Thousands of Africans are taking on their freedom and ability to comment on The African Economist’s articles to express their grief as well as satisfaction on Folorunsho Alakija’s rise to become the world’s richest black woman – above the American media proprietor, actress, producer and talk show host, Oprah Winfrey. Some applauded her achievement while others questioned what she has done for her community and nation.

Here is a woman who is quietly making moves! If you asked me yesterday who I thought was the world richest black woman, I would have automatically blurted out Oprah Winfrey,” said someone by the name Didi. Didi also went on to explain that the oil industry is dominated by men and (Didi) found it refreshing that a woman has risen to the ranks. In response to Didi’s praise of Folorunsho’s achievement, an anonymous commenter indicated that comparisons need to be made on how much one has done for their community not the abundance of their wealth – praising Oprah for her philanthropic work while criticizing Folorunsho for not doing enough if anything for her community. This would later be debated by other commenters.

Olocha Celestine rejoiced in the fact that Folorunsho is also Nigerian in addition to being African. “I greet you Madam, To God be the glory,” wrote Seun. Then the real debate started.

A commenter by the name of Nigeria said, “All does wealth and the rest of the (Nigeria) population is below the poverty line (and that) acquiring wealth, without making use of it for her country make no sense.” Nigeria also questioned why people seek to have so much wealth while there are billions of people starving. “Well said, with so much money, she could at least make a difference to some poor folks,” said Talent in agreement with Nigeria.

An anonymous commenter lamented that Nigeria should educate him/herself before saying ignorant things in public. The anonymous commenter also posted a website that documents some of the works that Folorunsho is championing in her country – working to empower widowed women. Here is the site that was posted:

A few hours after that Sandra said, “Great! But don’t call AFRICAN women, ‘black’.” ‘It depends on what black means to you, black means power,” replied Giano. After a relatively harsh comment, Kyle went on to explain that “black/African both mean the same thing.” Matt added saying that African would include white South Africans “which would nullify that whole article…”

Omege brought the discussion back to whether or not Folorunsho has done anything to assist her community. Like Nigeria, she was referred to the works by The Rose of Sharon Foundation which is funded by Folorunsho.

“You are all not even bothered about how she attained this wealth, she has an oil block. If you know what that means then you will put Oprah back where she rightly belongs because Oprah worked hard and smart to get to where she is. First and foremost oil is a national wealth, which means it belongs to the people of Nigeria not a selective group of people. The illegal and unethical way of attaining this wealth has eroded their humanistic feelings so it is only natural that they have no giving spirit like Oprah does. This is my view and I respect all yours” said sweet pee.

Desmond Mushi replied to sweet pee’s comment explaining that Folorunsho has indeed done something for her community. The debate went on and Abby chimed in with dissatisfaction on the kind of ways Folorunsho has raised her money and the lack of agency on her (Folorunsho) in helping her community. Even with websites and YouTube videos that shows this side of the Africa’s richest woman, Abby was unconvinced.

“Just because she has these billions doesn’t mean she has to help Africans or Nigerians…Middle class and below barely help each other amongst themselves to even get up to that billionaire level so why should someone who is up there pour her work unto the poor? Not saying I won’t help people if I were to ever make such money, not the point, but why should people make it seem like the RICH MUST do something for their people?,” said Omo Ghana. Uche O was less apologetic but more on the same line.

What followed after this was more or less praise on the part of Folorunsho. “Now I have a new mentor, am very inspired,” said Olabisi Vanesa.

I remain convinced that Folorunsho’s rise is something worth applauding. It is refreshing to hear news that African women are competing at a global level. Folorunsho should represent the urgency and entrepreneurial spirit that can transform families, villages, towns, and nations. I also believe that she has to do her part in assisting her community. Giving back to her community should remain her choice and not obligation (if this is what a society desires, then it should be through taxation). And even on philanthropic metrics, she is doing a lot of things to assit Nigerian widows. Yes, she has oil businesses, but that is not all she has done. Her rise into prosperity started in finance, then fashion, and of late oil. I am galvanized by her achievement, and wishing her the very best.

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