Patricia Bebia Mawa: One Of Canada's Most Powerful African Televison Personalities
Patricia Bebia-Mawa.

Patricia Bebia Mawa: One Of Canada's Most Powerful African Televison Personalities


We look for people that will inspire the community. Ordinary people, doing extraordinary things.

By Jane Musoke-Nteyafas
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First published: July 30, 2008


Nigerian-born, Canadian-based Patricia Bebia-Mawa wears many hats. For one thing, she is a familiar face on Canadian television. The Toronto resident is the host and producer of one of the most popular African shows on Canadian television, namely Planet Africa Television. She is also the Managing Editor of Canadian-based Planet Africa Magazine, which is under the umbrella of The Planet Africa Network. The Network is a project of Silvertrust Communications founded in 1996 - an Ottawa-based production company which specializes in video, graphics, photography, publishing, audio, multimedia and specialty broadband production.


Planet Africa, which was founded along with her husband Ugandan-born Moses Mawa, Executive Producer of Planet Africa Television and Publisher of Planet Africa Magazine, is the first current affairs African heritage series of its kind produced in Canada focusing on African success stories, experiences and aspirations. The couple also head the Planet Africa Awards as well as Planet Africa Leadership and Development Summit, which were created to give back to the youth as well as raise awareness of the contributions of people of African ancestry.

Bebia-Mawa, who studied multimedia at Algonquin College in Ottawa, started out as a former DBN Television presenter in Nigeria before she moved to Canada and eventually ended up hosting Planet Africa Television. She has created quite the name and reputation for herself in the African Canadian community. She is regularly invited to host many high end events. The beautiful media personality is also a playwright, public speaker, educator, event hostess, wife and mother.


Jane: Please introduce us to Patricia Bebia Mawa...
Patricia:
I was born and raised in Nigeria and did most of my schooling there. Growing up was very interesting for me. My early childhood was very miserable as I was always ridiculed and bullied. The other kids made fun of me for being too thin. I was a very inquisitive child and had a lot of big dreams. I dreamt of being on TV and in the movies. I remember when I graduated from high school, when my friends asked me for my mailing address, I just said to them; do not worry. You will hear about me.

They sure will! Why did you choose to live in Canada?

I came to Canada for a training organized by CBC Television for TV Producers and experts called Input 2000, which took place in Halifax Nova Scotia, after which I gained admission to Algonquin College in Ottawa to study Multimedia. During my studies I met Moses Mawa and we were married two years after. My plans to return to Nigeria were stalled as a result.

From Left to Right: Moses Mawa, President & CEO of Planet Africa Network, Honourable Jesca Eriyo, Ugandan Minister and United Nations Rappoteur for the Montreal Protocol on the Environment, and Patricia Bebia Mawa, Host and Producer, Planet Africa TV
From Left to Right: Moses Mawa, President & CEO of Planet Africa Network, Honourable Jesca Eriyo, Ugandan Minister and United Nations Rappoteur for the Montreal Protocol on the Environment, and Patricia Bebia Mawa, Host and Producer, Planet Africa TV.

You are the Host and Producer of Planet Africa Television. How did you get that opportunity?

While I was in Ottawa I connected with one of the people from CBC I had met at the training I attended in Halifax. He told me about a producer who was working on an African Television show. He then gave me his card with a note introducing me to Moses. It was great to find someone in my field who was an African. When Moses learnt that I was hosting a daily talk show in Nigeria, he asked if I would like to host the Planet Africa show, which was to be called African Soundscape? I said yes. The show began to air in September 2002.

Can you briefly walk us through your day?
I usually wake up around 6am. I say my prayers first after which I check my e-mails. I then get my daughter ready for school. I usually arrive at the office between 9am and 10am. Sometimes I go out for meetings or events. There are no two days alike for me. There is always something new.

