“If you CAN think it …you CAN do it!” Talk about “words speaking volumes”, this catchy phrase aptly sums up the life, personality and achievements of Mosunmola Abudu – more popularly know as ‘Mo Abudu’. Mo’s whole personality, attitude and indeed, her life thus far, lends credence to the fact that once she can think it, then you can be sure she can and will do it!! Born in the United Kingdom on the 11th day of September in the year 1964 to Nigerian parents – Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence Akintunde; her family originates from Ondo town in the South Western region of Nigeria. Mo has made her mark in various fields of endeavor, which cut across the corporate world, the hospitality industry and, most recently, the media world. She is a proudly-Nigerian, proudly African woman of many parts: Human Resource practitioner/consultant, Talk-show hostess, Media personality and Television producer. Mo also sits on the board of several NGOs as well as National organizations such as the Nigerian Economic Summit Group.
Mo stands out uniquely in various ways as a determined, self-motivated, results-oriented achiever with a vivacious personality that inspires others to get up and go! The firstborn of three sisters, she is the proud initiator and founder of a number of ‘firsts’ in Nigeria. She is a visionary, purposeful and forward thinking person who will not take ‘No’ for an answer in her determination to positively impact her generation, while leaving a lasting legacy for generations to come. Through hard work and sheer grits backed by strong faith in God to achieve the seemingly impossible, Mo makes things happen, no matter how great the odds.
Although life dealt her a cruel blow when she lost her father at the very young age of 11, Mo refused to play the victim. Instead, she determined to do her mother and nation proud by not only succeeding, but excelling, in life. She has come a long way from those tough early days, without the support of a father, to build a name for herself through several very successful business ventures and initiatives: creating jobs, positively impacting her generation, society, nation and, indeed, the entire African continent.
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Mo has great memories of being raised by her grandmother in Ondo State, which is located in the South West of Nigeria, from around age 9. Her family had just come back from England where she was born. Coming back from the UK to go straight to Ondo (a relatively small town in Ondo State) was somewhat of a culture shock, but she was able to adapt quite well at that young age.
One of Mo’s fondest memories of those times was the love that her grandmother showered on her; she was the apple of her Grandma’s eye. This was probably because her father was the last born of her grandmother’s children and she loved him dearly as the baby of the family. She simply transferred all that love to Mo.
Her grandparents were Cocoa farmers, so she spent many of her holidays on their farm. She can still clearly recall going into the farm with her grandparents, watching them cut open pods of cocoa, remove the cocoa beans and spread them out to dry in the sun. She and her cousins had a lot of fun chasing the goats on the farm away from the cocoa beans that were being sun-dried. It all seems quite unbelievable when she thinks back on those carefree times today.
As a teenager, Mo went back to the UK, shortly after her father passed away. She was only eleven at the time. She found growing up in England at that time quite a challenge. She lived with her guardian in a small town called Tunbridge Wells and was one of only 3 black students in the local comprehensive school that she attended. One of her strongest memories of that period was having to constantly stand up for herself because she was black. The other children would ask the most ridiculous questions about where she came from, what food her people ate, how they behaved and what sort of houses they lived in.
As Mo gradually came into her own as a young adult, she was extremely ambitious. Thinking back on it now, she realizes that she had always been ambitious and a dreamer. In fact, she dreamt so hard that she just knew she had to actualize those dreams. Finding her life’s purpose has been her key drive right from those early days. She worked so hard, trying her hands at so many different things and working many jobs — some she did in order to make ends meet, others because of her passion for them or because they gave her a sense of purpose. She loved working in the Human Resource field, affecting people’s lives and careers positively. This she did tirelessly until the even bigger dream came along to Inspire Africa!
As a self-confessed ‘big dreamer’, Mo stands out from the crowd in that she goes beyond dreaming to achieving by getting others to believe in her dreams and working hard to make those dreams come true. After building a reputation as an accomplished human resource specialist, Mo moved into television a few years ago with the aim of establishing effective media platforms that would give voice to her passion to inspire Africa and to showcase the real face of the African continent—in all its beautiful and multifaceted dimensions—to the entire world.
