According to the brain behind the project, Ms Mosunmola ‘Mo’ Abudu, EbonyLife TV, which was formally launched last Sunday at Eko Hotel & Suites, Victoria Island, Lagos, has been programmed to “be the preferred global network for premium African entertainment”
In this interview, Abudu opened up on why she established EbonyLife TV, and why the channel will change the old age perception of Africa as a dark continent of malicious violence, corruption and greed.
What is your vision for Ebonylife TV?
My vision for Ebonylife TV is to create content that speaks to the continent`s most important demographic, the custodians of the present and of the future, aged 18 to 34. No one is speaking to this key demographic of the continent. They crave a platform for self-expression, they want a voice, they want to be heard and we at Ebonylife TV think it is time for them to be heard.
This is our focus. We equally believe that this important demographic sees a different Africa, an Africa that tells its own story through the showcasing of the continent`s best; also very vital is the need to give African brands, big and small, the opportunity to be seen on a global scale, showing the world that African brands are more than capable to compete with the world`s best. For too long, the world just doesn’t appreciate, understand or see who we truly are because our stories just aren’t being told by us, but now it is time.
Starting out all those years ago, was the Ebonylife TV project always in the picture?
Very much so. From day one when I approached MNET, I was already requesting for a channel opportunity. I equally explored getting a channel on Sky in the UK. This was in 2006! I still have all the e-mail to prove it, but as with all things, God`s appointed time is the best time. Perhaps if I had attempted the journey of Ebonylife TV before now, it would have been a disaster, because now all the pieces fit together so well! We have produced the most amazing content that some said wouldn’t be possible.
We have the most amazing team, passionate Nigerians with a few expats making history in media and production. And this whole success story just wouldn’t have been possible without the support of the Cross River State Government and Studio Tinapa, the only purpose-built studio facility in sub Saharan Africa. And of course our financiers, First Bank Plc, who understand our passion, drive and business model! And to DSTV! What can I say? Thank you, for giving us a pan-African platform to fulfill this dream. It took us four whooping years to get the final sign off, but looking back I have to say the wait was worth it.
There goes a saying, “there is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come, and do you believe this is true of Ebonylife TV?
Yes! This is the time for Ebonylife TV and I stay it again, if I had attempted to launch Ebonylife TV at any other time than now, it would have been a disaster. It had to be now; it had to be with this team. We had to take this journey to Cross River State. I pinch myself each time I realize that we have created what we have created. It`s awesome; it can only be the hand of God. I know that He has brought us this far and will not let us down. He will see us through.
How will Ebonylife TV tell the African story differently?
AS a young African girl born and bred in the UK, I have done nothing but defend myself pretty much life. Fighting to be heard, to be seen and to be given opportunities; thank God that with persistence, hard work and focus, I was heard and I was given a chance. But one thing I found I couldn’t do was fully explained to everyone whom I was, what my continent was about; that despite the challenges, we had great stories to tell. So, buried in my sub-consciousness for many years was the need to tell our story as I saw it, as millions of other Africans saw it.
I found a huge disconnects between how I was portrayed in western media and who I really was and I was obsessed with filing in the gaps. I felt that it was important to give the African youth, and brands that wanted to reach our youth, a platform. What do you consider your greatest achievement yet? My children are it.
Any day, any time. In my own small way, I have done a number of things I am proud of, to include settling up Vic Lawrence, still a leading force in the H.R consulting space today. The conceptualization of Protea Hotel Oakwood Park, now running into its 10th year; Inspire Africa; Moments with Mo, now in its 7th year; Naija Diamonds. I thank God for giving them to me as a special gift.
What is your greatest extravagance?
That`s a difficult one. I think that it would have to be the time I take out and spend at health farms on my detox programmes. I do them at least twice a year. It`s the only time I totally down tools and just take out to be by myself. Do you sometimes wish you were in another profession? Right now, right here, I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else.
Of course it`s tough, it’s tough in the any industry, but what makes it all worthwhile is the joy and satisfaction you get and the joy it brings others. It is tough making media and entertainment work in Africa. I t is even tougher making it profitable.
No doubt we are pioneering our own particular business model in this area of running a channel without relying on airtime sales, but based on production quality enjoyable and relevant programming.
We believe that there is a place for our content to sit on the continent and globally, and that’s where our success.
