Sometimes called “the Oprah of Africa”, Mosunmola “Mo” Abudu is a leader in the African television industry. She runs the only continent-wide television network and hosts its flagship talk show. Her mission: to shed stereotypes and portray Africa in the same way Hollywood portrays the US; as a dynamic, modern place that grapples with complex issues.
There is no shortage of glamour in Lagos, Nigeria’s financial capital and home to Nollywood, arguably the most prolific film industry in the world.
But there might be no one in Lagos more glamorous than Abudu, who heads EbonyLife TV, which calls itself “Africa’s first global black entertainment and lifestyle network” and beams into nearly every country on the continent.
At her office in Lagos, she says that for her, media is not just entertainment.
“I think it is critical for Africa to tell its own story. I was born in the UK. Went to school in the UK. I have been asked the most absurd questions about who I am. And I think I felt that media was one of the most powerful tools to let the world know who we were,” she says.
Extreme poverty and underdeveloped desert land are the two images of Africa most often seen on television, Abudu says.
“The realties that you often see on television are not the only realities that exist. So it is important for us to show the world that there’s another reality. Also, it is important for us as Africans to see a more positive side of Africa rather than that that is often reported, I am sorry to say, by the western media,” she says.
These realities include a growing middle class and modern technologies impacting all aspects of life, Abudu says.
The network’s flagship programme, a talk show called Moments with Mo, has led fans to dub Abudu ‘Africa’s Oprah’.
Abudu says she has not met American media mogul and TV star Oprah Winfrey, but she wants to.
“This is someone I have looked up to all my life. She is an unknowing mentor, a black woman who is strong and powerful and made her impact felt globally,” she says.
In the meantime EbonyLife is sponsoring a new home in Lagos that is expected to house 100 girls that would otherwise be living on the streets.
Young African women face enormous challenges, Abudu says, but she is living proof that it is possible for them to lead industries on the continent.
“What I would like to say to young women in Africa today that want to be like me is that you have to just work really, really hard. You are going to get lots of knocks, people telling you cannot do it. Which is why it’s important for you to have that deep-seated belief that you can do it,” she says.
Abudu does not deny that some African stereotypes are part of life in Nigeria. But Africa is changing fast, she says, and part of her mission is show that these stereotypes are not the entire picture. – VOA