CORPORATE CAREER: Achievements and Successes
Mo Abudu started off her career in the UK as a Recruitment Consultant in 1997, quickly rising to the position of Branch Manager. She went on to work for the highly reputable Starform Group, successfully managing the prestigious Corporate Credit Management Exhibition for 3 successive years from 1990 to 1992. She proved to be a good manager with great multitasking skills while there, effectively and seamlessly handling diverse responsibilities – from research, to design, organization and production of various conferences and seminars.
Mo eventually moved back to Nigeria in 1993, armed with the skills and experiences she had gained as well as the successes she had recorded in such a short time in the UK. She was recruited by Arthur Andersen for Esso Exploration & Production Nigeria Limited (now ExxonMobil) to head up their Human Resources and Training unit. She served in this role until the turn of the century (year 2000), when she successfully executed her responsibilities as a member of the ExxonMobil HR Transition and Merger team in ensuring a smooth and seamless transition process.
Recognizing the growing need for a well trained and highly motivated work force to successfully take Nigerian businesses into the 21st century, Mo decided to take advantage of her established reputation as an HR specialist to establish a privately-owned specialist human resources development company known as Vic Lawrence & Associates Limited (popularly known as VLA). Resigning from ExxonMobil, she focused single-mindedly on steering VLA through various critical stages of development to become one of the most successful and fastest growing Nigerian-owned outsourcing and people management consultancy firms in Nigeria.
While running VLA as the Managing Director and engaged in other business activities, Mo recorded another landmark achievement with the successful commissioning of the Protea Hotel, Oakwood Park in August of 2004. She conceptualized and initiated this innovative project which involved raising investment partners for the development of an executive training centre that also offers first rate residential and recreational facilities. Located in the beautifully serene, yet busy, Lekki Peninsula axis of Lagos, the Protea Hotel, Oakwood Park which is set on more than one hectare of land is an ultra-modern purpose-built training complex that offers its clientele state-of-the-art training and conference facilities. Today, the hotel regularly hosts corporate bodies and professionals
Mo has always believed strongly in giving back to society and leaving a lasting legacy for future generations, while making a positive difference within the society today. In the midst of her diverse roles as a Managing Director and an Entrepreneur / Venture Capitalist, Mo ensures that she involves herself in various community and social responsibility projects. Towards this end, she served for a number of years as an active member on the Board of Directors of Junior Achievement Nigeria—a non-governmental organization that promotes the development of business and entrepreneurial skills amongst Nigerian youths. Over a period of time, she also published and served as the Editor of “VLA KNOWLEDGE” – a free monthly human-capital management magazine featuring a variety of articles, surveys, book reviews, news regarding training and development, and even a health column. The magazine was designed to inform, educate as well as entertain readers.
As earlier stated, Mo was also an active member of the Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG). The NESG, which was incorporated in 1996, was established by a core group of key managers from the private sector and senior government officials, as a formal private sector structure to tackle Nigeria’s economic problems. In collaboration with the National Planning Commission, this group holds the Nigerian Economic Summit (NES)—the highest level of public-private economic dialogue in Nigeria. The NESG also hosts the annual summit of stakeholders in the Nigerian Agriculture sector. Known as the Annual Agriculture Summit, it was established to determine new ways of enhancing the productivity and competitiveness of the agricultural sector.
|THE INSPIRE AFRICA BRAND
TELEVISION CAREER: Achievements and Successes
As the year 2007 drew to a close, Mo once again demonstrated her adventurous and determined spirit and “Yes, I can” outlook on life, taking what can be termed a huge leap of “faith” out of her comfort zone into the ‘great unknown’ by starting a new career in the Media. And so … Inspire Africa was conceived and borne! Mo’s journey as a Television personality started with a vision: the Inspire Africa vision which was conceived in 2006. It began as a dream to INSPIRE the African continent by celebrating Africans who have made, are making or have the potential to make a mark, not only in Africa but all over the World. For her it’s all about showcasing the rich diversity and greatness of the peoples, nations and cultures of Africa.