Who are your Heroes in real life, the ones you look up to?
My heroes are Nelson Mandela, Barack Obama, Oprah Winfrey and yes, Madonna. What do they all have in common, that’s where I want to be. Do the impossible.
What is the trait you deplore in yourself?
I can be overly aggressive and I micro manage way too much. Who is perfect? My life coach also a director at Ebonylife TV, Lanre Olusola, Keeps me on the straight and narrow in this regard. Thanks coach.
What is the trait you deplore in others?
Laziness and procrastination are sins in my books!
What is your biggest fear?
My biggest fear is failure. It is that simple. I don’t want to fail. The fear of failure drives me to thrive for performance in myself and in others. What is your biggest regret? Not having more children!
What are the tools today`s women need to rise to such lofty entrepreneurial heights as you have?
Definitely focus, determination, guts and hard work. Also, never let anyone tell you can`t do it, because you can! If I count the number of times I have been knocked on the head; the number of times I have packed up my bags and just said to myself, Mo, it just isn’t going to happen.
But I find I am often spurred on by those that say ‘No’ Are they better than you? Do they know more than you? It`s your idea; you have done the research, the projections, and the business concept. You must always remember that it`s your vision, not theirs, so they won`t always see it. You have to sometimes show them and if they don’t see it, move on. Eventually someone always does! If nothing else, the law of averages and statistics say somebody will eventually say yes, keep going.
Tell us the secret of the foundation of youth. You seem to have discovered it, not looking a day over 30?
Well that depends on if I am having a bad or good hair day! Jokes apart, I don’t know what it is. I’ll turn 50 next year and I wonder where the grey hair is? Where are the wrinkles? And I still seem to have perfect sight; no glasses yet. But I think it runs in the family. If you meet my mum, she is in her 70`s and she doesn’t look it. So I think that is a family trait. But I am obsessed with beauty treatments, facials, diet and exercise, I think that helps. Of course I indulge in cakes and ice cream, but never for long before I correct my ways! Good or Bad, I am on always on a diet! Women in media, what needs to be done so that there would be not only increased participation, but occupation of the highest positions? We have to come together and work together, become role models and give other women opportunities to excel.
It`s the only way we will make a difference together. A major problem is that women don’t like other women. We don’t offer each other enough support and that hinders our growth. I am proud to say that at EbonyLife TV we are making a different!!! We have powerful teams of women in our organization.
Actually all our Directors of Programming are women!!! Of course we also have men in key roles, Finance, H.R, Technical, PR and Commercial. We pride ourselves on being an equal opportunities employer of labor. For me it`s simple, can you do the job? Then we will get on like a house on fire. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank my mum for her prayers. I don’t know what I would do without her, she holds me up 24/7. She is always there for me.
Thank you, mum. Secondly, my kids: Temidayo and Adekoyejo. They are such amazing children. I am no soccer mum, so I can`t always be there, but they make me proud and have done so well and they are so patient with me. And this incredible journey that I am on in the media would never have seen the light of day without certain people believing in me. I have to thank Mr. Sola Akinfemiwa , the then MD of Skye Bank who invested in Inspire Africa; Joe Hundah, then MD of MNET who gave Moments with Mo a window on MNET in 2006, MTN, for being my most consistent sponsor of Moments with Mo over the years; Mr. Tayo Adenironkun, may his soul rest in perfect peace, for giving young people across Nigeria and Africa a voice with The Debaters reality show; Diamond Bank, for celebrating the unsung heroes across Nigeria with Naija Diamonds; the US State Department, for giving me the opportunity to interview Hilary Clinton in 2009; and Professor Wole Soyinka, for being my first ever interviewee on Moments with Mo! Thank you Prof! It is a journey that would have been impossible to take without the wonderful support of these great people. Of course His Excellency Senator Liyel Imoke, the Executive Governor of Cross River State, for believing in me and welcoming me and my team to Cross River State on our new journey with Ebonylife TV. It`s been an incredible journey only made possible by the One and only.
The major X Factor in my life, the one I call the G factor. The God factor. I don’t care how cliché it sounds, the Hand of God is upon EbonyLife TV and Media and Entertainment City Africa, without a shadow of a doubt, and I give God all glory what we have achieved and will achieve.