Mo Abudu

Okechukwu Uwaezuoke

Afriend broke the news to Mosunmola “Mo” Abudu. She had been named in the inaugural edition of Business Insider 100: The Creators, which celebrates “leaders who embody this spirit”. She made the list as the only African. Business Insider, an ardent believer in capitalism as a force for good with the inaugural publication, also says it is celebrating “many of these inspiring people and success stories…”

Abudu is the 56th in a list that included the likes of Facebook’s co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg (who topped the list as number one), the cofounders and co-chairs, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Bill and Melinda Gates (fifth on the list).

There were also the likes of the chairman and CEO, Berkshire Hathaway , Warren Buffet (18th on the list); Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook (29th on the list); Founder and chairman, Alibaba, Jack Ma (number 33); Founder of the Virgin Group, Richard Branson (31st on the list) and Founder and CEO of Bloomberg LP, Michael Bloomberg.

The Nigerian woman, who thanks to her show became known as Africa’s Oprah Winfrey, was ahead of the General Motors CEO, Mary Barra; the Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella; Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg; Uber’s cofounders Travis Kalanick and Garrett Camp; Google DeepMind’s cofounders, Demis Hassabis and Mustafa Suleyman; Volvo’s CEO, Håkan Samuelsson; Snapchat’s cofounders, Evan Spiegel and Bobby Murphy and the CEO and cofounder of BuzzFeed Jonah Peretti.

Abudu owes this laurel and slew of others mainly to her outstanding work especially in the media. Besides the recognition by Forbes Media as the first African woman to launch a Pan-Africa TV channel, she also bagged the Entrepreneur of the Year award by Women Werk in New York. This is in addition to being listed as one of the 25 Most Powerful Women in Global TV by the Hollywood Reporter and, most recently, being honoured with a honorary doctorate degree (honoris causa) from Babcock University.

It all started thanks to that urge lurking deep down there! “Down there” was somewhere in Abudu’s subconscious. This urge soon morphed into a need. It was a need tell the African story. And it did not help matters that there was such widespread ignorance in the UK about her continent of origin.

Thus, Abudu took that bold first step into the realm of entertainment, a venture she deemed both commercial and social. It was a bold step because she had dramatically turned her back on the corporate world. This was after a career that began in the UK, which saw her traipsing through blue-chip companies as a management staff member.
The UK-born-and-bred media mogul first wormed her way into the collective consciousness through her TV talk show, Moments with Mo. This syndicated programme, which she produced and hosted for a long time, is the first of its kind on an African regional television.

Indeed, it had by October 2009 recorded and aired over 200 episodes ranging from lifestyle, culture, entertainment, health and tradition, among others. The show, which she says “highlights the life and accomplishments of a usually well-known, but sometimes an undiscovered African individual who by his or her own tenacity and determination has accomplished something, overcome something or been a catalyst for something that makes her or him a role model to others”, aired on M-Net as well as on cable and terrestrial TV in other parts of the world. Among the A-listers who had been on the show are presidents, Nobel Laureates and the former US Secretary of State and Democratic Party presidential hopeful Hillary Rodham Clinton and the International Monetary Fund helmswoman Christine Lagarde, among others.

Abudu also created and produced a reality TV show, called The Debaters, which is intent on “giving Africa a voice” by promoting oratory. Funded by Guaranty Trust Bank, it was launched on October 3, 2009.

There was also The Inspire Africa Foundation, a human investment arm of Inspire Africa Ltd, which she founded in January 2009. Registered as a non-profit organisation, it focused on raising funds to implement society-transforming initiatives. Alongside Moments with Mo, the Lagos State Government and UNICEF, this foundation had organised a telethon and a charity benefit concert around the theme “Rock with a Conscience”. Proceeds from this concert went towards the protection of street children.

The Foundation’s other projects included opening a charity store branded “The Designers Outlet for Charity”, which opened on 5 December 2009 in Lagos, Nigeria. The foundation is also developing a children’s shelter called “The Harbour”.

Flip over to the second phase of her new venture. On July 1, 2013, Mo Abudu launched her Ebony Life Television. The television station, which preens itself on being “Africa’s first Global Black Multi-Broadcast Entertainment Network” helped consolidate her place in the public consciousness. On this platform, she produces a wide assortment of TV shows, from her own talk show to an African version of “Desperate Housewives”, which she owes to a deal with Disney. This is in addition to content distribution deals with CBS and Netflix, helping her network provide first-rate content to 49 countries across Africa, as well as the UK and the Caribbean.

The launch of EbonyLife TV, which transmits courtesy a complete broadcast system from PlayBox Technology for a new DTH channel transmitting in HD to subscribers in sub-Saharan Africa, was graced by dignitaries from around the world. During this launch, distinguished Nigerians were honoured with awards for their contributions to the entertainment industry and Steve Forbes was on stage to present them the awards.

On October 17 last year, her EbonyLife Films (a sidekick of EbonyLife TV) released its first full-length feature film Fifty, which was premiered on Sunday, December 13 at the Eko Hotel & Suites. The film, directed by Biyi Bandele, featured Nse Ikpe-Etim, Iretiola Doyle, Omoni Oboli and Dakore Akande in its lead roles and was reported to have grossed over N400 million after its four-month cinema run.
Meanwhile, EbonyLife Films is set to launch another film, a romantic comedy titled The Wedding Party, by this