People & Money

Folashade Akanni-Shelle: Bolloré Nigeria’s First-ever Female MD

I was not propelled to the top. I was forced to move forward step by step. And because I’ve gone through all the steps, because I’ve held so many different positions within the group, I’m much stronger,” Folashade Akanni-Shelle says.

A “confident, dependable, versatile supply chain management personnel with over 16 years extensive and diverse experience” as her LinkedIn profile reads, Folashade Akanni-Shelle rose to the position of managing director of Bolloré Transport and Logistics (BTL) with an official appointment in January 2021 – the first woman to head the Nigerian subsidiary of the company. She has a personal goal to make BTL the foremost clearing agency in Nigeria, doing it differently from her competitors, without compromising either on the group’s policy or on their level of compliance, she says.

Having secured a law degree from Cardiff University in the United Kingdom in 2000, Akanni-Shelle decided to further her interest in maritime law bagging a Master’s Degree from the University of Southampton in 2001. With the determination to get into the logistics sector, she took the only available job at that time at OT Africa Line in the UK, starting with the position of a shipping agent.

After a year, she rose through the ranks to become a double assistant to both the sales manager and the export manager, traveling with them to different countries and even to Nigeria after two years on the job. Having visited the country, she was certain, if given a chance; of harvesting the dynamic opportunities she had found everywhere. She tried parting ways with the company but was giving the position of Local Representative in a bid to keep her in the “family”.

At 23, Akanni-Shelle became a representative of OT Africa Line in Lagos, which would later become a subsidiary of Bolloré Logistics in 2015. With an apprehensive team on her hand, she began climbing the corporate ladder, becoming the head of logistics services for Bolloré in Ghana, then director of logistics solutions in Uganda, and finally general manager in Tanzania.

She admits that the rise in position was not an easy journey. From her early years at Bolloré, she noticed faster progress of her male counterparts who started at the same time as her. Hence, she decided to leave Bolloré for a second time, without it affecting her career, as her frustration steadily grew.

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Akanni-Shelle submitted her resignation in 2016, but it was refused. Instead, she was only granted a sabbatical year to go on with her decision to do an MBA in Business Administration and Management, at the end of which she would be appointed to Tanzania. Akanni-Shelle would then go on to be awarded the title of valedictorian of her class at Cranfield University in the UK in 2017.

“I was not propelled to the top. I was forced to move forward step by step. And because I’ve gone through all the steps, because I’ve held so many different positions within the group, I’m much stronger,” she said.

In her current position as MD, Akanni-Shelle will be supervising more than 600 employees. She is responsible for managing an area of 925,000 km², which consists of the group’s branches in Badagry, Agbara, and Abuja, as well as the 26 warehouses across Nigeria. 

Her appointment comes amid the Covid-19 crisis, which has hit the Nigerian economy hard. But she is confident of doing a great job in the country, a huge market for the group, which has specialized over the years in the transport of consumer goods, telephony, and oil and gas.

Now 41, Akanni-Shelle is already familiar with the country, having lived her childhood between Ngoyi and Agege Ifako.

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