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ASF partners with the Ooni of Ife, Swedish Embassy Nigeria, ViacomCBS Africa, The YD Company for the WIFTI Summit 2022 in Nigeria

L-R – Bada Akintunde-Johnson (Country Manager, ViacomCBS Networks Africa), Inya Lawal (Secretary, WIFTI), Carl Michael (Swedish Ambassador to Nigeria), HRM Ogunwusi Adeyeye Enitan (the 51st Ooni of Ife), Helene Granqvist (WIFTI President), Nicole Ackermann (President, WIFTI German Chapter), Yetty Ogunnubi ( CEO, The YD Company).

In anticipation of the Women in Film and TV International (WIFTI) Summit set to take place in Africa for the first time, WIFTI has appointed Ascend Studios Foundation (ASF) as the implementing partner for the WIFTI Summit 2022.

Ascend Studios Foundation led by Inya Lawal is working closely with WIFTI led by Helene Granqvist, Women in Film and TV Africa (WIFTA), Forum of Women in Film and TV (FWIFT) led by Joke Silva to build alliances and partnerships with local and international organizations.

Ascend Studios Foundation (ASF) has announced its partnership with His Imperial Majesty the Ooni of Ife, the Swedish Embassy in Nigeria, VIACOM CBS Africa, The YD Company as some of the organizations supporting the Summit to its maximum potential.

The summit is a bi-annual event that provides women an enabling environment, access to film and TV funds, reduces gender stifling barriers, and positions women in places of power within the entertainment industry.

Themed “Telling Unique Stories with Film, Music, and Dance”, this summit aims to incorporate the aspects of film, music, and dance to advance the funding, creation, and distribution of stories that reflect the thriving, socially aware film culture around the world. To achieve this, various multicultural diversity in film, music, and dance will be established to serve reflection of various cultures of arts, stories, and values.

The Summit will train thousands of creatives, have a significant international presence, and host attendees, partners, and film offices from all over the world. The Summit will also feature an incredible line-up of A-list Film/TV Actors, Musicians, Dance players, as well as International and Local organizations interested in the creative economy.

As a part of the event, there will be networking and facilitated training sessions, both in-person and virtually, by industry experts with significant aspects of the industry to learn, while also introducing new trends, strategic thinking, and business models to drive the ever-evolving entertainment industry.

Speaking at the Courtesy Visit held at the palace of the 51st Ooni of Ife, the Secretary of WIFTI, Inya Lawal, commented on the significance of these partnerships. “It is such an honor to have His Excellency – the Swedish Ambassador to Nigeria, as well as other executive members of WIFTI from Germany and Swede; the Country Manager for VIACOMCBS Africa and the CEO of the YD Company at today’s Courtesy Visit to His Imperial Majesty – The Ooni of Ife. Having this summit in Nigeria is truly reflective of the grace Africa carries and the potential that is yet untapped. I look forward to attendees from all over the world experiencing the beauty and richness of our culture in person, and fostering business relationships” she stated.

In addition, the 51st Ooni of Ife, the imperial majesty Ogunwusi Adeyeye Enitan, expressed his support for causes related to women empowerment, especially Nigerian women. He went ahead to thank the WIFTI Summit team for bringing this event to Nigeria.

Bada Akintunde Johnson, the Country Manager for VIACOMCBS Africa, emphasized the need to tell untold African stories highlighting that VIACOMCBS Africa over the last 16 years on the continent has stood strongly for empowering young Africans and amplifying their amazing stories to the rest of the world through their channels like MtvBase and BET as well as the MTV Africa Music Awards. Partnering with WIFTI is another way to demonstrate our belief in crafting and sharing a positive African narrative to the world through the exploits of women in film and television.

Carl Michael, the Swedish Ambassador to Nigeria, while highlighting the Swedish government’s commitment to this initiative, he explained that the government is always interested in women’s empowerment programs and WIFTI is the right platform for the cause, being a major organization. He also added “Economically, countries struggled with the pandemic and lots of women lost their businesses. This is a great opportunity for those in Nollywood to solve some logistics concerns while they journey through the path of recovery from the pandemic economically.”

The President of WIFTI, Helene Granqvist thanked the Ooni of Ife for the warm reception and partnership opportunity to promote film and TV in Nigeria. She added, “At WIFTI, we have three important pillars Connection – to connect all members; Knowledge – to share knowledge, experiences, and industry information; and Visibility – to be seen and acknowledged. The start of the Forum of Women In Film and Television in Nigeria is great and very symbolic for carrying out this vision to the rest of the world.”

Giving the final note at the courtesy visit, Nicole Ackermann, President, the German chapter of WIFTI, revealed “we are building the bridge from Germany to Nigeria where you can share your story about the rich culture and heritage in Nigeria and Africa. So, we are building this bridge to bring everyone together through the vision of WIFTI”.

For more information on sponsorship, partnerships send an email to info@ascendstudiosfoundation.org


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The U.S Consulate, Ascend Studios Foundation Graduate 2020/2021 AWE Participants

Drawing from a pool of over 15,000 plus applicants from women-owned SMEs across Nigeria, 200 women entrepreneurs and 50 special participants have graduated from the 3rd cohort of the Academy for Women Entrepreneurs (AWE), a U.S. government initiative that supports women entrepreneurs around the world.

