Across Nigeria’s economic landscape, Nigerian women are putting in a shift and pushing the boundaries of achievement. This is true in commerce and industry, media and entertainment, academia, sport, and whatever other fields you can think of.
They once had to dwell in the lower rungs of corporate hierarchies; but now, they are proving themselves just as capable as their male counterparts at managing the country’s biggest businesses.
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To celebrate the strides made by the millions of women entrepreneurs and business professionals, we’ll review the profiles of Nigeria’s top ten women in business. These figures have made their mark in their respective industries, and have gained respect and national acclaim in the process.
In preparation for International Women’s Day, here’s our list of top Nigerian women in business, presented in no particular order:
Folorunsho Alakija is Executive Chairman of Famfa Oil Limited and Group Managing Director of The Rose of Sharon Group (which includes a couple of printing companies). She also holds a majority stake in DaySpring Property Development Company.
Alakija is Nigeria’s richest woman; Forbes estimates that she’s worth about $1 billion. The magazine has also listed her among the 100 most powerful women in the world.
Her philanthropic work through the Rose of Sharon Foundation has helped widows and orphans with scholarships and grants. She’s also known for her involvement in Christian ministry and has written various books about faith and inspiration.
Catherine Uju Ifejika
Catherine Uju Ifejika is a lawyer and oil magnate. She’s CEO of Brittania-U Nigeria Limited, a petroleum company involved in upstream exploration and production. The company has a subsidiary in Ghana, which she leads as well.
Other industrial concerns under her purview include Data Appraisal Company, which is engaged in sub-surface engineering for oil exploration and exploitation; and Nextee Oil and Gas Trading Company, which transports crude to its assigned destination.
Catherine is believed to be in the top tier of leading women in the global oil industry, and one of Africa’s richest women.
Stella Chinyelu Okoli is the founder and CEO of Emzor Pharmaceuticals, one of Nigeria’s biggest pharmaceutical companies. A pharmacist by training, Stella worked at several healthcare products providers in the United Kingdom before setting up Emzor in 1977.
Today, Emzor manufactures more than 50 products and is present in several African countries, including Mali, Ghana, and Sierra Leone.
Following the death of her son Chike Okoli, Chinyere established the Chike Okoli Foundation in 2006. The organization works to raise awareness about cardiovascular diseases and the risks associated with them.
Beyond the sphere of finance, Ibukun is a member of the International Advisory Board at the IESE Business School, Barcelona, and a board member at the Nigerian Economic Summit Group. She also sits on the boards of Cadbury Nigeria Plc, Digital Jewels Ltd, and the Nigerian Sovereign Wealth Fund.
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Earlier on, she had founded Quebees, a furniture manufacturing company. It later merged with SOKOA-SA, a French company, and is now the SOKOA Chair Center. Ibukun still serves as its CEO.
Mosunmola Abudu is an entrepreneur with extensive engagement across the media space. Her concerns include electronic broadcasting, filmmaking, and content production.
Mo Abudu is CEO of Ebony Life TV, which is now viewable in more than 49 countries spread over Africa and the Caribbean. Through Ebony Life Films, she’s produced movies like The Wedding Party (Nigeria’s highest-grossing film to date), the Royal Hibiscus Hotel, and Chief Daddy.
Ebony Life has also had deals with Sony Pictures Television and Netflix.
In 2013 Abudu was named among the 25 Most Powerful Women in Global TV by Hollywood Reporter.
Nigeria’s bridal makeup space owes a lot to the pioneering work of Tara Fela-Durotoye. Her company, House of Tara, is one of the oldest continually operational beauty and skincare consulting firms in the country. Founded in 1997, House of Tara has grown from being run in a single room, to having more than 20 stores, 14 beauty schools, and 270 products.
Tara is an alumnus of the Lagos Business School, Yale University, INSEAD Abu Dhabi, and the Stanford SEED Transformation Program, among others.
In 2013, Forbes listed Tara as one of the 20 Young Power Women in Africa. And in 2020, it named her among Africa’s 50 Most Powerful Women.
Sahel Capital has provided consulting services to clients in Nigeria, Senegal, Liberia, and Ghana, and has worked with such international organizations as USAID, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Oxfam International, and ECOWAS.
Projects taken on by Sahel Capital include the management of the $100 million Fund for Agricultural Finance in Nigeria (FAFIN), designed for SMEs.
In 2002, Nwuneli founded LEAP Africa, an NGO that trains young people in ethics, leadership, and civics. She also sits on the boards of Fairfax Africa Fund, Nestle Nigeria, and the Godrej Group.
Funke Opeke is the founder and CEO of MainOne, Nigeria’s top communications service and network solutions provider. An electrical engineer, she was formerly Executive Director of the wholesale division at Verizon Communications, the USA, and Chief Technical Officer at MTN.
As Chief Executive of MianOne, she oversaw the company’s deployment of West Africa’s first privately owned undersea cable, a project that cost $240 million. The company also built West Africa’s largest Tier III Data Center, a $40 million investment.
Fifi Ejindu is an architect and entrepreneur. As founder and CEO of the Starcrest Group of Companies, she presides over the conglomerate’s building construction, real estate, and oil and gas concerns.
Fifi has a degree in Architecture from the Pratt Institute in the United States (she was the first black woman to receive a B. Arch from the institution). After taking courses at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), she worked for Grant Associates, an international architecture firm, before returning to Nigeria to set up her own company.
Amy Jadesimi is currently the CEO of the Lagos Deep Offshore Logistics Base (LADOL), a free zone and logistics hub for multinational companies located on an island in Apapa Port, Lagos.
An alumnus of the University of Oxford and Stanford University, Jadesimi began her career with Goldman Sachs as an investment banker. After obtaining her MBA at Stanford, she worked at the private equity division of Brait SE in Johannesburg, South Africa.
While working at LADOL, Jadesimi joined the Venture Strategies for Health and Development (VSHD), where she collaborated with doctors to produce an inexpensive drug that helps reduce maternal mortality.
Women are seizing more opportunities in the world of business and making an impact in their niches. The people mentioned in this article are proof of what is possible when women decide to make their skill and strength count for something. They are an inspiration to girls and women, as well as everyone else.
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