From its humble beginnings in the 1960s, Afrobeats has become a global phenomenon, with artists like Wizkid, Davido, and Burna Boy dominating charts and selling out arenas worldwide. This success has brought excitement and hope to many Africans, signalling the potential of the continent’s entertainment industry to attract investment and development.
However, as Afrobeats continues to gain global recognition, there is a growing concern that it may be taking away resources and opportunities from local markets. Nigerian artists, in particular, are increasingly embarking on international tours, leaving the local show business quandary.
This dilemma was evident at the 2023 Headies, arguably Africa’s biggest music award show, held in Atlanta, USA, for the second year. While the organizer, Ayo Animashaun, claimed this was a cost-effective choice, hosting such a significant event outside the continent deprives the local show business and economy of benefits like ticket sales, advertising revenue, catering services, and security contracts. Additionally, it disconnects the local audience from the opportunity to witness and celebrate their favourite artists in person.
The African entertainment industry is a substantial economic force, generating revenue of $14.5 billion in 2021 and employing about one million people. It can elevate Nigeria’s international reputation, attract foreign investment, and bolster tourism.
However, as Afrobeats goes global, there is a risk of losing its cultural identity and diversity. Caribbean music is a cautionary tale, as it was commodified and diluted by foreign entertainment companies over the years. A global boom can also leave room for appropriation of African culture without proper credit or compensation.
The entertainment industry needs to find a way to balance its global appeal with its local relevance. This is a complex challenge, but ensuring the sustainability and growth of the industry within the continent is essential.
Here are some suggestions for how to achieve this balance:
Invest in local infrastructure: Poor infrastructure and insecurity make it difficult and expensive for Afrobeats artists to tour within Nigeria. Investing in these areas would make it more feasible for artists to perform for their home fans and support the local show business.
Create more opportunities for local collaborations: International collaborations can be beneficial, but it is essential to ensure that local artists are not left out. Organizers of events and award shows should make a conscious effort to include local artists and to give them a platform to showcase their talent.
Promote African culture and identity: The entertainment industry can promote African culture and identity to the world. This can be done through music, movies, and other forms of creative expression. It is important to tell stories that reflect Africa’s rich and diverse cultures.
Protect intellectual property: African artists must be protected from exploitation and appropriation. This can be done by strengthening intellectual property laws and by educating artists about their rights.
By taking these steps, the African entertainment industry can ensure that it continues to grow and thrive, while also remaining true to its roots.