Inspire Africa speaks about the renaissance of Africa. It speaks of the new and fresh sound resonating from this beautiful and truly great continent filled with great resources—from the people, to the land, to the rich variety of cultures, to the voices, and to that special and indefinable quality and spirit that is uniquely AFRICAN. What is fast becoming known as the Inspire Africa Brand is made up so many different components — all borne out of one single vision of ‘inspiring Africa’ locally and globally. Inspire Africa is a progressive journey: one project, yet a rich diversity of expressions communicated via a variety of media-driven platforms, all geared towards projecting Africa in its true light onto the world’s screen for all to see, appreciate and applaud!
Through the work of Inspire Africa Productions, Mo seeks to reach out to the African continent and the entire world by focusing on and revealing the positive and inspirational side of Africa. This she does by showcasing the real-life stories of African men, women and children who have, more often than not, overcome unbelievable odds to achieve great things. The anchor project of Inspire Africa Productions — Moments with Mo — is also Africa’s first ever syndicated TV talk-show.
MOMENTS WITH MO
The pioneer project of Inspire Africa is the popular talk show—Moments with Mo—which holds the pride of place of being the first-ever syndicated daily talk show on African regional television. Anchored by Mo, who quickly brought herself up to speed on how to be a talk-show hostess, the show is gradually transforming the flavor, face and—indeed—fashion of African TV. Inspire Africa has done the seemingly impossible by constantly portraying Africans and Africa in a positive light; building, projecting, promoting and reinforcing the new contemporary face of Africa: strong, confident, savvy, independent, bold, intellectual, responsible. This is the new Africa that speaks for itself, identifies and proffers effective solutions for its own problems, celebrates its peoples by showcasing their lives, trials, victories, achievements / successes. It’s all about rebuilding the battered image of the hitherto, so called “dark” continent so that it can shine forth in a new, refreshing and more accurate light.
By March 2010, over 300 episodes—and still counting—of the show had been recorded and aired with numerous topics ranging from issues of lifestyle, through health, culture, politics, entertainment, tradition, to music and inter-racial marriages. The roll-call of guests on the show has been truly impressive: from Presidents, to Nobel Laureates, to the US Secretary-of-State, to Celebrities of every nature, to Governors, to regular everyday people, who are doing extra-ordinary and not-so-everyday things! It has also proven to be the perfect medium for addressing some of the issues and challenges of our societies that used to be swept under the carpet.
With an ever growing audience all over the African continent and the world, Moments with Mo has been making waves as it enters its 6th season. Aired on M-Net with TV coverage of 48 African countries, the show now also airs on Terrestrial and Cable TV in different parts of the world. Some of the other platforms that will be used to articulate the Inspire Africa vision include radio, publishing, leisure, events, merchandising and entertainment.
Aside from its flagship project, Moments with Mo,this ever growing brand currently includes the highly intellectual, but vastly motivating, innovative and entertaining reality TV show: The Debaters. This show, which has already aired two truly phenomenal seasons, promotes oratory as the catalyst to drive positive change—once you are ready to also walk the talk! The Debaters Reality TV show focuses on “giving Africa a voice”. This is one TV show that educates, informs, motivates, influences and entertains to such an extent that the viewer is held spell bound — episode after episode. The ultimate goal of “The Debaters” is the transformation of the society. Relevant issues affecting Nigeria as well as the African continent are passionately debated; and practical solutions to some of the long-standing challenges that we face as a nation and a continent are proffered by intelligent young men and women who have a passion for oratory and societal transformation.
Inspire Africa Productions, through ‘The Debaters’ aims to prove — just like President Barack Obama has managed to do so well — that truly
great things come out of Africa. The debaters, who are called “Talkmates”, use the gift of oratory and eloquence in speech to sincerely and convincingly argue their points, to influence the audience to agree with their own viewpoint so as to positively transform the nation. These ‘talkmates’ are articulate, charismatic and captivating—not only in speech—but through their non-verbal communication – the passion and conviction with which they state their case, as well as their readiness to stand up for their beliefs. Another great thing about the show is that it is produced in Nigeria, showcasing Nigerians, produced by Nigerians for Africa while it not only promotes—but actually enables freedom of speech. The Debaters is now about to enter its third season.
