Stella Chinyelu Okoli (1944- )

Stella Okoli
Stella Okoli

Stella Chinyelu Okoli is a Nigerian pharmacist, philanthropist, and entrepreneur. She is the founder and current CEO of Emzor, a pharmaceutical company she started in 1977. Okoli was born on July 30, 1944, in Kano State to Felix Ebelechukwu and Margaret Modebelu. She attended All Saints Primary School in Onitsha (1954-1959), Ogidi Girls Secondary School in Ogidi from 1959 to 1964, and Federal Science School in Lagos from 1964 to 1966.

Okoli moved to Great Britain to continue her studies. She graduated from the College of Bradford as a pharmacist. Dr. Stella Okoli also holds a master’s degree in bio-pharmacy from the College of London, Chelsea College, and she is a graduate of Lagos Business School, Harvard Business School in Boston, and I.E.S.E Business School in Barcelona, Spain.

After her education in Great Britain, Okoli began working as a ward/ clinical pharmacist at Middlesex Hospital in London and later briefly as a pharmacist at Boots Drugstore UK. On her return to Nigeria, she worked briefly at Massey Children Hospital in Lagos before joining Park Davies Nigeria Limited (now Pharma-Deko Plc).

In January 1977, Okoli established Emzor Pharmaceutical under the name “Emzor Chemists Limited” as a small pharmacy in Somolu, Lagos State. Over time, Emzor Pharmaceutical has become one of Nigeria’s leading pharmaceutical companies with over 50 products. In 1981, Okoli founded Emzor Drugstore Ltd., where she imported pharmaceutical products into Nigeria and operated a wholesale business to meet the healthcare needs of Nigerian consumers. Eventually, her company began manufacturing medicines locally to make healthcare products more affordable in Nigeria.

In memory of her late son, Stella Okoli established the Chike Okoli Foundation (COF) in 2006, intending to promote healthy lifestyles and entrepreneurial skills among Nigerian youth. Since its inception, the Foundation has trained thousands of business owners and budding entrepreneurs. In 2011, the Foundation established the Chike Okoli Center for Entrepreneurial Studies at Nnamdi Azikiwe College in Awka. This center provides entrepreneurial research, training, and education for youth. The foundation also offers free health services and lectures worldwide on the impact of heart disease and stroke. It has educated millions of Nigerians about healthy lifestyles.

Stella Okoli has served in various capacities, including as a member of the Economic Summit of Nigeria and the Health Matters Advisory Board of Nigeria, Vice President of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria and the Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA). Previously, she was chair of the Pharmaceutical Manufacturer Group and the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria. In 2010, she became a non-executive director of Guaranty Trust Bank. Okoli is also a member of the Nigeria Industrial Policy and Competitiveness Advisory Council. Nnamdi Azikiwe College, Awka, awarded her an honorary doctorate in business administration in 2011, and the following year, she was honored as a Women of Distinction and Lifetime Achiever at the This Day Annual Awards. In 2016, she was named Businessperson of the Year at the Sun Newspaper Awards.