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Africa's very own Oprah

02 July 2013, 18:03

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 wants EbonyLife TV to inspire Africans and the rest of the world, and 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!" the glamorous Abudu, 48, told The Associated Press from a hotel's penthouse floor. "We watch Hollywood as if all of America is Hollywood," she said. "In that same vein we need to start selling the good bits of Africa."

Rebranding 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 vibrant city 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 that is much improved since the country transitioned from military dictatorship to civilian rule in 1999.

The characters are as cosmopolitan as Abudu, who was born in London, came to Nigeria when she was a youngster and returned to Britain after her father died when she was 12. She returned to settle when she married a Nigerian at age 28.

From oil to talk-show host

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 television talk show host. Moments with Mo became the first syndicated daily talk show on African regional TV and is also aired in Britain on a Sky TV channel.

She has interviewed celebrities from Hillary Rodham Clinton, former African presidents F. W. de Klerk of South Africa and John Kufuor of Ghana, former England soccer skipper Rio Ferdinand, musician R. Kelly and American fashion icon Diane Von Furstenberg.

Africa has more to offer than dictators and hardship.

Years later, she is setting out to transform that vision by shining a bright light on the so-called "dark continent's" riches — its super-talented 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 program discusses why more and more Nigerian women are bleaching their skins and whether men prefer lighter-skinned black women.

While Nollywood movies also are notorious for often poor quality, though this is improving, Abudu aims for the highest quality in a network she hopes will eventually be broadcasted beyond Africa to the millions in the diaspora.

"What we say is 'Everything you think you know about Africa is about to change.'"
- AP


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