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“I Had a Need to Tell Africa’s Story…” Independent UK features “Africa’s Oprah” Mo Abudu | Read Excerpts from the Interview

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Mo Abudu - November 2013 - Independent UK - BellaNaija

Mo Abudu‘s dream is all about selling Africa to the World.

The media mogul who has made a name for herself as an undeniable force to be reckoned with when it comes to media in Africa, sits down with Etan Smallman of the  Independent UK for an interesting conversation on how she hopes to shape Africa with her television network Ebony Life TV.

It was launched on Sunday 30th June 2013 in Lagos (click here to see)

How did Mo – a human-resources executive for oil giant ExxonMobil with no TV experience, become “Africa’s Oprah?” Read excerpts from the interview below;

Excerpts
On trying to contact Oprah when she wanted to go into TV: “The first thing I did was to buy a box collection of Oprah’s 20th anniversary, which had about 20 tapes of various episodes that she’s done. Then I somehow got the details for her studios in America. I must have sent Madam Oprah Winfrey tons of emails. I was really hoping that she would give me the necessary guidance and mentorship to become Africa’s talk-show hostess and executive producer of my own show.”

On being one of the few black children schooling in England: “I was born in England and I am very at home here. I went to school in London and Tunbridge Wells. I was probably the second or third black person in that school and you find that you are being continually asked questions that just boggle your mind. Do you guys live in trees? Do you guys dance around fires? What do you eat for breakfast?

For ever and ever, I always felt that I had to fight to prove who I was. For me, I think somewhere deeply buried in my subconscious was a need to tell Africa’s story. My burning desire is just to tell everybody: listen, we’re not a bunch of savages. We really are gifted.”

On showcasing the way Africans live today: “People don’t think that people live in Africa like this. They don’t think that we have high-profile events where people look glamorous and they’re all dressed up. But this is Africa today – people need to know that this kind of Africa exists, we have moved into the modern age. BBC and CNN are in Africa but they don’t cover things like this. They’re going to look for some horrid bush and some forsaken story about HIV.”

On International Aid for Africa: “Maybe I should plead the fifth in this instance… Yes, it’s termed as aid. But then I think that Africa has been robbed of so much that I don’t see it as aid – I’d just call it payback time. I just think we’re the most misunderstood continent on the globe today.I do also believe that African governments need to play a stronger role in changing perceptions of the continent – because it doesn’t just happen by itself. The reason why I say that people want to go to America is because they see all those amazing movies and they think they’re going to make their fortune and become a star. We all know it doesn’t work that way, but that’s the power of media.”

On stereotypes: “My days are way too busy to let racism get at me; I try not to notice it. You hear it from all sorts of people, ‘I don’t really like black people, but I like you, you’re different’. You’d be amazed, but they think they’re actually being nice – it’s a compliment. That happens in the UK, it just happens. The most amazing thing is when I go to the States, and they’re like, ‘My God, you have a British accent!’ What do you expect me to have?”

On Oprah being refused to buy a bag at a boutique in Zurich: “If that can happen to Oprah – hello, she’s my hero – it could happen to anyone. I know what my salary is every month. It would probably pay the wages of a lot of people in here today. But the thing is that people just think, oh, maybe you’re collecting the dole or something.”

On sexism in the corporate world: “Yes, I think it is a man’s world, and some men will say that you are ‘overbearing’ or they will say: ‘Sit at home and raise your children’. In that same breath, I’ve had a lot of support from men. I think I’ve had more support from men than I’ve had from women. They’ve said, ‘OK, Mo, go out there and let’s see what you can do’.”

On women not fully supporting other women: “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other (a quote by former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright). It’s one of the big things I preach all the time. We often pay a lot of lip service to women supporting women but I think it’s in our genes to just pull each other down a lot of the time, and that’s one major battle that women need to fight. Women don’t trust each other, I think it’s a global trend.”

To read the full interview, click here

42 Comments

  1. BubblyBliss

    November 18, 2013 at 4:13 pm

    This woman has done very well for herself. I can’t hate

  2. Spiceychic

    November 18, 2013 at 4:22 pm

    So refreshing to hear from one of the women doing meaningful things with their time. A change from the superficial airheads with nothing substantially productive to contribute to the society at large that seem to be up in our faces of recent…Keep up the good work Mo.

