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How To Become A Billionaire: Nigeria’s Oil Baroness Folorunso Alakija On What Makes Tomorrow’s Billionaires

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One of only two female billionaires in Africa, with a net worth of $1 billion, Nigeria’s oil baroness Folorunso Alakija elaborates on the state of African entrepreneurship today.

The 69-year-old Folorunso Alakija is vice chair of Famfa Oil, a Nigerian oil exploration company with a stake in Agbami Oilfield, a prolific offshore asset. Famfa Oil’s partners include Chevron and Petrobras. Alakija’s first company was a fashion label. The Nigerian government awarded Alakija’s company an oil prospecting license in 1993, which was later converted to an oil mining lease. The Agbami field has been operating since 2008; Famfa Oil says it will likely operate through 2024. Alakija shares her thoughts to FORBES AFRICA on what makes tomorrow’s billionaires:

What is your take on the state of African entrepreneurship today? Is enough being done for young startups?

There are a lot of business opportunities in Africa that do not exist in other parts of the world, yet Africa is seen as a poor continent. The employment constraints in the formal sector in Africa have made it impossible for it to meet the demands of the continent’s working population of which over 60% are the youth. Therefore, it is imperative we harness the potential of Africa’s youth to engage in entrepreneurship and provide adequate assistance to enable them to succeed.

Several governments have been working to provide a conducive atmosphere which will promote entrepreneurship on the continent. However, there is still a lot more to be done in ensuring that the potential of these young entrepreneurs are maximized to the fullest. Some of the challenges young startups in Africa face are as follows: lack of access to finance/insufficient capital; lack of infrastructure; bureaucratic bottlenecks and tough business regulations; inconsistent government policies; dearth of entrepreneurial knowledge and skills; lack of access to information and competition from cheaper foreign alternatives.

It is therefore imperative that governments, non-governmental agencies, and the financial sectors work together to ameliorate these challenges itemized above.

The governments of African nations should provide and strengthen its infrastructure (power, roads and telecom); they should encourage budding entrepreneurs by ensuring that finance is available to businesses with the potential for growth and also commit to further improving their business environments through sustained investment; there must also be a constant push for existing policies and legislation to be reviewed to promote business activities.

These policies must also be enforced, and punitive measures put in place to deter offenders; government regulations should also be flexible to constantly fit the dynamics of the business environment; corruption and unethical behavior must be decisively dealt with and not treated with kid gloves. We must empower our judicial system to enable them to prosecute erring offenders with appropriate sanctions meted out. There should be no “sacred cows” or “untouchables”. The same law must be applied to all, no matter their state or position in the society; non-governmental organizations can also provide support for them through training and skills acquisition programs that will help build their capacity; they could also provide finance to grow their businesses; more mentorship programs should be encouraged, and incubators of young enterprises should be supported by public policy aimed at improving the quality of these youths and their ventures; and also, avenues should be created where young entrepreneurs will be able to connect, learn and share ideas with already successful well-established entrepreneurs.

What, according to you, are the attributes needed for tomorrow’s billionaires?

There is no overnight success. You must start by dreaming big and working towards achieving it. You must be determined to succeed despite all odds. Do not allow your setbacks or failures to stop you but rather make them your stepping stone. Develop your strengths to attain excellence and be tenacious, never give up on your dream or aspiration. Your word must be your bond. You must make strong ethical values and integrity your watchword. Always act professionally and this will enable you to build confidence in your customers and clients. 

Billionaires

Jeff Bezos ‘Trillionaire’ Is Trending On Twitter. Here’s Why

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TOPLINE Jeff Bezos’ wealth suddenly caught Twitter’s attention on Wednesday amid ‘claims’ that the world’s richest man is set to become a trillionaire, in part thanks to pandemic-driven demand that has sent Amazon stock soaring.

KEY FACTS

  • Bezos was trending on Twitter on Wednesday after a months-old study by small business advice platform, Comparisun, resurfaced, claiming that Bezos net worth could reach $1 trillion by 2026.
  • The company analyzed the market cap of the highest valued firms on the New York Stock Exchange, as well as Forbes’ 25 richest people. Chinese real estate billionaire Xu Jiayin is second on the study’s list.
  • But Bezos has a long way to go to become the world’s first trillionaire. At the time of publication, Forbes values the 56-year-old’s net worth to be $143 billion. He owns a 11.2% stake in Amazon, and his wealth has surged upwards from around $125 billion in March.
  • Amazon is predicted to be one of the winners of the pandemic as demand for online shopping, streaming and delivery services flies.
  • Sales in the first three months of the year topped $75 billion, up from $60 billion in 2019. The potential for a second wave of the virus and further lockdowns could keep that demand high.
  • Bezos joined Forbes’ list of 400 richest Americans in 1998, four years after he founded Amazon, and had a net worth of $1.6 billion at the time.

