WALE Akinlabi is the brain behind Africa Magic’s biggest television show, Good Morning Africa. ENCOMIUM Weekly had a chat with him at his Randburg, South Africa office, where he told us all about his success story, how he managed to build his business in a country like South Africa and why he decided to step down as CEO for his South African partner, Mabel Mabaso.
How did the journey begin?
Planet Image Productions started in Nigeria in 2000. After working with a lot of production companies in Nigeria, I started a company working for most of the advertising agencies producing television commercials. In 2003, I flew down to South Africa for a conference. I saw the environment and I thought to myself this would be a good place to start a company because everything worked perfectly.
In 2004, I moved down to South Africa and I worked for a company called Ministry of Illusion just to understand how the industry worked. In 2004, when Africa Magic started, I started doing content for them. My first programmes were Star Zone, Teenage Rampage and Chillers. I did those programmes for almost three years. While producing them, I was getting small income and I was investing in equipment gradually until 2010 when we started the biggest breakfast show in Africa, Good Morning Africa, and since then we have been moving on.
What’s the secret behind the success of Good Morning Africa?
I won’t say it is because we know how to do it. There are people who can do it better than we do. First, it is just God’s blessings. Second, having the right programme at the right time. Third, Good Morning Africa is Pan African. It is a name everyone can reckon with. So the name is a success on its own. We made sure we get content across Africa, which makes it more unique. We spend so much money to get content from Ghana, Mozambique, Zambia, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Cameroun, Kenya and Ethiopia. It’s difficult to cover those countries. So, the secret of Good Morning Africa’s success is God’s blessing, the name and the ability to get content from particular countries.
When did the television and radio stations start?
The TV started from Planet Radio in 2011. We actually launched on June 12, 2011, we started from online radio because we thought there was a need for Africans in the diaspora to listen to music from home. By the end of the year, people were requesting it should be turned to a television station. So, that same year, we stopped the online radio and started constructing a proper studio. In June 2012, we launched the TV channel online, we ran it online until 2013 that we launched it on GoTV in Nigeria.
What was growing up like for you?
My background was very bad. I grew from a middle class family in Nigeria. I was the first born from a family of seven. My father was a medical doctor. My mother was a full housewife with a bit of hand work. At 16, I left Oyo for Lagos and I started pushing, I pushed myself to where I am today. I learnt photography, later I learnt to edit wedding photographs. I worked with DBN TV for a while, from there I worked in a studio in Okota. I worked at Interpaln Stream owned by Steve Ojo. He owns the first production outfit in Nigeria. I learnt all my trade secrets from him. I also worked with Galaxy Television in Ibadan after which I came to Lagos to work with different advert agencies. Growing up wasn’t easy for me but I pushed myself to where I am today.
We learnt you are the CEO without a degree, what has been the driving force?
I am not the CEO anymore. Mabel is the new CEO. We recently changed position. I feel when you allow someone that has the same vision with you to run your company, things will work fine. I feel I don’t need to be everywhere. I just stay behind, give instructions and let her run it because we run from South Africa. If I want this company to be successful, I need to have someone from here that’s talented as the face of the company.
Growing was hard for me. I only had my secondary school education as there was no money to further and no one to help. I was sleeping on the ground in a small room with no ventilation. I suffered to further my education. One thing I always tell people is that, education is one of the tools for success, but education is not the most important thing. I am a living experience. I got everything from the street. I did not go to any business school, I taught myself the business sense I use today and I handle millions. I handle over 70 staffers, I believe I could do it with the right people around me, the right frame of mind, determination, honesty and sincerity. Everything is possible for you with these factors.
How would you describe your grass to grace story?
In a simple way, I would just say it has been God. No matter what you go through, if God says He will make you, He will. God made me and put me in the right environment at the right time.
– MABEL MABASO
How has working with Wale Akinlabi been?
It’s been lots of fun. It has also been a challenging experience that I wouldn’t trade for anything else. I have grown a lot and we have a very symbiotic relationship which means both parties are winning all the time.
You were recently made the CEO of Planet Image Productions, how does it feel?
It has been awesome and it makes sense because it is my face and voice people always see and hear. I am the one who liaises and speaks to the general public, our stakeholders, partners and friends. So, it’s a new responsibility. It means I have to carry myself a lot better so that everyone sees Planet Image Productions in the light that I am portraying it.
– TINUOLA JOSEPH