  3. tamarau tombra

    November 18, 2013 at 4:29 pm

    I think the western world is so embedded in the African mind. the julia roberts of Africa – Genevieve nnaji, and now the Oprah of Africa mo Abudu. Why cant we build our own identities, why the comparison with the USA?
    africa is a continent with 52 nations not counting surrounding islands, so I think its so reductionist to categorize one nigerian celebrity into African this or African that. Nigeria is not Africa.

    • [email protected]

      November 18, 2013 at 5:03 pm

      GBAM

    • Love it

      November 18, 2013 at 5:42 pm

      Thank you !!!!

    • nene

      November 18, 2013 at 11:15 pm

      truth!

    • tunmi

      November 19, 2013 at 2:16 am

      I was going to say something about “Africa’s” story…as in
      the entire Africa?

    • Tiki

      November 20, 2013 at 9:08 am

      I think she tries to tell Africa’s story. Granted majority of her content is Nigerian, but I’ve seen pretty important segments on other countries like Kenya, Ghana, South Africa, Uganda, Cameroon and Ivory Coast too!

    • Omo1

      November 19, 2013 at 11:08 am

      Truth be told!

    • nadia_vivace

      January 31, 2014 at 3:29 am

      Thanks!I love that! We African, and Black people here are portrayed as if they could not be their own person. She is Mo Abudu, the Mo Abudu of Africa!

  4. Iris

    November 18, 2013 at 4:31 pm

    She’s one Nigerian woman I find truly inspirational. I hope they’ll one day make it possible to subscribe online to EbonyLife. I wish they could just accord African pace-setters their due and stop with all the comparisons. In my opinion these labels sound patronising and detract from their accomplishments – “Africa’s Oprah…Africa’s Julia Roberts…Younger Chinua Achebe”. She’s Nigeria’s Mo Abudu. Simple. And then they call you all these things at interviews and you have to be diplomatic and say you’re flattered. Nonsense.

  5. Bey

    November 18, 2013 at 4:52 pm

    Lol I tire..Ashionye used to be Nigerian Beyonce Before it
    was Transfered to Tiwa savage,genny Africa’s juilet robert,now Mo
    is now africa’s oprah abeg BN shift joo anyways well done Mo’
    Abudu

    • trufactoid

      November 18, 2013 at 5:02 pm

      That is how Mo Abudu describes herself, it is in her
      biography. Stop blaming Bella

    • BubblyBliss

      November 18, 2013 at 5:13 pm

      but but… your own username is ‘Bey’

  6. nich

    November 18, 2013 at 5:07 pm

    AFRICA….has truly moved on but unfortunately BBC AND CNN…would continue to see africans as animals living in trees……here in the states people ask me whether i have ever seen a train or a televison before…………………..despite the progress in entertainment and the growing middle class in nigeria……

    there is only one thing remaining that can overall change this image……..a modern city…………a clean city with infrastructure in place……….this is why i believe in eko atlantic city……….even most americans and europeans do not see south africa as part of africa…………..eko atlantic city is the last message africa can send to the west that they are no longer living in trees………5yrs after eko atlantic city is completed i believe that more than %45 of nigerians living abroad will return home. The migration from west african countries to nigeria would exceed more than %20 in less than 2yrs. …………european embassies in nigeria would also loose their large customer base as most nigerians would no longer desire to move out of the country……….

    the celebrity centric culture in nigeria would rise above what it is now and foreign investors would also create jobs……………

    • Iris

      November 18, 2013 at 5:28 pm

      What kind of shameless advertisement is this? Do you work for the company they contracted to build Eko Atlantic? In Lagos there are issues with infrastructure, poverty, poor maintenance of even the high-end buildings, no power. And they want to solve that problem by building an isolated city which PROMISES development for the people who can afford it. The same people who can afford to live in luxury right now. So who are they helping? Eko Atlantic is just another Banana Island, VGC or Lekki. All that will happen is that those places will become the new high class ghettos in favour of Eko Atlantic and the masses still won’t be able to afford to live there. As if they won’t need recharge card sellers and vulcanizers inside their precious city like other Lagosians. How will they control what goes on in the city then? Then they’ve gone and put it in the Atlantic and are comparing it to Dubai. You cannot compare the more volatile Atlantic to the Persian Gulf. We do not need an Eko Atlantic. It is not hard to build a “modern city”. What we need is a mindset change that understands the importance of maintaining what we already have and including services for the masses so they can be productive workers and increase economic growth. Also, I find your ellipses annoying.

