• Business - Entrepreneurship
  • Updated: January 16, 2024

Ten most influential Nigerian entrepreneurs

Ten most influential Nigerian entrepreneurs

Nigerian entrepreneurs have made significant contributions to the nation's economy and have had a lasting impact on the country's business landscape. 

These entrepreneurs are not only known for their massive contribution to the Nigerian economy, their impact is as well recognized in other parts of the world.  

They have made substantial contributions to the Nigerian economy and helped to advance the country's development and are recognised and valued as key contributors to innovation and product improvement, as well as a means of reducing unemployment in the country.  

Below are the ten most influential Nigerian entrepreneurs of all time: 

1. Aliko Dangote

Aliko Dangote

Aliko Dangote is Africa's richest man and the founder of the Dangote Group, a conglomerate with interests in cement, sugar, flour, and other industries.

Dangote is a well-known businessman who was interested in making money even when he was in school, despite coming from a wealthy family.

He was said to be the great-grandson of Alhaji Alhassan Dantata, the richest man at the time.

Dangote once stated in an interview, "When I was in primary school, I can remember vividly, I would go and buy cartons of sweets and start selling them just to make money. I was so interested in business even at that time."

He began his business with a business loan from a relative and has since grown 'Dangote Groups into a multi-million naira enterprise.


2. Mike Adenuga

Mike Adenuga

Mike Adenuga is the founder of Globacom, one of Nigeria's leading telecommunications companies. He is also involved in the oil and gas industry through his company, Conoil.

During his business career in the telecom industry, he received a conditional licence.

Globalcom, his telecom company, quickly grew and posed a challenge to the larger MTN Group.

He later launched his telecom services in Africa, including Cote d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast) and Ghana, with additional legal business licences being sought in other West African countries.


3. Folorunso Alakija

Folorunso Alakija

Folorunso Alakija is a businesswoman and philanthropist. She made her fortune in the oil industry and is the founder of Famfa Oil Limited.

She is a business magnate active in the oil, fashion, and printing industries.

Alakija began her career in 1974 as an executive secretary for Sijuade Enterprises in Lagos, Nigeria.

After some years, she moved on to the Former First Bank Of Chicago, now lawfully acquired and owned by FCMB (First City Monument Bank). 

She worked there for several years before establishing her tailoring company, 'Supreme Stitches'.

Within a few years of its inception, it grew to be a prominent and famous business known as 'Rose Of Sharon', which later became a household name.

4. Tony Elumelu

Tony Elumelu

Tony Elumelu is a successful investor and entrepreneur. He is the founder of Heirs Holdings and the Tony Elumelu Foundation, which supports entrepreneurship and economic development in Africa.

Forbes magazine once ranked him as one of Africa's top 20 most powerful people in 2012.

Elumelu earned two degrees in economics from Nigerian universities: a bachelor's degree from Ambrose Ali University and a master's degree from the University of Lagos. He was previously the chairman of United Bank For Africa. 

After retiring, he founded Heirs Holdings, which invests primarily in energy, agribusiness, financial services, real estate, hospitality, and healthcare.


5. Jim Ovia

Jim Ovia

Jim Ovia is the founder of Zenith Bank, one of Nigeria's largest financial institutions. He is also an investor and philanthropist, supporting education and youth empowerment initiatives.


6. Ibukun Awosika

Ibukun Awosika

 Ibukun Awosika is the founder of The Chair Centre Group, a conglomerate with interests in furniture manufacturing, retail, and real estate. She is also the first female Chairman of First Bank of Nigeria Limited.


7. Stella Chinyelu Okoli

Stella Chinyelu Okoli

Stella Okoli is a pharmacist and entrepreneur whose innovation transformed Nigeria's health sector. She is currently the founder and CEO of Emzor Pharmaceuticals, a well-known pharmaceutical manufacturing company.

She has previously worked for various pharmaceutical companies, including London, Boots the Chemist, and Middlesex Hospital.

Okoli established her pharmacy, 'Emzor Chemists Limited', as a small business in Somolu, Lagos State.

Emzor Pharmaceutical later became one of Nigeria's best pharmaceutical companies after its inception in 1984, with over 50 products.


8. Femi Otedola

Femi Otedola

Femi Otedola is a business tycoon and the founder of Zenon Petroleum and Gas Ltd. He is also involved in other sectors, including shipping, real estate, and finance.

In the late 1980s, he also handled the marketing for his family's printing press business before going into the oil and real estate business.


9. Orji Uzor Kalu


Orji Uzor Kalu is a politician, entrepreneur, and the founder of Slok Holding, a conglomerate with interests in shipping, banking, and media.

According to reports, Kalu borrowed a $35 business loan from his mother which he later used to start trading palm oil, he started buying palm oil from the eastern part of Nigeria and then making it available for purchase in the Northern regions.

He also ventured into the selling of furniture on a large scale.


10. Hakeem Belo-Osagie

Hakeem Belo Osagie

Hakeem Belo-Osagie is an entrepreneur and investor. 

He is the chairman of Etisalat Nigeria (now known as 9mobile) and has investments in various sectors, including banking, energy, and telecommunications.

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