Nigeria 2017 | ECONOMY | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Folorunsho Alakija, Chairwoman & CEO of Famfa Oil, on women's entrepreneurial empowerment, productive community-based partnerships, and optimizing fiscal policy.

Folorunsho Alakija
Folorunsho Alakija started her career with a 12-year stint in banking. She later moved on to study fashion design at The American College in London and the Central School of Fashion, which resulted in the birth of her first fashion label, Supreme Stiches, later renamed The Rose Of Sharon House of Fashion in 1996. In 2001, it started mass-producing T-shirts and changed its name to The Rose of Sharon Prints and Promotions. In May 1993 she applied for an oil-prospecting license for a block granted to her company Famfa Oil.

How would you describe the significance of your partnership with Chevron and Petrobras?

This partnership is not only beneficial to the partners, but also to the country as a whole. Our current production capacity is 250,000bpd but our production averaged around 242,000bpd in 2016. Producing 250,000bpd is significant for the economy, as it has increased the government's revenue from oil sales. This current government has just presented an oil production estimate of 2.2 billion barrels for its 2017 budget. Petrobras has always been known to be a giant in deep water exploration and, at the time Agbami was to be developed, Famfa and Chevron needed such a partner. The outcome of this partnership was stellar performance in terms of production. On a larger scale, the local community has benefitted the most from this partnership since indigenous companies were allowed to bid for some segments of the project, thus building their capacities in these areas.

What is the importance of the oil and gas sector in terms of job creation, and what role does Famfa Oil play in supporting the federal government local development strategy?

The oil industry is a vital one in Nigeria. It has created opportunities for Nigerian entrepreneurs, which in turn serve as employers of labor to a great number of Nigerians. The industry alone creates over 65,000 direct jobs in Nigeria and more than 250,000 in non-direct employment. Famfa is a fully indigenous company with a 100% Nigerian workforce. Over the years it has built capacity in its workforce through both local and international training that has empowered them to jointly manage and operate a world-class floating, production, storage, and offloading (FPSO) facility. Famfa and its Agbami partners support local content development by training and developing local manpower.

The government is working on a new petroleum regulatory framework. How do you expect this legislation to influence the future of the sector in Nigeria?

The regulatory framework is expected to drive investment in the oil and gas value chain. It should promote the development of local content and create a conducive business environment for all stakeholders. The government must ensure it does that and not the opposite. We hope for the best fiscal policies when the legislation is eventually passed.

As the role model that you are, what do you think should be done to empower and unleash the potential of girls and women in Nigeria?

Research has shown that, contrary to age-old beliefs, the mental capability of a girl is in no way inferior to that of a boy. If exposed to the same instruction and care, they can both achieve similar feats. Girls should be allowed to dream and supported to achieve their goals. They should be encouraged to break frontiers and make a difference. They should be allowed to choose their professions freely and allowed to pursue a career to the very limits of their chosen field. I was once a victim, but the rest is history. In addition to these, the leadership potential of girls can be developed via the provision of adequate and impactful leadership training programs and boot camps, especially for those that are in highly discriminatory environments. Finally, women already in leadership positions can create forums for taking up younger and aspiring females and demonstrating to the upstarts how they have been able to navigate and succeed in their chosen field.

In addition to being a businesswoman and designer, you are also a philanthropist. What nonprofit initiatives are you more passionate about?

I was inspired to set up the Rose of Sharon Foundation in 2008 and our vision is to alleviate the plight of widows and orphans. We accomplish this through programs that give financial independence and educational opportunities to widows, their children, and orphans. Our desire is to reach out and touch as many widows and orphans as we can in order to make the world a better place for them.