Ghost of Fela Kuti

Nigeria's burgeoning music industry

Nigeria's music industry is the biggest in Africa, but is it capable of exporting its brand abroad?

Television and radio presenter Malvina Longpet (C) takes a selfie next to presenter Dimitri Ladoski (L) and musician Ade Bantu before shooting a weekly show covering the music industry on Fuze TV in the Victoria Island district of Lagos, Nigeria, May 24, 2016. REUTERS/Joe Penney

Hosting an estimated population of 22 million people, the largest city in Africa has long been defined by frenetic activity. And it is among Lagos’ busy streets that some of Africa’s most talented musicians are found.

Music is not only a vital part of our lives; it is also a huge business that is a crucial element of global tourism and which can contribute billions of dollars to a country’s economy.

Nigeria has what it takes to capitalize on its music industry—unrivaled talent, a strong music culture, a population three times that of the UK, one of the largest diasporas in the world, and a favorable geographical position to attract millions of tourists from fellow West African countries and beyond.

The potential of Nigeria’s music industry was confirmed by multinational professional services firm Pricewaterhouse Coopers’ (PwC) 2016 report, which estimated that the Nigerian music industry was worth USD40 million in 2011 and had grown to USD47 million by 2015.

In 2020 this figure is expected to explode to USD86 million, nearly double the 2015 value.

Unfortunately, however, according to Emmanuel Akapo, President of Tenstrings Musical Institute, Nigeria loses over USD5 billion “for its inability to harness, organize and synchronize the musical tourism potentialities within the economic rhythm of the nation.”

But Nigeria is heading in the right direction, and festivals hold the key to the development of a country’s music tourism.

2017 marked the 20th anniversary since the death of “The King of Afrobeat” and activist Fela Kuti. The New Afrika Shrine, which replaced the old Shrine created by the artist in 1970, every year holds Felabration.

Felabration is a one-week music festival with live performances from the country’s most internationally acclaimed musicians, including Wizkid, also known by his nickname Starboy.

The festival has become a recognized music tourism event, attracting thousands of music fans from all over the world, and the 2017 edition also saw the involvement of Lagos State Government, indicating the commitment of the local authorities to transforming Lagos into the entertainment capital of Africa.

Barely a month after Felabration, Lagos was the stage of another major event, in fact one of the continent’s biggest music events.

The All Africa Music Awards (AFRIMA) have been held in Nigeria’s cultural capital since the event’s inception in 2014. Alhaji Lai Mohammed, Nigeria’s Minister of Information and Culture, has said that hosting events such as AFRIMA was another way of generating income for the government because of the tourism factor, which could bring more earnings.

As Nigeria is focusing more on escaping from oil and gas dependence, finding alternative ways to generate new revenue streams is becoming crucial.

It should seriously consider making a business out of its huge musical culture.

More awareness is raised each year about Felabration, AFRIMA, and other events, leading an increasing number of Afrobeat fans from across the globe to flow into the country.

If the government and the music industry partner more closely, leveraging the country’s year-round pleasant climate and vibrant cultural life, Nigeria could become a major musical tourism destination.

In addition to bringing millions of dollars into its economy, the country’s image would be considerably improved.