I’ve been following her various media moves since I first learned about her a couple of years ago, and have been updating you folks as new developments happen. Obviously, with good reason. She’s someone who we really should know here in the West, given how much she’s accomplished in a rather short period of time, and her future ambitions. I’m sure we’ll get to interview her one-on-one eventually – especially as content her company produces starts to make its way to the USA… at some point I’d assume.
Driven by the tastes, expectations and usage patterns of an extremely young demographic, innovative business models and rapidly rising consumer adoption of pay and satellite television, the continental African marketplace is now worth half a billion dollars in annual TV content wholesale sales – double the figure from 2010.
Meaning, this should be a great time for content creators in Africa, and we will begin to see even more of the diversity that exists within the continent, represented in stories told on film, as well on TV, as the growth of Africa’s content industry and its role in the international marketplace continues to accelerate.
As South Africa’s Arts and Culture Minister Paul Mashatile, states, “… Our continent is increasingly being viewed as the continent of hope, the continent of the future and a new growth frontier. We have no doubt, therefore, that emerging […] will be effective partnerships and programs aimed at accelerating the growth of film and TV production across the African Continent.”
Enter Mo Abudu, also known as “Africa’s Oprah Winfrey” (not my words; that’s what she’s been called within and outside of Africa, although she’s originally from Nigeria, born and educated in the UK primarily. And I should note that it’s a label she rejects. I wonder if the two have ever met. I couldn’t find any evidence that they have).
Abudu is a talk show host, TV producer, media personality, and more. Her talk show, “Moments with Mo,” was launched in 2006 on South Africa’s subscription-funded TV network M-Net, and is said to be the first syndicated daily talk show on continental African regional television.
The talk show was an instant success, immediately drawing comparisons to the “Oprah Winfrey Show,” covering numerous topics ranging from lifestyle, health, culture, politics, entertainment, and much more, with guests including celebrities, Presidents, Nobel Laureates, and even the 67th US Secretary-of-State Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Abudu is also Executive Chairman & CEO of EbonyLife TV – no affiliation with Ebony magazine; a multi-platform broadcaster, and subsidiary of Media and Entertainment City Africa (MEC Africa) in Cross River State, Nigeria.
The EbonyLife brand also now includes EbonyLife Films, a newly-formed movie production company, which “strongly commits to telling African stories as they have never been told before,” and “is set to further expand” on the vision of a connected global audience that includes continental Africa’s offerings, “through a shared identity and common values by ushering in a movement that revolutionizes the trends in the African entertainment industry as it fixes its gaze on becoming one of the world’s s most influential film powerhouses – one blockbuster at a time.”
And with that, just a couple of weeks ago, EbonyLifeFilms premiered its very first feature film project, “Fifty,” which made its world debut at the BFI London Film Festival.
Directed by Biyi Bandele (if his name sounds familiar, it’s because he also directed the film adaptation of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s acclaimed novel “Half of a Yellow Sun” starring Chiwetel Ejiofor, Thandie Newton and Anika Noni Rose), “Fifty” captures a few pivotal days in the lives of four Nigeria women at the pinnacle of their careers.
In a new interview with the BBC, published just a few days ago, Abudu discusses the need for the growth and diversity of local content in the continental African television industry, and shares what her company is doing to fill in gaps.
She also talks about “Fifty” the film – a feature film about Nigerian women who are approaching 50, describing them as “modern African women, with modern day challenges,” and wondering how a film that tells their particular story will fit into the larger narrative, given its uniqueness. She speaks of the potential challenges that lie ahead in her attempts to bring forth stories about Africans – contemporary stories – for film and TV, that typically aren’t seen, especially by westerners, and hopes for more companies like her’s.
“We are going to give the stories an African flavor. We will localize it, because there’s nothing that the West has that Africa doesn’t have: we love, we fight, we kiss, we make up. We like all the good things in life. There’s good and there’s evil globally. So all those human interests, those things that appeal to you, believe me, appeal to us also,” Abudu has said.
Watch the new BBC interview she gave below: