Gone are the days when African men were the exclusive owners of capital, lands, business empires and other value-productive assets on the continent. Times have changed. Amid perennial gender disparity, a sizable number of women industrialists and entrepreneurs now control a good portion of the continental wealth.
Hajia Bola Muinat Shagaya is one of Africa’s most connected business magnates manifesting in a terrain traditionally and systemically designed to favour the menfolk.
Ms. Shagaya did not come from a wealthy background. Born in Ilorin, Kwara State, Nigeria to a public service father and a Sudan-born seamstress mother, she became one of Nigeria’s wealthiest businesswomen by sheer determination, hard work, persistence and strategic relationships.
After a university degree at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Ms. Shagaya, 61, went on to Armstrong College in California, United States, where she studied economics and accountancy. This prepared her for corporate life in banking where her career started as a banker.
This socialite and fashion enthusiast worked in the audit department of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). BEA could not ascertain exactly how long Bola Shagaya was in paid employment; she made a foray into entrepreneurship in 1983.
Spotting a gap in the photography industry in Nigeria, Ms. Shagaya dived in and began the importation and distribution of photographic materials. While at it, she introduced the Konica brand into the Nigerian and other West African markets. Konica was a mainstream Japanese multinational specializing in photography tools at the time.
In 1997, her business metamorphosed into Fotofair Nigeria limited, with its photo laboratories, numbering about 30 branches, scattered across Nigerian states. This would later form a part of Bolmus Group International, a diversified business empire founded by Ms. Shagaya.
Bolmus Group has holdings in real estate, oil and gas, banking and communications. The company’s real estate arm owns several luxurious residential properties in some of Nigeria’s most expensive neighborhoods where clients pay well over $200,000 per annum as rent.
Her oil & gas enterprise, Practoil Limited, is known to be one of the largest importers and distributors of base oil in Nigeria. The business tycoon was one of the indigenous oil marketers granted oil blocks by the Babangida administration in the late 1980s.
For over 8 years, Ms. Shagaya has been on the board of Unity Bank Plc (formerly Intercity Bank). In 2010, she was awarded a national honour – Member of the Order of the Niger (MON) – by former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan (GCFR).
Family and staying power
Ms. Shagaya is reputed to be connected to the high and mighty in the society, from political top shots to business powerhouses. She works her way into the corridors of power in every incumbent government in Nigeria, a move many believe is intentional to sustain her personal relevance and economic foothold. She is known to be friends with many former first ladies including (Late) Stella Obasanjo, Turai Yara’dua, and Dame Patience Jonathan. And she was recently spotted at the book launch of the current First Lady, Aisha Buhari.
Married to Alhaji Shagaya, a Kwara State-based transport mogul, the couple have replicated their business acumen in their six children.
According to Wikipedia information, the children are actively involved in the running of the family business in Nigeria and abroad. They are growing the real estate unit of the business in both Europe and the United States, in addition to “minor business and industry holdings across Asia and Australia.”
Nasir El-Rufai, the former Governor of Kaduna State, is making a significant shift from hi…