Name: Obi Asika
Profession: Serial entrepreneur working across media, entertainment, sports, social media, music, and mobile, to bring African content to global audiences
One Word That Describes You : Global African
What does being one of the BEMM 100 Ambassador mean to you?
This came as a huge surprise, but it’s an enormous honor. I had a look through many of the other ambassadors, and I am in very good company. Thanks to BEMM for the acknowledgement. This sort of thing can only inspire us to do more.
What are you doing as an Ambassador to help support black male achievement now or in the future?
I think the power of example is critical; that we can succeed. For me, this is also about convergence, about bridging those real and invisible gaps between us in Africa and our brothers in the diaspora. It sounds corny when I say it, but the truth is, together we are pretty much unstoppable. However, we all need to get on the same page.
What are some examples of how you turned struggle into success?
I have always been a pioneer. Today the urban African music scene is exploding globally. However, I recall a decade ago the stress and struggle to get anybody in Nigeria to take these talents seriously; not to talk about where we are now as the dominant player on the continent, in terms of our content out of Nigeria. All the best stories seem like overnight successes, but experienced people know all success boils down to hard work, luck, and timing. It has been my abiding privilege to be involved with the explosion of the Nigerian music and entertainment scene and to watch it go global. There is so much more to come. I can’t wait until all our people everywhere are rocking our music, fashion, comedy, food, and more.
What is an important quality you look for in your relationships with others?
The most important qualities are to see if there is a commonality of philosophy, especially of values, of integrity, work, and focus. When all of those qualities collide with hard work and creative talent, then the work feels like play. That is what I always look for; those people who make the work feel like play, but know how to execute.
What are some immediate projects you are working on?
I am working on a number of projects. I am excited to be working with Roc Nation on some exciting convergence projects in that space. I am also working with a new initiative called Afec to see how we can promote co-ventures between African filmmakers and Hollywood to bring more content to the global box office. We have a billion untold stories on the continent, and in this new media age, we have the platforms to deploy and deliver our narratives to a global audience.
Also, of course, with my partner Ngozi Odita at Society Have, we produce Social Media Week Lagos—next year will make it five years. We have achieved well over one billion mentions in social, over 750 speakers, and have broken all kinds of attendance records. Also, we deliver the number one event globally where black people are leading the discovery and discussion of social media and technology and how that nexus is impacting our daily lives. The franchise is global and was birthed out of New York. Our data and numbers not only show the incredible connectedness of this era, but also the innovation, talent, leaders, and power that our young people are developing. Each and every year, the attendants and speakers continue to astound and amaze me. It’s been a huge privilege to be involved with nurturing this important platform.
What is the best advice you ever received?
I have been privileged to have had some solid advice all my life from both my parents, now deceased, and from a full retinue of family and friends who keep you grounded. I think being nice to people, having humility, and being gracious are very important life skills, and they don’t cost you anything. Good manners will always lead to good business. Of course, you must have substance and make sense, but that first impression is critical. For men, being a gentleman at all times in all situations is always a good thing.
What is some advice you have for other men who want to make a difference?
I think the most important thing to say is, “Don’t talk about it— be about it.” The world is full of talkers; be one of the doers. Even in the worst case scenario, nobody will ever say you did not make an effort. I prefer to try and try, and if I lose or fail, I get up and try again.
How do you prep for an important business meeting and/or event?
The most important thing to me is to be calm, to try to be prepared, and to have a clear strategy in my mind about what the meeting is for, what the issues are, and what a successful outcome would mean for me. It’s also important to be attentive. Many times in an important meeting, an unexpected opportunity comes to the forefront.
As a busy Modern Man, how do you unwind on vacation?
Now this is time for a true confession: I hardly ever go on vacation. My wife will testify to this; when we do go on vacation, I just want to sleep. However, I am getting better and will do better. Balance is critical. One has to find a way to disconnect and recharge. I’m a huge sports fan, especially soccer, so that is one of my best distractions.
If you could travel and stay anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
I am privileged to have been to a lot of places; for me, nowhere is better than home. I’m happy to live in Lagos. However, in terms of travel, I’m a big fan of the beauty of Cape Town, South Africa. I love the attitude and energy of New York, and I grew up in London. I think, like most of my people, we are global citizens and are at home wherever you find us.
Anything else you’d like to say?
I just think it’s important that your audience stays engaged with Africa. There is so much positive work being done that’s coming out of the continent; the innovation, the content, the talent, the creativity, and the human capacity. I strongly believe that we are on the cusp of major global breakthroughs for African content, creatives, fashion, music, movies, comedy, and more. When I was a kid growing up in the U.K., it was rare to see any positive black role models in the public eye. I do believe that the new world we live in has changed all of that with our access to social media, the Internet, and mobile. Access is now available to all— so don’t be disconnected. We are global and local, and we are all Africans. I strongly believe that if we as Africans partner with our brothers and sisters in the diaspora, we can mine a whole slew of new content and projects, which will create global products that drive jobs, income, and grow wealth. The time is now, and it has gone way past the stage of potential.
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