THE INSPIRE AFRICA FOUNDATION
The Inspire Africa Foundation is the human investment arm of Inspire Africa Ltd which is registered as a non-profit organization focused on strategically raising funds to implement society transforming initiatives. The Foundation seeks to identify and harness resources, financial and otherwise, primarily from the African continent as well as Africans in Diaspora for the purpose of effecting lasting change. It’s all about making an enduring difference in tangible ways in the lives of Africans, many of which are victims of the ills of the society.
In the month of January 2009, the Inspire Africa Foundation alongside Moments with Mo, the Lagos State Government and UNICEF held a well attended charity benefit concert with the theme “Rocking with a Conscience”. Donations from the concert have gone towards the protection of Street Children from various forms of abuse, violence and all forms of exploitation. The highly publicized concert, which featured a number of popular musical artistes (both local and international), proved to be a memorable night of fun, music, dance, entertainment – all while making a change! The Inspire Africa Theme song titled “Let’s go save a child” was created and produced featuring a group of renowned Nigerian music artistes as part of the concert benefit drive. The Foundation also produced a well researched documentary on street children to create awareness in the society.
The Foundation also held Nigeria’s first ever telethon during the same month as a build up to the benefit concert. The money realized from the telethon and the concert will be used to improve the lives of the Lagos street children by providing reception centres for them where they will receive life-skills training as well as income generating skills training. It’s all about “Raising funds for charity and inspiring an increased spirit of giving in Nigeria”. There was also an online donation platform provided on the website of the Foundation (www.inspireafrica-foundation.org).
The Foundation also planned two other projects which serve as part of the independent fundraising activities designed to be avenues to continually fund Phases 1 and 2 of the Save our Street Children Initiative. These are the establishment of a dedicated charity store and the sales of a collection of children’s books. The proceeds of sales made from these two projects; or in the case of the charity store, the 10 percent of all sales donated by the designers to Inspire Africa will go towards improving the lives of the street children. The first Charity Store, branded “The Designers Outlet for Charity”, opened on the 5th of December 2009 in Lagos, Nigeria.
The second phase involves the development of a children’s shelter called “The Harbour”. It is designed to be a place of shelter, refuge and learning for our street children. This particular project, which is being funded by some of the proceeds from the Concert as well as donation of building services by professionals such as the architects (Moreno Group), has already taken off. The Harbor is now at roofing level and will be home to over 100 street children.
“Naija Diamonds”, the most recent addition to Mo’s TV creations, is a six part documentary series in celebration of unsung Nigerian heroes sponsored by Diamond Bank. “Naija Diamonds” will feature thirty six individuals to be representative of the true Nigerian spirit. “Naija Diamonds” was recently nominated for two awards by AMAA: best documentary and best short documentary.
Mo’s home base is in the bustling, cosmopolitan city of Lagos—the commercial capital of Nigeria. She lives in a very serene part of the city in a quiet estate on the Island. She sees her home as her personal haven where she can relax and be totally at peace.
Mo loves to travel to different places all over the world. Her favourite spots happen to be some of the most popular and sophisticated cities in the world: London, Paris, New York City, Cape Town, and Johannesburg. Although she is well travelled, there are still so many other places around the globe that she desires to visit and explore.
Mo enjoys a very special relationship with her mother, whom she loves dearly. She admits that they have had their differences over the years, but the older she gets, the more she has come to love and appreciate her mom. She particularly appreciates her mom because of the unconditional love, constant comfort and peace she has given her all her life; and also because she is always praying for her.
Mo has been blessed with two wonderful children: a son and a daughter. Her children are the apples of her eye. She is very proud of both of them. Her daughter, who is also her firstborn, is now in her final year at the University of London. According to Mo, her daughter is so beautiful: “… she has a beautiful heart, is totally respectful as well as being a loving and compassionate child”. Her son is totally adorable, highly intelligent and already knows that he wants to be an aeronautical engineer when he grows up although he is only 15 years old now.
FUTURE PROJECTS AND INITIATIVES
Mo’s vision is to spend the rest of her life affecting people’s lives; impacting lives positively and making a lasting difference. She is of the firm conviction that the tool for effecting such change is the creation of credible and sustainable media-driven platforms in TV, Radio, Publishing, Merchandising and Events. She is currently working on several projects which will be revealed to the public when they are due to be launched.