Nigeria: Okonjo-Iweala and Mo Abudu Make Forbes 100 Most Powerful Women in the World

Okonjo and Mo Abudu

Forbes has recognised two Nigerian women, Okonjo-Iweala and Mo Abudu among the 100 most powerful women in the world.

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is a renowned Economist, former Minister of Finance to two former President and the current Director General of the World Trade Organisation. She hails from Delta state.

She is 87 on the list while Mo Abudu a media mogul, philanthropist and CEO is 98 on the list of the 100 most influential and powerful women in the world.

Okonjo-Iweala wrote on X as she earned the title on the 7th times. Her post reads

Feel truly honored to be named one more time as one of the @Forbes  100 Most Powerful Women in the world. This will be the 7th time, starting in 2011. Congratulations to all the women on this list working hard to make a difference and to others working hard to change the world even if they are not on the list. Special congratulations to my younger sister @MoAbudu, great to have two Nigerian women on this list.

Kindly read more about their success stories below

An economist and international development professional, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has more than 30 years of experience working in Asia, Africa, Europe, Latin America and North America.

In March 2021, she became first woman and the first African to serve as Director-General of the World Trade Organization.

She has said she believes in the power of trade to lift developing countries out of poverty help them achieve sustainable development.

Earlier in her career, Okonjo-Iweala had two terms as Nigeria’s Finance Minister, from 2003-2006 and 2011-2015; she also briefly acted as Foreign Minister in 2006.

She was also Chair of the Board of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance that has immunized 760 million children globally.

She holds Bachelor of Arts/Science, Harvard University; Doctorate, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Mosunmola Abudu, ‘Mo Abudu’, was born in Hammersmith, West London. Her father died in 1975 when Mo was just 11 years old. Her mother, whom Mo cherishes as one of her greatest pillars of support and inspiration, recently celebrated her 80th birthday. Mo’s family roots are in Ondo Town, in the south-west of Nigeria. She is the eldest amongst three sisters. Mo moved to Nigeria at the age of seven to live with her grandparents and returned to England at age 11. Mo is the mother of two, a daughter – Temidayo, a son – Adekoyejo and grandmother to TJ and Ireoluwa.

Mo Abudu began her career in Human Resources in 1987 at The Atlas Recruitment Consultancy Firm in the UK. In 1993, she returned to Nigeria where she was headhunted to ExxonMobil to manage the HR and Administration division of the company. By 2000 Mo recognised the need for a highly talented pool of professionals in Nigeria and started her own Human Resource firm – Vic Lawrence & Associates (VLA), the name being a moniker of her parents’ names. While involving herself in a number of business activities, Mo conceptualized and developed the Protea Hotel, Oakwood Park, as the first new-build hotel of its type ever in Nigeria.

Mo Abudu launched her media career with Inspire Africa, an edutainment company designed to inspire, educate, motivate and entertain. The company’s anchor project was Africa’s first syndicated talk show, Moments with Mo, presented and produced by Mo. The show started airing in 2006 and later evolved to include a number of syndicated offshoot series, Moments Z and Moments in Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya and South Africa.

A big turning point was when Mo had the vision to create a Pan African platform, EbonyLife TV, as a way to connect all of Africa with a shared identity. EbonyLife TV, on the DStv platform, was Africa’s first global black entertainment and lifestyle network, launched in July 2013. Her primary goal for the channel was to create a more positive narrative around Africa. What followed was a string of aspirational TV series to include Fifty, Castle & Castle, Sons of the Caliphate and The Governor amongst many others.

Mo Abudu has received two honorary doctorates, an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from Babcock University in 2014 and one in 2018 for her contributions to the broadcasting industry in Nigeria by the University of Westminster in London.

In her quest to change global perceptions about Africa, Abudu took the plunge into filmmaking with the creation of EbonyLife Films in 2014. Producing several blockbusters to include: Fifty, The Wedding Party, Chief Daddy, The Royal Hibiscus Hotel in 2018 and Your Excellency in 2019. She executive produced Òlòtūré, a feature film that exposes the shady business of human trafficking in Nigeria. This film premiered on Netflix as a Netflix Original in October 2020.

In 2018, Sony Pictures Television (SPT) announced a three-year deal with EbonyLife TV that would include co-production of The Dahomey Warriors. In 2019, AMC Networks (USA) announced its partnership with EbonyLife to produce Nigeria 2099, an afrofuturistic crime-drama created by EbonyLife. In June 2020, Netflix signed a multi-title deal with EbonyLife to create two original series and multiple branded films and a series. 

In February 2021, EbonyLife Media signed a First Look deal with Sony Pictures, and a slate of co-production film and television projects with Will and Jada Smith’s Westbrook Studios. EbonyLife Studios and Will Packer Productions are teaming to develop an untitled project, based on Evan Ratliff’s Bloomberg article, ‘The Fall of the Billionaire Gucci Master’. Most recently, BBC Studios signed a development deal with EbonyLife Media to produce a six-part action-adventure heist thriller, titled Reclaim. EbonyLife also signed a deal to co-produce with Starz and Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson and Yetide Badaki, along with Lionsgate TV to develop a drama project about Queen Nzinga, 17th century African warrior queen.

As an extension of EbonyLife as an entertainment brand, Abudu developed EbonyLife Place in 2019, Nigeria’s first luxury entertainment resort, in the heart of Lagos, comprising an array of restaurants, an events hall, meeting rooms, a boutique hotel and luxury cinemas, all set in a designer and artful haven.

In 2021, as a way of accelerating filmmaking skills, the EbonyLife Group partnered with the Lagos State Government; the 5th largest economy in Africa; to launch the EbonyLife Creative Academy (ELCA). The Academy offers free practical short courses covering all aspects of filmmaking and media content production and is designed to help working film professionals improve their skills and make them globally competitive, as well as equip beginners with the skills they need to launch their careers on a sound footing.

Abudu is highly sought after for her knowledge of the African and global creative industry. She has spoken at the Wharton School of Business, Cambridge University Judge School of Business, NYU, Oxford University and Harvard University. Throughout the years, Abudu has been a recipient of numerous awards and international recognitions.

As CEO of EbonyLife Media, Abudu has made her mark through various endeavors in the corporate world, and Forbes described her as “Africa’s Most Successful Woman” while CNN said she was “Africa’s Queen of Media who conquered the continent.” Abudu oversees the EbonyLife Group, which includes all EbonyLife Media assets, the EbonyLife Creative Academy and EbonyLife Place.

Abudu has been invited to join the Academy of Motion Arts and Sciences, popularly known as ‘THE OSCARS’ in the Producer membership category, making her the first Sub-Saharan African woman to join the Oscars. In 2021, Harvard Business School (HBS) honoured the EbonyLife Media legacy by including it as a case study for its MBA students. 

Mo Abudu joins a long list of CEOs, including Warren Buffet and Elon Musk, whose strategies and decisions have been analysed in HBS case studies. In the same year, Abudu was named one of the World’s 100 Most Powerful Women by Forbes magazine for her work in the media sphere. Her inspirational streak for 2021 was rounded off with Abudu being counted amongst the Variety500 2021, the benchmark of influencers shaping the global entertainment industry. 

With offices in Lagos, London and Los Angeles, Mo Abudu is excited about pitching stories to a diverse range of international streaming platforms and broadcasters. To quote her, “As Nigerians and Africans, we should see ourselves as world citizens and our storytelling, locations and networks should extend to every corner of the globe.”

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