    • NaijaPikin

      November 18, 2013 at 6:25 pm

      I’m confused how Eko Atlantic City will change the rest of Nigeria and Africa as a whole.

      – Will Eko Atlantic have farm lands that can supply food to the hungry?
      – Will Eko Atlantic city generate enough power to avoid black outs in the country?
      -Will Eko Atlantic city have an efficient police force, well trained, free of corruption and ready to serve the entire country’s security needs?
      -Will Eko Atlantic have housing for the food?
      -Will Eko Atlantic produce refined leaders who will remember the purpose for which they were elected “To serve their country not their personal pockets”?
      -Will Eko Atlantic have world class hospitals to cater to ALL Nigerians?
      -Will Eko Atlantic have top of the line schools (all levels) for ALL Nigerians?

      Please don’t come here selling us a dream. Yes it is a dream because the truth is Eko Atlantic change Nigeria. At best, it can change lives for a select few(The same wealthy 1%).

    • Uc

      November 19, 2013 at 8:46 am

      What sourt of advertisment is That who paid u for this intelligent rubbish u posted?Eko atlantic city a ghetto in lagos and lagos in Nigeria.The day we change our mind set that day we will build a Great Nation not a rich man ghetto like d vgc and co.

  7. Madman

    November 18, 2013 at 6:34 pm

    In the bid to tell the stories of Africa’s most glamorous
    people and events we IGNORE the voices of the poor. Majority of
    whom are Africans. Yes, we have a growing middle class, Africa’s
    middle class is not sustainable for several reasons. Even Africans
    are notorious off something called “voice privileging.”

    • e-bukun

      November 18, 2013 at 8:35 pm

      GBAM!!!

    • AA

      November 18, 2013 at 8:58 pm

      I like your comment DIE!

    • omada

      November 19, 2013 at 10:56 pm

      God bless you!

  8. Gistyinka Blog

    November 18, 2013 at 6:54 pm

    Mo Abudu well done..

  9. Winny

    November 18, 2013 at 9:06 pm

    Well said, There is indeed a special place in hell for women you don’t help other women but instead plot , scheme , intimidate, backstab, cyberbully etc just to destroy. Very shameful for us women.

  10. Sisi

    November 18, 2013 at 10:07 pm

    is her accent bri’ish? I mean british?i don’t think so.except she speaks it there but not what I see on tv.

    • Uc

      November 19, 2013 at 8:50 am

      Totally agree with u………infact I intend tuning in when i get home e bi like say na only me no dey hear d british accent

    • adelegirl

      November 19, 2013 at 1:08 pm

      Thought the same thing as well when I read that part. I guess she speaks British outside Nigeria cos on Moments with Mo, especially this new one which I love by the way with Bolanle and Dolapo, she speaks like a well educated grounded Nigerian. In fact her co-hosts speak more British/American accented English. (Phew). I like Mo Abudu, hate or love her, she is one focused hardworking go-getting woman. I really truly admire her grit and guts. She has her fingers in quite a few successful ventures – VLA, Protea Oakwood (Lekki) and now this Ebony Life TV. I am sure she has several more investments by the side. Kudos to her.

  11. frances

    November 18, 2013 at 11:08 pm

    And I love,love this woman!
    A perfect attestation 2d fact that women can soar when they set their mind to and touch lives in whatever sphere they find demselves.
    ”There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other”~ Madeleine Albright (&i add,also for women who hate,envy,backbite&pull down each other)…women are usually their own enemies,its gotta stop.

    http://imperfectlyperfect92.wordpress.com

  12. baby

    November 18, 2013 at 11:47 pm

    LOL LOl @ tamarau tombra, I would have probably have agreed with you but after the awful post from Monalisa. I would say this is OK. I sense a woman that worked hard to get to where she is and understands she still has a long way to get to where she wants to be.
    @ nich if i was your boss. I would fire you for very poor “SPAMMING” seriously dude/chic you are selling eko atlantic on some random post ? lol lol
    @Iris lol lol i could sense the anger in your tone…

