Friday 1 March 2024

Mo Abudu: Africas media mogul

Mo Abudu is a woman of many firsts. She has a TV channel, a human resources consulting firm and broke ground as talk show host.

By Phindile Xaba

Mosunmola Abudu, also known as Mo Abudu, founder and chief executive of EbonyLife TV, made history when she became the first African to receive the 2019 M?dailles d?Honneur (Medal of Honour) in Cannes, France. This prestigious award is bestowed on senior executives who have made their mark in the global television industry, as well as contributed to the development of the international television community.

She said about receiving the M?dailles d?Honneur recognition: ?My big dream was and still is, to change the narrative about my continent.?

Woman of firsts

Abudu decided to use her investments for EbonyLife TV ?s launch in 2013, owned by her company EbonyLife Media, making it Africa?s first global black entertainment and lifestyle network. She oversees five divisions at EbonyLife Media – EbonyLife TV, EbonyLife Films, EbonyLife ON, EbonyLife Studios and EbonyLife Productions Limited (UK), the reason the organization has an impressive filmography.

EbonyLife Media group has had three of its films featured on Netflix topping the all-time Nollywood box office chart, grossing nearly ?1.4bn ($2,7bn). Among its many works, EbonyLife Media?s original programmes and notable is Africa?s first legal series, Castle & Castle.

It?s no wonder that the force behind this success has been recognized across the world, Forbes once described her as ?Africa?s Most Successful Woman? and CNN as ?Africa?s Queen of Media who conquered the continent?. She was also included on The Powerlist 2018, the UK?s selection of the top 100 most influential people of African and Caribbean heritage, Hollywood Reporter?s List of the 25 Most Powerful Women in Global Television and much more.

African optimist in the making

Abudu was born in London, to Nigerian parents. She is the eldest of three sisters. Her parents relocated to Lagos, Nigeria when she was seven. She would visit her grandparents who lived on a cocoa farm in Ondo State and learnt about Nigerian culture. That would later influence her decision to record African narratives. When she was 11, her father died and a year later she moved back to London where she attended Hammersmith County Secondary School and later attended the Ridgeway School in Kent, where she lived with her local guardian in the affluent township of Tunbridge Wells.

She went on to West Kent College and Mid Kent College before she completed her Master?s degree in Human Resource Management at the University of Westminster in London. She is also qualified in occupational and personality testing and a member of the British Psychological Society. In 2018 the University of Westminster awarded her an honorary Doctor of Arts degree for her outstanding service to broadcasting and enterprise in Nigeria. She also has an honorary doctorate from Nigeria?s Babcock University.

The Journey

During her university days and shortly thereafter, she had a brief modelling stint. However, having completed her Master?s degree she started her career as a recruitment consultant in the UK in 1987 and would stay in the human resources corporate field till 2000, when she decided to go it alone and establish her own human resources development company called Vic Lawrence & Associates Limited (VLA).

When she entered show business in Nigeria she started out as executive producer and host of her television talk show called Moments with Mo. Through the show she rubbed shoulders with Nobel laureates such as Wole Soyinka and former US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton. The show is still running, but Abudu no longer presents it, she handed over the baton to young Nigerian women who now host it. Just a year after launching EbonyLife TV, she took the plunge into films with the launch of Ebony Life Films in 2014. Her debut film Fifty was first screened at the London Film Festival and would become one of Nigeria?s biggest blockbusters.

Paying it forward

Abudu was instrumental in founding The Inspire Africa Foundation, a non-profit organisation focused on raising funds for implementation of transformational initiatives. In 2009, the foundation organised a charity concert – Rock with a Conscience – with other NGOs. The funds raised were used for the betterment of street children.

The foundation also has a charity store and a children?s shelter called The Harbour. Besides fund raising through her foundation, Abudu has contributed large amounts of her own money. On her 50th birthday in 2014, EbonyLife Sisterhood Awards was launched. ?It was a celebration of the deserving, but unsung women in the society. Women are not often celebrated, but they are making significant impact in their particular areas of influence. We recognise awardees based on their demonstration of excellence, commitment, innovativeness, integrity, and national impact,? she told writer Khethiwe Mndawe at the time.

The sky is no limit

Abudu aims for the global market, very much in line with EbonyLife TV tagline – Made in Nigeria for the world. EbonyLife TV was the first fully Nigerian-owned entertainment channel to be carried on the South African pay-TV platform DStv and now also on StarTimes as it expands it’s distribution.

EbonyLife Films 6th feature film, ?l?t?r??s private screening was co-hosted with the Creative Artists Agency (CAA) at CAA?s Los Angeles headquarters in June 2019. EbonyLife Media has also finalised a three-project production deal with Sony Pictures Television (SPT) to co-develop three new scripted TV projects, with SPT set to distribute internationally. ?Anyone who wishes to be an entrepreneur must know that bright ideas are great, however, that is not even half of the work; execution is everything,? said Abudu. Abudu has been selected to chair the 47th International Emmy Awards Gala in November, in New York City.

5 Important things about Mo Abudu

1)   She enjoys spending time with her adult children, son Adekoyejo and daughter Temidayo

2)   She works on three continents – Africa, Europe and North America.

3)   She was the brand ambassador for AVON Cosmetics in the African market.

4)   She was influenced by Oprah Winfrey.

5)  She made her career switch in her 40s.


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