Despite the effects of COVID-19, Africa’s young creative industries remain ripe for investment opportunities. African music, film, and fashion continue to gain global popularity, with companies like Netflix and Universal Music Group expanding their presence on the continent.
After years of trying to sell Western music in Africa, global music labels are now looking to Africa for talent a shift that was apparent in Billboard magazine’s May 2020 cover story, which featured three of Nigeria’s biggest stars: Davido, Tiwa Savage, and Mr. Eazi. In the past few years, global audiences have become increasingly familiarized with African musicians.
It’s the rise of social media and digital streaming that has altered the musical landscape. While physical distribution in limited markets caused long delays in the past, African artists can now quickly build global fan bases—and connect instantly with followers around the world.
In some ways, the pandemic has pushed these trends forward. One of the silver linings of COVID-19 is that national lockdowns and international travel bans have accelerated digitization efforts across African markets. Africa’s creative industries have reaped the benefits since digitization democratizes content creation and breaks down geographic barriers to collaboration and distribution.
Nigeria alone has about 97.5 million unique mobile subscribers nearly half of the country’s population. Even Ghana, a smaller market, has about 16.7 million unique mobile subscribers about 55 percent of the population, and about 10.7 million mobile Internet users. Nollywood, Nigeria’s film industry, accounted for $7.2 billion (or 1.42 percent) of Nigeria’s gross domestic product as of 2016.
In South Africa, creative and cultural industries contribute about 3.1 percent of the country’s GDP and account for 3.6 percent of employment. The local music industry is expected to generate 2.9 billion rands (about $178 million) in 2020. In Kenya, annual growth rates in digital music and gaming are estimated to be well over 10 percent.
With strong people-to-people and culture-to-culture ties, the creative industries can serve as a strategic sector for American soft power. The United States should actively seek to maintain influence in African markets.