In recent years, Africa has witnessed a remarkable cultural renaissance. From music and fashion to film and visual arts, the continent’s rich and diverse cultural scene is garnering international acclaim and has emerged as a force to be reckoned with, attracting global interest like never before.
The continent’s prolific creative industry will be in the spotlight at this year’s Africa Walk – a gathering of local companies, policy makers and curious foreign investors learning first-hand about the continent.
This year’s Africa Walk will be hosted in Nigeria and Senegal and is set to run from July 24 – 27 in Dakar, and July 28 – 31 in Lagos.
“The creative sector in Africa has witnessed a tremendous boom in recent years, establishing itself as one of the fastest-growing sectors in the global economy,” says Senegalese media personality Lehle Balde, who also shares her expectations for the Africa Walk.
“I am expecting a fusion of cross-cultural exploration and exchange … I expect attendees and investors alike to witness the true potential of our creative sector.”
In its third year running, the annual event provides a unique opportunity for foreign companies and prospective investors seeking to expand their operations in Africa to gain fresh perspectives on the continent. The organizers aim to challenge the negative stereotypes often portrayed in the media, offering a more nuanced and positive view of the continent’s potential for growth and development.
“We found out that their understanding of Africa is limited to the narrative they see on TV,” says Akintoye Akindele, whose firm Platform Capital hosts the event.
“Africa Walk is a way in which we try and tell authentic African stories, but most importantly, letting the global world see Africa through our eyes,” Akindele told CNN.
Themed “Unleashing the potential and value of the African Creative Industry,” the continent’s billion-dollar creative industry will be at the center of conversations at the event, which aims to shine a spotlight on the possibilities and untapped value that the industry holds.
A thriving creative economy
Africa’s creative economy generates billions of dollars in yearly revenue and creates thousands of jobs, but the rapidly growing industry is yet to catch up with some of its global counterparts.
Europe, North America, Asia and the Pacific account for around 93% of an estimated $2.25 trillion generated globally each year by creative industries, as well as 85% of jobs created by the sector, a trade report by the Afreximbank found last year.
Africa and the Middle East “represent about 3 percent of this output, generating about US$58 billion,” the report added, while also saying that the most jobs from creative industries in Africa had come from South Africa, with more than one million people directly employed in the country by the industry, representing nearly 7% of its total workforce.
As an advocate for the continent’s cultural potential, Akindele is passionate about changing misconceptions surrounding the African creative industry at Africa Walk.
“There’s a myth about the creative industry (in Africa) - that it is not structured and that you cannot put money in there,” he said. “We want to debunk this myth by showcasing what is happening here from an investment opportunity, who is doing what, how they are using technology and how they are scaling.”
Nigeria’s Nollywood film industry and West Africa’s Afrobeats music genre are two of Africa’s most successful creative and cultural exports, receiving widespread recognition on the global stage.
Nollywood currently ranks as the world’s second most prolific film industry, producing thousands of movies annually and contributing significantly to Nigeria’s GDP.
In 2017, Nollywood film “The Wedding Party” became the first to exceed the $1.3 million mark after emerging as the highest grossing film at the Nigerian box office. Other blockbusters such as “Omo Ghetto: The Saga” and the recently released “Battle on Buka Street” have surpassed that record.
Similarly, Afrobeats has emerged as one of the most popular music genres worldwide, with artists such as Burna Boy and Wizkid commanding international attention and acclaim, inspiring the Grammys awards to add a category for the genre.
While Nigeria has dominated filmmaking and music production in Africa, other countries are rapidly emerging as creative hubs for art, fashion and tech.
Senegal, which co-hosts this year’s Africa Walk, also hosts one of the biggest art festivals on the continent, drawing thousands of artists, curators and art lovers.
“Africa is awake, and its potential is being harnessed, but there are dimensions,” says Nollywood actor and filmmaker Kunle Remi, who adds that “the cross-collaboration of our respective domains will continue to prove critical in the development of the entertainment economy in Africa.”
‘The new crude oil’
Award-winning Nigerian singer D’banj tells CNN that with better investments, content creation by African creatives has the potential to become just as lucrative as crude oil exploration in the continent, which is home to some of the world’s largest oil producers.
“I’ve always said that content is the new crude oil. Similar to the oil industry’s success, the creative industry requires a lot of refineries to produce the finest oil product. The same refining is highly needed for our creative industry now,” said the singer whose real name is Oladapo Daniel Oyebanjo.
Past editions of Africa Walk jointly held in Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa, have inspired rapid gains for the continent, its host Platform Capital said while celebrating its role in “securing over $200 million in investments for African companies.”
“Additionally, some of these companies have opened subsidiaries on the continent, hired local talent as part of their teams, and are consolidating their footprint by expanding across Africa,” Akindele said.
Oyebanjo is hopeful that this year’s event will boost similar investments in the creative industry and hopes to connect with partners who will “provide young talents with the necessary funding but also connect them with the right platforms and partners to maximize their potential.”
For Ghanaian TV host Riyah Abdul, who is also participating in Africa Walk, the continent has an untapped pool of creative talent.
“Africa is a continent rich in diverse cultures, traditions, and artistic expressions, and it has a wealth of creative talent waiting to be recognized and harnessed,” Abdul said. “I am expecting that by the end of this conference, Africa can unlock numerous social, cultural, and economic opportunities.”