One of the few forward-looking sectors in Africa today, absorbing the continent’s darker and unjust realities in the shadows are its creative and entertainment sectors which have helped bolstered incredible levels of growth over the past couple of years. Like a handful of other industries present, the creative economy is still in the growth phase, slowly wielding a strong infrastructure capable of handling the thrust into the future.
More governments are starting to acknowledge the relevance of these informal sectors gradually opening doors for their inclusion in national economic and development plans. On top of improved financial backgrounds, Africa’s expanding digital economy positions the creative industries for success, particularly amongst its growing young and urban populations. More foundational basic and digital infrastructure needs to be put in place to support Africa’s dreamers so their dreams can take shape.
Music, film, fashion, art, and sub-industries like gaming are particularly well-positioned for investments benefit directly from both Africa’s expanding digital economy and consumer post-pandemic.
Facebook, in partnership with China Mobile International, MTN GlobalConnect, Orange and Vodafone, are building a new subsea cable that when activated come 2023-24, will deliver more than the total combined capacity of all subsea cables serving Africa today.
In Nigeria, the film industry has matured from a high quantity, low cost model to one where producers are now able to raise capital to produce films on par with their global peers. Nollywood, accounted for $7.2bn or 1.42 percent of Nigeria’s GDP in 2016, and South Africa’s music industry is estimated to hit $178m in revenue in 2020. In 2019, only 1.1% or $22M of total African start-up investment went to entertainment companies. In September 2018, Netflix acquired its first original Nollywood film, Lionheart which premiered at the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival, and this year released its first two original African TV-series (both South African based), ‘Queen Soto’ and ‘Blood and Water’.
Emerging markets are fuelling the 13.3% year-over-year growth as a result of the popularity of mobile gaming, low cost to play, and a simpler development process than many console games. Prior to the pandemic, PwC predicted Africa’s two largest gaming markets, South Africa and Nigeria would grow 13.2% and 22.9% respectively.
Africa’s data costs have gradually been decreasing, allowing creatives to connect themselves with their audience through streaming platforms, NFT, social media, and many more. Africa’s creative industries have the potential to not only become bounty investments but can also contribute to solving Africa’s job creation and youth unemployment challenges.
We’ve highlighted a few creatives doing exciting work and utilizing the internet as a powerful tool to fuel their ideas.
Richmond Ekow Barnes
Fashion writer, model and creative producer, Richmond Ekow Barnes has been one of the most exciting young creatives out of Ghana. Ekow Barnes specializes in fashion writing and producing content for brands and platforms interested in engaging with the African youth. His portfolio boasts of a wide range of brands and campaigns, where he served in different operational capacities.
Some of his clients include Mercedez-Benz, Emirates, Uber, Essence, Glamour Magazine, CNN, GQ, Facebook, and many more. He is also one of the most sought-after models from Ghana, being signed to the prestigious 20 Model Management
“My focus is on pushing emerging talents and showing their works to the rest of the world. I love to write and also producing authentic stories.”
He’s had an amazing 2021, the year that cemented him as one of the hottest creatives in West Africa.
At the start of the year, one of West Africa’s biggest record labels Mavin hit the ground running with two new signees; one of them was 19-year-old Oyinkansola Sarah Aderibigbe who many know as Ayra Starr. Born in Cotonou, Ayra Starr began a fashion career at the age of 16 with Quove Model Management before deciding to pursue music. After covering several songs by popular artists on Instagram, she posted her first original song on her page in December 2019. This brought her to the attention of record executive Don Jazzy, and led to her signing to Mavin Records.
The delectable celestial being as she refers to herself is a singer, songwriter, and model who’s made a strong statement following her introduction into the male-dominated industry in just a couple of months. With two mainstream and chart-topping projects with hits, her eponymous debut EP and its lead single “Away” which peaked at number four on Nigeria’s TurnTable Top 50 and number 17 on US Billboard Top Triller Global, has paved the way for the release of her first full-length studio album, 19 & Dangerous in August 2021. Preceded by the single “Bloody Samaritan”, the album has been met with favorable critical reception and newer chart milestones.
Isabel Okoro is a 20-year-old photographer and trailblazer whose projects have fueled conversations and cultural relevance within a relatively short time. Okoro’s work visualizes an imagined world and eternity, as a space to immortalize family, friends and those she meets along the way. Her governing photographic thesis is predicated on the creation of a Black utopia; a world free of the anxiety, violence, and oppression experienced by those of the African diaspora.
Her warm, natural but very intimate images have earned her remarkable features on i-D Magazine, The Face, WePresent by WeTransfer, Nataal Magazine, and Der Greif Magazine. Her growth is undeniably inspiring to watch.
Korty is currently one of the buzziest creatives in the Lagos scene. She credits being a graphic designer, model, artist, filmmaker, and her most recent job as an indie YouTuber. Her storytelling process combines an honest and frank approach to her filming, combined with her engaging shots and use of her natural environment, an unhinged passion, and a relatable personality, Korty has become one of Nigeria’s most sought after Youtubers.
Before making her break into the world of Youtube, she worked at Zikoko as an assistant video producer before going on to work at emPawa Africa as head of content production.