KEY BACKGROUND

Amazon AMZN shares are up more than 28% so far this year. But the company is now up against “the hardest time” it has ever faced, Bezos said in April. The company predicted operating profits of $4 billion in the three months to June, but is now committing that entire amount to “COVID-related expenses” such as higher wages for hourly teams, buying up personal protective equipment for staff, and developing coronavirus testing facilities.

The company has been under fire from former employees—both office staff and warehouse workers—for allegedly silencing them after they spoke out about a lack of protection against the virus. Amazon has let go a number of employees, claiming that they breached company policy. 

TANGENT

In February, Bezos pocketed $3.1 billion after selling $4 billion worth of Amazon shares since January.

Isabel Togoh, Forbes Staff, Business

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Facebook Will Pay Out $52 Million After Failing To Protect Moderators From Dangers Of Extreme Content

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TOPLINE Former Facebook moderators will receive at least $1,000 each after Facebook agreed to pay $52 million to settle a lawsuit over allegedly failing to protect moderators being exposed to harmful content online.

KEY FACTS

  • Moderators were exposed to the worst types of content online including terrorism, pedophilia and animal abuse. They were hired by Facebook through third-party firms.
  • The settlement covers more than 11,000 current and former moderators across California, Arizona, Texas and Florida. It was filed at San Mateo County Superior Court on Friday.
  • Plaintiffs who have been diagnosed with a mental illness, including PTSD, qualify for additional compensation of up to $50,000.
  • The social media giant says it will change its policies in response to the case, and introduce compulsory group counseling sessions for moderators, while third-party firms will be required to step up support for moderators’ mental health.

CRUCIAL COMMENT

Lawyer Steve Williams, representing the plaintiffs, told The Guardian: “The harm that can be suffered from this work is real and severe. So the fact that we got some real, meaningful relief going forward just feels really good.”

KEY BACKGROUND

Facebook was sued in September 2018 by former content moderator Selena Scola, who developed PTSD after nine months in the job, thanks to regular exposure to images of rape and murder. The scale of the mental toll on moderators was exposed by The Verge last year. The outlet reported that some Facebook content moderators working for IT firm Cognizant CTSH in Arizona had developed fringe views after exposure to extreme right-wing and conspiracy theorist content, while some had developed PTSD. To cope, some moderators at the firm smoked weed to numb their emotions, while being paid just $28,800 a year. A Guardian report last year found that moderators for Facebook based in Berlin were becoming addicted to extreme content, were overworked and paid little. 

Isabel Togoh, Forbes Staff, Business

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Billionaire Behind TikTok Commits $10 Million To A Bill Gates-Backed Accelerator For COVID-19 Therapeutics Treatments

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Zhang Yiming, the 36-year-old Chinese billionaire founder of social media app TikTok and its parent company, ByteDance, has pledged $10 million to the COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator, a project founded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Other donors to the Accelerator include the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, and singer Madonna. 

“While [Zhang] has met Bill Gates a couple of times in passing, he does not know him well but has tremendous respect for Bill and Melinda Gates’ systematic approach and ongoing efforts in contributing to philanthropy,” a spokesperson for Zhang said. “He sees them as an inspiration for all entrepreneurs fortunate enough to be in a position to give back to the community.” 

The Accelerator was launched in March as a $125 million fund, initially backed by the Gates Foundation, the Wellcome Trust and Mastercard. In early April, Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan’s philanthropic arm CZI announced a $25 million gift to the fund. The U.K. government and Madonna also became donors; the size of their gifts were undisclosed.

The Accelerator’s mission is to coordinate research, remove barriers to drug development, and scale up treatments to the coronavirus with fast and flexible funding, according to the Accelerator’s website. It is working with the World Health Organization, researchers, governments, the private sector and global regulators to fast track drugs related to COVID-19.

“Philanthropic, government and private sector organizations, as well as individuals like Zhang Yiming demonstrate the wide array of donors who understand the value of collaboration in developing effective drugs  to help turn the tide of this pandemic,” said Trevor Mundel, president of the global health division at the Gates Foundation. “Until we have a vaccine, expanded testing, isolation and treatment are our best options.”

Forbes pegs Zhang’s net worth at $16.2 billion, based on his estimated ownership of about one quarter of ByteDance. Founded in 2012 and headquartered in Beijing, the privately held company last raised financing in 2018 at a massive $75 billion valuation. 

TikTok launched in 2016 and reached international markets the next year. The short video app, which has around 625 million users worldwide, according to App Annie, appeals particularly to the Gen Z demographic. 

This is the first known significant philanthropic donation by Zhang. 

Angel Au-Yeung, Forbes Staff, Billionaires

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