Unlocking Potential of Afrobeats for Long Term Growth

Unlocking Potential of Afrobeats for Long Term Growth

Bada Akintunde-Johnson writes that to unlock the potentials of Afrobeats in order to build Nigeria’s economy, there is need to engage stakeholders’ participation for long term growth 

Afrobeats, initially confined to the shores of Africa, has become one of the most pervasive and popular music genres worldwide in the last decade. The electrifying melodies of the genre have transcended the shores of our continent and have become an everyday staple in the United States, Europe, and even some parts of Asia.

 The growth of Afrobeats has undoubtedly been impressive, but there are massive questions around and about its sustainability and longevity. Currently, the music industry is plagued with issues ranging from a lack of critical policies and enforcement to a lack of government support, infrastructural challenges and behavioural trends or cultural baggage. Paramount Africa and MTV Base hosted a panel session at the recently concluded AfricaNXT Conference to address these challenges and proffer solutions. 

At the conference, I joined other panellists, including Chinwe Greg-Egu, Senior Brand Manager, Heineken; Dr Seun Fakorede, Hon. Commissioner of Youth and Sports, Oyo State; Oyinkansola ‘Foza’ Fawehinmi, President, Digital Music Commerce and Engagement Limited; and Ilooise Omohinmin, Moderator and MTV Base Culture Squad member, to properly unpack the issues whilst taking a deep dive into the evolution and growth of our music industry in the past decade. 

Government Policies and Infrastructure 

Amongst the challenges identified is the current need for governmental support in terms of incentives, policies, and infrastructure that will guarantee the industry’s sustained growth. In the last decade, industry players have waded through the menace of piracy, recurring incidences of insecurity, and an absence of infrastructure that makes touring within the country, for instance— one of the significant revenue streams for artists globally—almost impossible. 

Nigeria lacks the art-and-entertainment-fostering infrastructures present in more advanced societies — mainly due to the absence of incentives that serves to encourage private stakeholders to make substantial investments needed to elevate and sustain the upward trajectory of the industry. For instance, the Nigerian entertainment industry suffers from a shortage of concert venues. To solve this problem, it is expedient that the government catalyses development in the sector through incentives — such as tax holidays and tax cuts — that will stimulate private sector investment, setting the stage for landmark public-private partnerships to address the infrastructural challenges. 

Dr Fakorede explained that private sector stakeholders have a crucial role in drawing the government’s attention to policies that must be implemented. Therefore, there is a need to engage government representatives to inform them of what needs to be addressed. I think the missing piece here is having lobbyists who constantly and consistently engage the government on the critical interests of the whole entertainment ecosystem. 

Lack of Disposable Income and economic challenges 

A huge problem militating against the music industry’s growth is the absence of decent disposable income, which hampers the consumer’s ability to purchase entertainment products. All over the world, the concept of disposable income speaks to what is left in the pocket or bank accounts after expenditures have been catered to. In Nigeria, there is a lot of pressure on the disposable income of the average citizen, which significantly handicaps people’s ability to spend on what they want — including concert tickets. A standard concert ticket at major venues like the Maddison Square Garden in New York costs about $300, significantly higher than the average price for a concert ticket in Nigeria. Music audiences in America can mostly pay about this sum or even more for music experiences but in Nigeria, that sum is about three times the value of the minimum wage. Most members of the addressable market for entertainment in Nigeria are excluded from participating by unfavourable economics. This, added to a dismal concert culture, particularly outside festive seasons, makes the picture even more unpleasant. Often, concert organisers have had to delay shows for several hours to allow more time to reach the capacity crowd — a strategy that has proven not to be effective and are almost entirely dependent on ever-shrinking brand budgets because they really cannot project to drive any meaningful revenues by selling tickets. 

The State of Insecurity 

Beyond fostering private-sector engagement in the Afrobeats industry, the government— as Dr Fakorede pointed out — must actively develop plans and strategies towards combating and significantly reducing Nigeria’s insecurity scourge. 

In 2022, Nigeria was ranked 143 out of 163 independent nations and territories on the Global Peace Index. On a granular level, the report shows that the country experienced more unrest that led to multiple incidences of deaths and abductions across the country — about 3,478 deaths and 2,256 cases between December 2021 to June 15, 2022, according to the report. With these frightening insecurity levels, Nigerian artistes can’t effectively engage with their fanbases nationwide. For instance, Nigeria’s top artistes such as Burna Boy, Davido, Wizkid, Tems and Arya Starr cannot host shows in many parts of Northern Nigeria due to the raging insecurity. The logistical requirements for forestalling security breaches at such shows would be too expensive, making it economically unviable for any brand or artiste to undertake. Therefore, the government needs to address the security challenges at the federal and state levels to ensure the safety of lives and properties, making it safe for artistes to connect with their fanbase across the country, monetise their craft effectively and optimally, hire and engage more local talent across allied disciplines and ultimately make healthy contributions to the GDP of the country. 

Leveraging experience and education. 

One strategic way to do this is to actively create opportunities and uncover more possibilities for young people in the entertainment industry — like Paramount Africa has always done. In the last two decades, Paramount Africa has launched several initiatives and platforms that have served to give the industry a boost, like the MTV making the video initiative which facilitated the training of Nigerian music video directors by top quality professionals from abroad and the MTV Africa Music Awards (MAMAs)which gave birth to real opportunities for African artistes to collaborate with other artistes from elsewhere on the continent as well as with international and global superstars. 

Oyinkansola’ Foza’ Fawehinmi applauded the initiatives and efforts of Paramount and other private stakeholders that have ensured our music continues to grow and break new grounds. According to her, these platforms are crucial for growth and sustainability. 

As for Chinwe Greg-Egu, experience, which is the ability to look back on past mistakes and the mistakes of those who have gone ahead, has been crucial to the growth of our music. Today, budding Afrobeats music artistes are leveraging years of experience garnered by those who have gone ahead, thereby increasing their chances at success. This experience factor, at needed points, has been leveraged by all stakeholders as we keep improving by learning and applying the knowledge from the past. Closely added to Chinwe’s point would be the need for every practitioner to continue to raise their game on an individual level to match global best practices. There is always tremendous value in training and retraining talent across different areas so that their work matches and conforms with global best practices. 

Across board, the only chance we have to ensure that the attention and patronage our music is currently enjoying across the world doesn’t pass or fade after a while, is for all stakeholders to begin to engage on how to collaboratively build structures and systems that are critical for sustainability and scalability of this entertainment gold mine. We must all play our respective roles in ensuring that our music industry delivers on its undoubted potential and that it becomes the country’s biggest employer of labour as well as become the sector of our economy with the most significant contribution to the country’s GDP annually, even as we continue to consistently deliver chart-topping world-class music and other entertainment products to both local and global audiences. 

 * Akintunde-Johnson is Country Manager, Paramount Africa.

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