“My goal is just to get people to see that there is a bit of you in everybody, so don’t judge people. In Nigeria, there is so much going on, and for people to pull through and find something that makes them happy and keeps them going is commendable. I really want to try and portray that as much as I can. If I was in the UK, the narrative would be different, but this is my reality, so this is what I am trying to show.”Korty shared in an interview.
You can’t talk about the music scene in Africa right now and not mention BIG TEMS who’s definitely having one of the biggest years since the history of ‘Africa to the world’ breakouts. Tems recently hit the mark as the most-streamed Nigerian artist on Spotify with over 14 million monthly listeners. Being on the hit record with Wizkid that later got a remix with American pop giant Justin Bieber, her appearance on Drake’s new album and her new project which debuted in the top 20 Apple Music charts, it’s obvious TEMS is the next biggest thing from the continent.
Her rich, deep-toned vocals have stood her out in a global music space rife with unending talents. We can’t wait to see what she has in store for the rest of the year as she tours the U.K and the United States.
Ruby Okoro is a promising visual artist who’s been on the rise with each project released throughout the year thus, cementing his name as one to watch out for. The self-taught filmmaker, graphic designer, and photographer first explored his love of vibrant color and grand composition in his painting. He started to take photographs with his Canon 650D resulting in arrangements of closely studied solitary figures in huge red sun-lit skies, black oil seas, or landscapes of natural textures such as sand or giant purple plants.
Ruby’s work is centered around his fascination for the skin of the people he sees around him in the streets of Lagos, who he then transposes to exquisitely composed almost hyper-real scenes. His work becomes a juxtaposition of the ordinary, filled with vibrant colors and textures combined with his eye for composition and editing skills, the resulting work is stunning and almost hyper-real.
The most appealing thing is the ability to exercise my imagination as a multidimensional artist through conceptual, aesthetic and vibrant photography. These images highlight different moods through my lens while remaining composed. This way my audience gets a vivid look and your perception about the obvious transforms. More like an untold story.Ruby describing his approach.
If you’re a big fan of the rap subgenre ‘Drill’ then you definitely know about the ‘Kumerica’, a tag used to describe a new wave of Ghanian rappers from Kumasi using ‘Drill Melodies’ as their own way of connecting and expressing themselves. Thorsten Owusu Gyimah popularly known as Yaw Tog has been the biggest name to blow out of this freshly minted scene. He is best known for his viral song ‘Sore’ which features O`Kenneth, City Boy, Reggie & Jay Bahd, and also Kwesi Arthur and Stormzy on the remix.
Wale is an interesting and exciting culture journalist based in Lagos, Nigeria covering music, youth, and football. His work has appeared on BellaNaija, The Republic, OkayAfrica, Culture Custodian, Red Bull, Guardian UK, Complex, The FACE, and Dazed Digital.
His brilliance comes in his ability to craft narratives with impactful storytelling and nuance for little details that help takes you a little deeper into his stories.
LADDER, LEX & BOOKER is a Lagos-based production company discovering and empowering the next generation of exceptional African filmmakers. The startup is led ed by the trio of brothers. The production house is known for taking on films, videos, ads, and creative projects but with youthful and unorthodox twists that always bring you coming back to their work.
They’ve had an exception last few years with 2021 helping stake their claim as one of the hottest productions houses to work within Lagos.
Buju or Bujutoyourears is a Nigerian Afro-fusion singer, songwriter, and record producer who was formerly signed to Burnaboy’s Spaceship imprint. He has been having a meteoric rise this year with his exceptional run of features and his own single ‘Outside’ which has proven to naysayers that he’s here to stay and can definitely be a star in his own right.
Buju has basically not missed this year, and with his highly acclaimed debut project on the way, we can only look forward to more music from the rising star.
Arinzechukwu Patrick is a writer and visual artist, founder of Random Photo Journal is a public record, a study of the daily lives of people in their natural habitat, a visual explanation of our immediate environment as well as being one of the faces of Ghana’s skate crew Surf Ghana.
His work revolves around the studies of the social ecology of neighborhoods and living conditions, color theory, visual storytelling, and curation focused on African unification through collective memories and unique connections. Based in Ghana and Nigeria, his art reflects a duality of two nations so similar but yet so uniquely different.
Blessing Ewona is a model, skateboarder, and leader of Dencity— a community of skaters across Nigeria creating a safe space for girls and queer people to learn and grow together.
Since April of this year, Dencity — a name inspired by Blessing’s own middle name, Eden — has been holding skate sessions every Saturday in Lagos, Abuja, and Port Harcourt. Dencity sessions happen over at National Stadium–which is home to most skaters, rollerblades, and BMX bikers in Lagos.
Skaters in Abuja meet in a couple of places, but mainly at their own National Stadium, and in Port Harcourt, the girls get together at Uniport Arena on Wednesdays and the Pleasure Park parking lot on Thursdays.
Without much information on him/her/they? Z4 has been one of the most interesting 3D artists taking advantage of the rising interests in NFT with a few of his projects doing well in the NFT space. The work centers on depicting basic human emotions through curated visual journeys.
Cosmas and Nez have become one of the styling, creative, and fashion design team duos to watch. Together under their creative studio ‘headb0rn Studios’ they’ve taken on some of the year’s intriguing projects with their dauntless approach to style and clothing.
They’ve worked on a few projects this year and we can only hope they have more cooking in the vault. The duo also form 2/3 that run fashion brand Pith Africa.