  13. mio

    November 19, 2013 at 3:09 am

    Thank God for outstanding women like Mo. I get bitter wen
    foreign movies portray d classical ‘huts, goats, rams, tiny piece
    of clothing’ picture as Africa. They rilly need to know we’v moved
    into modern age

  14. Ady

    November 19, 2013 at 8:30 am

    Africa`s oprah indeed,and did I just read a line of her “shaping Africa with her ebony life” ebony life is a failure and clueless venture wonder what she was thinking or what she plans to do there, maybe as a tv host u v done well and u would have just stick ur ass to your moments with mo, but that ebonylife is just crap. quoting as to “why people dont think we(Africans) have high profile…..” is cos of people like u who always want to be like them , don’t try to be oprah of Africa build your own brand. oprah didn’t copy someone else to be what she is today

    • Ocee

      November 19, 2013 at 12:50 pm

      Calm down Ady, haba! Ebony Life TV is not a ‘clueless venture’ in my opinion, i actually do enjoy some of their programming. Like others too, i’m not comfy with the African Oprah comparison thingy but she’s definitely no failure.

  15. Uc

    November 19, 2013 at 8:53 am

    Weldone Mo ……….like OBJ will say a journey of a thousand mile start with a step in d right direction.I believe u are on that path

  16. odze

    November 19, 2013 at 11:35 am

    @sisi my thought exactly…….i have head her speak nothing British oh. Mo has done well, but lets always be ourselves…..

  17. adelegirl

    November 19, 2013 at 1:09 pm

    Thought the same thing as well when I read that part. I guess she speaks British outside Nigeria cos on Moments with Mo, especially this new one which I love by the way with Bolanle and Dolapo, she speaks like a well educated grounded Nigerian. In fact her co-hosts speak more British/American accented English. (Phew). I like Mo Abudu, hate or love her, she is one focused hardworking go-getting woman. I really truly admire her grit and guts. She has her fingers in quite a few successful ventures – VLA, Protea Oakwood (Lekki) and now this Ebony Life TV. I am sure she has several more investments by the side. Kudos to her.

  18. Omo1

    November 19, 2013 at 1:31 pm

    Personally I wouldn’t call her African Oprah. She is doing well..but there is more to speaking for and representing Africa than what she has portrayed so far..let her works speak for her.I wish her all the best!

  19. titi

    November 19, 2013 at 2:11 pm

    I love Ebonylife and i think they r doing a great job,I also think anti Mo is a role Model what however i dont get is the “telling the african story part” Ther s nothing african about thr channel per se,besides the fact that it s aired in Africa. I thought it meant most of the presenter wouls show case Africa and use home grown presenters . But all those children schooled abroad and hv this “fo-ne” voice. I think more home grown presenters should be aired i m sure there r some good ones out here.

  20. Edith

    November 19, 2013 at 3:16 pm

    Mo, you have taken the words right out of my mouth… If you are reading this, please do get in touch. It isn’t all negative, as most of it is portrayed. Your experiences have been mine. Africans have so much to offer the world. I know another excellent platform that I feel will complement what you are already doing, at an international level and will help to paint a more complete picture of Africa, portraying its beauty as well
    but more importantly, the potential and giftedness of Africans as a people. I would also like you to know that I stumbled on this article by sheer chance. But nothing is really by chance… is it?
    Looking forward.

  21. Mrs Dangote (nee Anonymous)

    November 19, 2013 at 5:29 pm

    If you can think it, you can do it!

  22. tobi Amokeodo

    November 20, 2013 at 9:27 am

    I enjoyed reading the interview

  23. OMA

    November 27, 2013 at 3:49 pm

    For another young lady telling Africa’s story, Please check out this blog teacherdonttellmenonsense.wordpress.com
    Thanks people!

  24. Zeezah

    January 30, 2014 at 9:56 pm

    Thank you so much for always emphasizing on the issue of women not fully supporting other women, I remember you discussing it with us at the last WOWE conference in eko hotel. Truth should be told to each other. please keep it up!

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