‘Africa’s Oprah’ launches pioneering TV network
JUL 3, 2013 AP
LAGOS – A woman who could be considered Africa’s Oprah Winfrey is launching an entertainment network that will be beamed into nearly every country on the continent with programs showcasing its burgeoning middle class.
Mosunmola “Mo” Abudu, 48, wants EbonyLife TV to inspire Africans and the rest of the world, and to change how viewers perceive the continent. The network’s programming tackles women’s daily-life subjects — everything from sex tips to skin bleaching.
“Not every African woman has a pile of wood on her head and a baby strapped to her back!” Abudu said. “We watch Hollywood as if all of America is Hollywood. In that same vein, we need to start selling the good bits of Africa.”
Months of work to provide original content includes the flagship program “Sistaz!” about two Greek-Nigerian sisters and a British-born Nigerian friend who check into the Eko Hotel for a holiday reunion, and rediscover the passion of sisterhood and the vibrancy of Lagos.
“It helps show that you can go to Africa for a holiday, you can go to Nigeria on holiday, you can go to Lagos” and enjoy a vacation, Abudu said of the much-maligned Nigerian financial capital, which is much improved since the country made the transition from military dictatorship to civilian rule in 1999.
Historic: Mosunmola ‘Mo’ Abudu, CEO of EbonyLife TV, attends the launch of the entertainment network on Sunday in Lagos. | AP
The characters are as cosmopolitan as Abudu, a tall and elegant woman with sculpted cheekbones. She was born in London, went to Nigeria as a youngster and returned to Britain after her father died when she was 12. She returned to settle in Nigeria when she married a citizen at age 28.
Once her children were in their teens, Abudu, a former executive with the oil giant Exxon-Mobil, abandoned a 20-year career in human resources in 2006 to become a self-taught TV talk show host. “Moments with Mo” became the first syndicated daily talk show on African regional television and also is aired in Britain by Sky TV. She has interviewed celebrities from former U.S. first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, former Presidents F.W. de Klerk of South Africa and John Kufuor of Ghana, ex-England soccer skipper Rio Ferdinand, musician R. Kelly and American fashion icon Diane Von Furstenberg.
A telling moment for Abudu came as she was standing at London’s Marble Arch and decided, on a whim, to ask people what came to their minds when they heard the word Africa. The answers ranged from Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe’s dictatorial ruler of 33 years, the British charity Oxfam and famine to babies with flies on their faces. “The nicest thing I heard was ‘sunshine,’ ” said an appalled Abudu.
Years later, she is setting out to transform that image by shining a bright light on the so-called Dark Continent’s riches — supertalented young entrepreneurs, fabulous art scene, up-and-coming fashion designers, provocative authors and sassy musicians.
One program is hosted by rhythm and blues artist Banky W and singer-songwriter Tiwa Savage. Their first episode discusses why more and more Nigerian women are bleaching their skins and whether men prefer lighter-skinned black women.
So the network will not ignore some of the darker sides of Africa’s realities, though Abudu promises “a different reality.”
It will feature a specially commissioned movie, “New Horizons,” from award-winning filmmaker Tope Oshin Ogun, that bares the plight of women across the continent subjected to domestic abuse, a crime that is prevalent but not often addressed. And radio host Oreka Godis stars in “Love Lounge,” where she will ask the cheeky questions for which she is known to sexologists, life coaches and psychotherapists.