
of course, such challenges will never cease in any male-dominated society. The
women have come a long way to get to where they are today. There were the days
when they were relegated to the kitchen and the most they were allowed was to
learn hairdressing and dressmaking. Times have changed only because the women
have not taken it lying low, but have faced those challenges by proving their
ability through sheer hard work, doggedness, enlightenment campaigns, and advocacy
etc. Also, there is also the male ego to contend with but God will honour the
woman’s ambitions if she does not do it in a confrontational manner. We women
must learn to make our point boldly but respectfully and prayerfully then, God
lifts us up to where we want to be.
When and
where did you meet your husband? What was the attraction?
husband and I met in December 1972, a fortnight after my relocation from
England after my studies. We met at a mutual friend’s party in Surulere,
decided to continue seeing one another and have not stopped ever since for over
forty years now. Our love grew over the years on a daily basis. It was not
infatuation on either side. He liked what he saw and was convinced more and
more that I had all the ‘materia’ he was looking for in a wife. I was
particularly attracted to his physique and love for children; he has always
been strong, loving and reliable.
What role does
he play in your successes?
husband has always supported me morally and financially. He allows me to work,
whether for others or for myself. He does not renege once he gives his word and
I continue to appreciate him.