Yolisa Phahle, M-Net CEO

The first thing I do in the morning is…

Check my phone (sadly).

Tell us about your childhood…

I grew up in South London and it was a boring non-descript part of suburbia. Our only claim to fame was that David Bowie came from close by. I always had big dreams and luckily my parents encouraged them.

What is your earliest TV memory?

This year marks 30 years since M-Net became Africa’s first pay view channel, we talk to its Chief Executive Officer, Yolisa Phahle.

I remember the first series of Roots and all the BBC kids’ shows.

What does being the CEO of M-Net mean to you?

My role as CEO of M-Net is about shaping the future of local storytelling and ensuring that we add value to people’s lives. A great story can inspire, inform, and entertain. And by building and contributing to our local industry we create jobs, build careers and contribute to our country and continent. M-Net is an African company that has succeeded through hard work, innovation, creativity and customer centricity.\

What is your favourite television show of all time?

That is a hard question, recently I was blown away by the HBO series, The Night Of. I was addicted to soapies like Coronation Street and East Enders, and would highly recommend Nordic dramas like The Bridge.

African television audiences are…

Looking for stories made in Africa for Africans by Africans. Our audiences also want great entertainment, which they can access on multiplatform channels, and we work hard to give them the best world-class entertainment.

What makes Africa such an exciting continent…

Is the fact that there are so many incredible stories that have yet to be told and vast new ways to share them. Over the next 30 years M-Net will continue to tell more stories in more languages and make them accessible to more people.

Being a leader and a woman in business has taught me that…

It is still not easy for many women to climb the corporate ladder despite the emphasis on women empowerment. As CEO I strive to ensure that hard-working and passionate women are represented across our business and given the necessary skills and support to excel. We have many women in leadership positions, in South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya.

Why is it important to invest in local content?

Now more than ever, viewers want stories that reflect their reality, and we work hard to make sure the stories we tell [in 10 African languages] resonate with our audiences across the continent. This is evident in our success with Mzansi Magic, kykNET, Africa Magic, Maisha Magic and Zambezi Magic. We celebrate diversity and are committed to investing in local talent.

How do you relax?

I find it hard to relax. I thrive on being busy but I do watch TV in bed for hours. I’m fascinated by people who give up life in the fast lane and head off to remote places to live off the grid. I’m also addicted to the Internet, watching stuff on my laptop and cooking for my family. My ultimate indulgence is eating chocolate in a hot bath.

What would people be surprised to know about you?

I can’t wait to be a grandmother (I have two sons).

What did growing up between London and South Africa teach you about yourself?

I never really felt 100% like I belonged anywhere. Although it wasn’t always easy, it made me want to try hard to show that I had something to contribute. On the other hand, growing up in the UK meant access to great schools and healthcare. Living in SA today feels great. Our country has achieved a lot in a short time but there is still much more we need to do to realise our full potential.

When I’m not working I like to…

Eat out with my husband, keep in touch with my friends in London and chat to my sons.

Your favourite TV character of all time?

Coco from Fame and Niles from Frasier.