Patricia Bebia Mawa is the executive vice president of the channel Afroglobal TV as well as host and producer of the long-running TV show, Planet Africa, which is broadcast across Canada on OMNI TV and syndicated to Europe and Africa. After launching a successful career as a TV personality in her native Nigeria, she relocated to Canada and essentially started her media career over again from scratch. She is now the executive vice president and editorial director of Silvertrust Media, the parent company of Afroglobal TV and Planet Africa she co-founded with her husband, Moses. Their media empire includes magazines, TV shows, awards, and an expanding online presence. She spoke with The Edge about her entrepreneurial path and creating her own opportunities in the competitive media landscape.
What made you decide to pursue a career in media?
My first degree was in Political Science. My plan was to become a lawyer. While in university, I used to write, moderate, and direct plays at my church. Someone came to me after one of the plays and asked me if I would like to host a television show. I agreed to audition and that is how I started my media career. I was in my second year of university at the time. Produced by Sweltyme Entertainment, the program was called Gospel Music Therapy on NTA Calabar, in Cross River State, Nigeria. I went on to host a very popular daily talk show on DBN Television in Lagos, Nigeria called Lunch Date.
How did your TV show, Planet Africa, start, and how did you grow it into the globally-syndicated success that it is today?
Planet Africa is the first regularly-scheduled program of its kind in Canada. We started the program because we noticed that most of what was featured in mainstream media about the Black community was negative. We wanted to balance the narrative and make sure that young people can see role models.
Diversity is a big part of Afroglobal TV and Planet Africa. How important is it to you to focus on the experiences of people of colour, particularly Canadians of African descent?
People of African descent are very diverse. There are some who were born on the continent, and others born in the Caribbean, the United States, Brazil, and even Canada. We also have people of Indian descent and from other races who have lived in Africa for generations and call Africa their home. So, anyone with a connection to Africa is part of the Planet Africa and Afroglobal family.
Silvertrust Media is also a company that has strived to bring Canadians of diverse backgrounds together through initiatives like Diversity Magazine, the Diversity Expo, and the Diversity Awards. Through our Transformation Institute, we advance values like harmony and diversity. Through this initiative we run the Transformation Awards and the Crossover mentorship program.
Your husband, Moses, is also your business partner. How have you dealt with the challenges of balancing your work life and your personal life?
We are still learning how to balance work and family life. Sometimes one suffers but we always remind ourselves that family is number one. We make sure that our four children understand that we love them and that they are top priority. As an entrepreneur, time is one of the scarcest commodities, but we make time for what matters. The good part of working with my husband is that sometimes we can fill in for each other.
You’ve been honoured with several awards during your career. What is it like to receive accolades like the Martin Luther King DreamKEEPERS lifetime achievement award?
It was a humbling experience. Receiving an award in the name of a man that advocated for freedom, equality, and the dignity of all humans regardless of their races and creed reignited my resolve to continue to do what I do with renewed purpose. It is an award that comes with responsibilities. Being a DreamKEEPER means that you not only represent the dream but take action to make sure that the work and sacrifices that have been made for the life that is possible today are not in vain.
Speaking of awards, you also have the Excellence Awards (formerly the Planet Africa Awards initiative). Why was it important to create these awards, and what is the goal of the initiative?
We run two awards shows. One is called the Excellence Awards (formerly the Planet Africa Awards) and the second one is the Transformation Awards. The magazines that we publish document our stories, the television programs showcase the stories, and the award shows celebrate our success stories. The Excellence Awards seeks to identify and recognize deserving individuals, organizations, businesses, and agencies that make a profound difference in society, especially in regard to people of African descent. Since 2004, the program has honoured and celebrated national and global achievers. The event also showcases role models for our youth. Every year, we sponsor at least 50 kids to attend these awards shows.
We have honoured people like Olympic Gold Medalist Andre De Grasse, Nobel Prize winner Professor Wole Soyinka, movie and television star Isaiah Washington, nuclear scientist Dr. Sylvester Osamusali, son of the legendary Marcus Garvey and vascular surgeon Dr. Julius Garvey, YWCA International President Dr. Musimbi Kanyoro, Hollywood actress, Vivica A. Fox, President & CEO of Ford Motor Company of Canada William H. Osborne, and legendary singer Yvonne Chaka Chaka, among other highly accomplished individuals and organizations. The daughter of Martin Luther King Jr. and CEO of the King Centre, Dr. Bernice King, was a keynote speaker at the Excellence Awards when we celebrated the anniversary of the “I Have A Dream” speech. We have also hosted Bob Marley’s wife Rita Marley and his daughter Sharon Marley.
What’s next for Silvertrust Media in 2019 and beyond?
One of our main focuses this year is to be more innovative. We are working on doing more in the digital space in terms of magazine publishing and content production. We have created a video-on-demand platform for our faith-based initiatives called DestinyStream.com. We are also working on Afroscreen.com, which is going to be an online VOD platform for the Afroglobal audience. We are also developing some new apps.
Moses and I co-authored a book, The 150 Extraordinary Canadians: Our Leadership and Innovation Legacy. We are soon launching an online portal with videos on these amazing leaders and innovators. We are also working on getting Afroglobal TV channel to the United States of America, Africa, and the Caribbean.
Justin Anderson | Senior Editor