The program has been designed as access for Nigerian women entrepreneurs to gain university-level business and management training, strengthen their networks, and grow sustainable businesses.

Working with a local partner, Ascend Studios Foundation, founded by Inya Lawal, an alumna of the Fortune-U.S. Department of State Global Women’s Mentoring Partnership program, the U.S. Consulate has successfully supported the training of 470 women entrepreneurs *since 2019* through the AWE program to date with plans for future cohorts.

As part of the goals of the AWE program to support the comprehensive rehabilitation and reintegration of returned migrants, 50 returned migrants from Libya, Italy, Lebanon, Saudi with an entry-level educational background and business skills were also selected to participate.

During the intensive 4 months of the program, training sessions were facilitated by industry experts and mentors. The participants were also privileged to learn through to DreamBuilder, a blended business training course developed through a partnership between Arizona State University’s Thunderbird School of Global Management and global copper mining company Freeport-McMoRan. There are 13 courses, and they are all core business courses. The platform teaches everything related to business from finance to management, to marketing.

On the final days of the program, participants were camped at the Ife Grand Resorts & Leisure, Ile-Ife, where they experienced a series of activities including networking sessions, debates, pitch competition, product showcase, mentoring sessions, and a celebratory dinner.

Speaking at the graduation ceremony, The U.S Ambassador to Nigeria, Mary Beth Leonard expressed her pride in the women’s dedication and hard work to strive to be outstanding in their businesses. She further revealed that the 2022 call for applications is in the works and encourages the graduates to spread the word and potentially become mentors for the cohorts to come.

Mary Beth Leonard, The US Ambassador to Nigeria

To wrap up the in-person program and graduation, Inya Lawal, President of Ascend Studios Foundation said that women entrepreneurs rank low in financial management despite their hard work and resilience. She also noted that some of the growth opportunities that the participants had discovered during the program, would still require adequate funding.

To address this, she called for more financial training for women entrepreneurs, especially in financial management. “I think it is very important to train women in that aspect. It is not all about giving them money, it is about teaching them how to sustain the money they have been given as well. The two have to go side by side,” she averred. She added that the Lagos State Empowerment Trust Fund is supporting Lagos Based participants with funding.

Inya Lawal, President, Ascend Studios Foundation

She expressed her utmost joy to have been able to host the women at the graduation ceremony which was put on hold last year due to pandemic restrictions. She thanked the US Consulate for their partnership, as well as all speakers, facilitators, and mentors – Joke Silva, Yemisi Ransome Kuti, Bada Akintunde-Johnson, Emmanuel Tarfa, Naomi Osemedua, Sola Owonikoko, Yetty Ogunnubi, Adebisi Odeleye, and all others who made the journey to celebrate with the women.

Participants who graduate from the AWE program become a part of the U.S. government exchange alumni community, providing access to a vast network of like-minded and highly regarded professionals across the world.

Participants got support from Yamaha during the AWE pitch competition where they shared their business projections and pitches. The winner, Pamela Odan of Krylbry Spices was awarded 2 dispatch bikes, 2 dispatch boxes, and 2 helmets while Adaora Akojuru of Bera Tomato who was the first runner up went home with 1 dispatch bike, 1 dispatch box, 1 helmet, cycle oil, servicing contact for 6 months and Esther Abumchukwu Mgbemeje, the second runner up received 1 dispatch bike, 1 dispatch box, and 1 helmet.


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U.S. Consulate Announces Application for 2021 Academy for Women Entrepreneurs (AWE)

Lagos — The U.S. Consulate General in Lagos and Ascend Studios Foundation have partnered to implement the 2021 Academy for Women Entrepreneurs (AWE), a U.S. Government initiative that supports women entrepreneurs around the world, now in its third year.

200 participants will be selected from the 17 states of southern Nigeria for the 2021 cohort. To support the comprehensive rehabilitation and reintegration of returned migrants, 50 female returnees will also take part in the program. As part of this highly competitive entrepreneurship program, participants who graduate from the AWE gain automatic membership to the U.S. government exchange alumni community, providing access to a vast network of like-minded and highly regarded professionals across the country.

Women’s meaningful economic participation is integral to achieving greater security and stability around the world. The AWE initiative is a great opportunity for Nigerian women entrepreneurs to gain university-level business and management training, strengthen their networks, and grow sustainable businesses.

Women have a key role to play in Nigeria’s future prosperity,” U.S. Consulate Public Affairs Officer Stephen Ibelli said. “As we have seen time and time again when women do better, countries do better, communities do better, and families do better.”

Leading local business leaders will help facilitate the intensive program scheduled to run from July to September 2021. In addition, participants will receive access to DreamBuilder, a blended business training course developed through a partnership between Arizona State University’s Thunderbird School of Global Management and global copper mining company Freeport-McMoRan.

Chief Executive Officer of Ascend Studios Foundation, Ms. Inya Lawal, said “We are delighted that the U.S. Consulate General in Lagos has partnered with us to implement this program, the largest yet. AWE is a transformative initiative that is helping women in Nigeria build and sustain their businesses; the opportunities that come from this program are immense.”

Female entrepreneurs interested in participating in the AWE program can apply at no cost by filling out the application form via https://bit.ly/applyawe2021.


The application portal is now open and closes on July 15, 2021.