You are rather good at hosting events as well as the television show. Is this something that you were trained for, or is it just something that you are good at?
When I was in University, my friends and I ran a theatre group called Shalom Theatre. I used to write the plays and narrate them. I think that this is what prepared me for public speaking. I am a shy person but whenever I am in front of a crowd, I feel comfortable. Something takes over. I just love hosting events. I have been blessed with many great opportunities. When the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration was announcing the 1 million dollars funding for the bicentenary of the abolition of the slave trade act, he asked me to host the event, I was also host of a huge fundraising gala organized by Rotary club of Richmond Hill with all kinds of VIPs in attendance. The most humbling was when I was recently asked to be keynote speaker at an induction ceremony for new recruits in the Canadian Forces.

As Managing Editor of Planet Africa Magazine, what does that role entail?
As managing Editor, I shop around for stories and writers. I come up with a theme for each issue. I also provide guidelines for the writers to ensure that they are in line with the vision of the publication. Everything is usually subject to the approval of the Publisher.

What do you like best about that job?
My job is very demanding but fulfilling at the same time. What I like most is the opportunity to make a difference. Most of the images we see of people of African origin in Canada are portraying poverty, crime, war or disease. Planet Africa shows the world the positive side of our community; the great culture that we have, the high achievers and the extraordinary contributions of people of African origin. This is not just limited to the Canadian society but to the world. We have received letters from people who were motivated by our show to go back to college or start a business. This is so gratifying.

Why did you choose the name Planet Africa?
The black community is very diverse. We have people from the African continent, the Caribbean, Brazil, Cuba in the United States, Canada etc. We wanted a name that will not alienate any group. The mission of Planet Africa is to assert that people of African ancestry are one regardless of where they were born or raised on this planet, and to reinforce as well as celebrate their accomplishments with all people of goodwill.

How do you choose who goes on the cover of the Planet Africa Magazine?
We look for people that will inspire the community. Ordinary people, doing extraordinary things. Sometimes we feature people that are making news, at other times we feature people that suit the theme we are working on for a particular issue. Like the issue focused on the bicentenary had Dr. Afua Cooper, a historian, on the cover. Sometimes we get suggestions from the advisory board.

Please tell us about the Planet Africa Awards, for those who may not be aware of them.
The mission of the Planet Africa Awards program is to identify and recognize deserving individuals, organizations, businesses and agencies that make a profound difference in the lives of people of African heritage. This is done by honouring and celebrating their hard work, excellence and professionalism. The Planet Africa Awards enable the mainstream to better appreciate contributions of members of the community to society. The awards are also aimed at forging links among peoples of African origin, including those in Africa, Canada, the United States and the Caribbean. A lot of our young people are not motivated. Each year we sponsor some young people to the event to be inspired by the awarded who are great role models.

Your husband Moses Mawa is the Executive Producer of Planet Africa Television and Publisher of Planet Africa Magazine; in other words, the two of you are in a partnership, which is rare to find. How important would you say it is for spouses to partner up for business projects?
Working with your spouse can be fun yet challenging. To succeed, you have to know who the boss is. You can't have two captains in one boat. Respect is also very important. Two heads are always better than one. Moses and I complement each other. We have learned to work together over the years.

Planet Africa Television is the first current affairs African heritage series of its kind produced in Canada focusing on African success stories, experiences and aspirations. Why is it important for our stories to be told?
It is disheartening that most times when you see a black person on TV it is for something negative. It is either they have committed a crime, or they are fighting a war or in abject poverty. Planet Africa profiles success stories and shares the great people and things regarding our people. Our kids need role models and Planet Africa provides them with the opportunity of seeing these amazing achievers.

Canada is a multicultural country, but it seeing people of African descent is still rare. How challenging was it to set up the television programme?
The main feedback we were getting from the TV networks when we pitched them the program is that our community is not economically viable enough. It has not been an easy journey. We have had to invest a lot of our money to make things work. We have received lot of support from the community, but television is very expensive and time consuming. The show now airs on two networks in Canada; OMNI TV and Channel M as well as on BEN TV in the UK. We look forward to better days ahead.

