Let the Music Play

Music Tourism

Nigeria's music industry is the leader in Africa, and the country should harness its huge musical culture through major international festivals to further develop its music tourism sector as a way to diversify its economy.

With Lagos’ reputation revolving around chaos and hectic lifestyles—hosting an estimated 22 million people, it is the largest city in Africa and one of the largest in the world. It is among its busy streets that some of Africa’s most talented musicians are found.

Music is not only a vital part of our lives; it is a big business that has become a crucial segment of tourism globally and can contribute billions of dollars to a country’s economy. And Nigeria has what it takes to capitalize on its music industry—unrivaled talent, a strong music culture, a population three times the size of the UK’s, 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 PricewaterhouseCoopers’ (PwC) 2016 report, which estimated that the Nigerian music industry was worth USD40million in 2011 and grew to USD47 million in 2015. By 2020, this figure is expected to explode to USD86 million, nearly double 2015’s 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.”
Still, 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, hosts Felabration every year. Felabration is a one-week music festival with live performances from the country’s most internationally acclaimed musicians, including Wizkid, arguably Nigeria’s starboy when it comes to music. Indeed, Starboy is his other nickname. The festival has become a recognized music tourism destination that attracts 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 transform 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. Mike Dada, founder of AFRIMA, believes the music industry can be an effective economic tool and improve Nigeria’s GDP if properly channeled. “Music is a social orientation tool that we can use to promote the country and the continent, and sell us to the rest of the world. Instead of hearing about Boko Haram, they would hear about P-Square, D’Banj, Falz, or Tiwa Savage,” he said.
As Nigeria is desperate to get out of oil and is seeking ways to generate alternative revenue streams, it should seriously consider making a business out of its huge musical culture. As more awareness is raised each year about Felabration, AFRIMA, and other events, an increasing number of Afrobeat fans across the globe will flow into the country. The government and the music industry should partner more closely to leverage on the country’s year-round pleasant climate and vibrant cultural life to establish more music mega-events. These events, aimed at attracting international music fans and further positioning the country as a musical tourism destination, could bring millions of dollars into its economy and promote the country’s image in Africa and beyond.

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