In Nigeria today, it is almost impossible to talk about successful women in business without mentioning Bolanle Austen-Peters. This is a woman who has blazed the trail, broken glass ceilings and distinguished herself among her peers. She has a track record of professional success, and most recently has excelled as an entrepreneur. Indeed she is a force to reckon with, and a thought leader whose opinions are respected both within and outside Nigeria. It is therefore due to her many achievements and amiable personality that we decided to feature her as our female corporate personality of the week.
Early life and family background
Bolanle Austen-Peters was born into an illustrious Nigerian family in the year 1969. Her father is Chief Afe Babalola, the renowned lawyer and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria. Young Bolanle studied for her secondary education in the ancient city of Ibadan, first enrolling at Command Secondary School and later, International School Ibadan. After she obtained her O-Levels, she proceeded to the University of Lagos where she studied Law, toeing the same line as her father. She also acquired a master’s degree in International Law from the London School of Economics.
In the beginning of her professional life, Bolanle briefly worked for her father at his law firm before getting a position with the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights (UNHCR) in Geneva, Switzerland. During her time with the United Nations, she lived and worked in different countries where the international organisation was present, including Namibia, Ethiopia and the headquarters in New York, United States of America. After many years of being away from Nigeria, she finally returned in the year 2001 to consult for the United Nations Development Programme and Ford Foundation, both in Lagos.
In recent years, Bolanle has embraced entrepreneurship and excelled at it. Since her return to Nigeria in the early 2000s, she has established different businesses, including Terra Kulture which can best be described as one of the best things that have happened to Nigerian arts and culture. Located in Victoria Island, Terra Kulture combines as a museum, an art gallery and a restaurant all rolled into one. A visit to Terra Kulture will entrance and entertain any visitor with everything unique to Nigeria – good food, fine arts, books, music, theatre, etc.
Bolanle Austen-Peters is an astute businesswoman, an arts entrepreneur and an excellent filmmaker. It is for her many contributions to the arts industry that The Guardian Nigeria called her “the queen of culture”. Asides her excellent accomplishment at Terra Kulture, Bolanle also founded the Bolanle Austen-Peters Productions (BAP) which has literarily taken Nigerian theatre to the world. In 2013, Bolanle’s production company produced SARO the Musical, a project that revitalised the Nigerian theatre industry and gave it the much needed global recognition. Thanks to its good quality and commercial success, the musical garnered international media frenzy from outlets like the BBC and Sky News. The musical also performed very well at the MUSON Centre in Lagos.
Following the success of SARO the Musical, Bolanle’s BAP also produced WAKAA! The Musical. This second musical turned out to become even more successful than the first. It became the first Nigerian musical ever to be staged at London’s famous West End and the Shaw Theatre where it sold out tickets. The success of the second musical better positioned Bolanle as a force to be reckoned with in the Nigerian and indeed theatre industry. She has since gone on to achieve more success in film, executive-producing the 2016 film, 93 Days which was about the tragic Ebola outbreak in Nigeria. The film featured a wide ensemble of both legendary Nollywood and Hollywood cast and was a box office success.
In all these, Bolanle has helped empower hundreds, even thousands of Nigerians by providing them with meaningful employment and sources of livelihood. That is the good thing about entrepreneurship and its power to transform lives and ensure development. Therefore, for her many contributions to the Nigerian economy, Nairametrics salutes Bolanle Austen-Peters and wish her all the best in her future endeavours.