You link people of African descent all over the world, with Canada being your base. What are the stereotypes that you have to deal with?
We have had to deal with a lot of stereotypes. As a black person, you always have to prove yourself. You are expected to fail. When you succeed in anything, people are surprised. There is also the notion that we cannot work together because of greed. I have personally seen a lot of people working together to achieve great results.

And what is your greatest success story?
The story that has inspired me the most is the story of Dr Kwesi Bafooe. He was a dentist when misfortune struck him with blindness. Because it is impossible to practice dentistry while blind, he decided to study law. He performed so well that he got the prestigious Fulbright scholarship. This is a story that portrays the strength of the human spirit. Like they say, "when life hands you a lemon make lemonade out of it."

Have you had any great mentors along the way?
I admire Nelson Mandela, Oprah Winfrey, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and many others.

How do you balance motherhood with all of your projects?
I have learned that the most precious time you have is now. I make sure that I spend quality time with my daughter whenever I can. I have also learned to multi-task and manage my time well.

Patricia Bebia-Mawa
Patricia Bebia-Mawa.

What is an entrepreneur to you?
A good entrepreneur has to have great leadership skills. He must be self confident, organized and able to face challenges.

What do you think of our initiative to celebrate African women through the African women Week project?
This is the best time to be a woman with Ellen Johnson as president and many other women assuming positions of authority around the world. Someone once said women's rights are human rights. It is great to celebrate women and the contributions to society. This should be a time to also reflect on some of the injustices that women still face in some parts of the world.

How often do you travel to Africa?
I do not travel as often as I would love to but I am planning some exciting trips for the near future.

Have you ever been to Uganda?
Not yet but I plan to visit my very soon. I can't wait to meet my in-laws. A few of them came for my wedding and I have spoken to a lot of them.

Who are the top five people you'd like to meet?
Oprah Winfrey, Nelson Mandela, Barack Obama, Miriam Makeba, and Sidney Poitier.

What are your five favorite books?
Kingdom Principles by Myles Monroe, Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama, Your Best Life Now by Joel Osteen, Tough Times Never Last But Tough People Do by Shamback, Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe.

What is next for you?
Someone once said if what you are proudest of is what you did yesterday, you have not done much today. I have a lot of exiting projects ahead; A TV station, a radio station, a mentorship program and whatever else God might lead us to.

Do you have any words of advice?
My advice to everyone is do not despise your days of little beginnings. Give everything your best, even if it is not the best you would like to do at the time. My big breakthroughs in life have always come from doing small things well. Find time to enjoy life. Do not wait to make it big, or get that deal, or get married, or buy a big house. Today is the tomorrow you were looking forward to yesterday. Think positive and make sure you do not hold any evil against anyone.

For more information on Patricia Bebia-Mawa or Planet Africa, please go to www.planetafrica.net.

By Jane Musoke-Nteyafas
more from author >>
First published: July 30, 2008

Jane Musoke-Nteyafas, poet/author/artist and playwright, was born in Moscow, Russia and currently resides in Toronto, Canada. She is the daughter of retired diplomats. By the time she was 19, she spoke French, English, Spanish, Danish, Luganda, some Russian and had lived in Russia, Uganda, France, Denmark, Cuba and Canada.

Jane won the Miss Africanada beauty pageant 2000 in Toronto where she was also named one of the new voices of Africa after reciting one of her poems. In 2004, she was published in T-Dot Griots-An Anthology of Toronto's Black storytellers and in February 2005, her art piece Namyenya was featured as the poster piece for the Human Rights through Art-Black History Month Exhibit.

She is the recipient of numerous awards for her poetry, art and playwriting including the 2007 Planet Africa Rising Star Award and the 2008 African Canadian Women Achievement Award. Her first book Butterflies of the Nile was published in May 2008. Please visit her website at www.nteyafas.com.