Africa used to be mostly recognized by its wildlife and images of elephants, lions and giraffes grazing in the East African safari. Today, the most powerful representation of Africa on the global stage is its creative artforms––fashion, entertainment, sports and the sheer force of its people’s creative energy. More specifically, African music has (re)penetrated global pop culture, and thanks to the internet and the growing power of diasporans, the sights, sounds and styles of Africa are becoming more easily accessible to a global audience.
The influence of the continent’s 1.3 billion population on global pop culture is so evident nowadays that as a young Nigerian in the diaspora, most of your small talk and conversations with other young people living in Europe or North America usually end up with an excited mention of Wizkid or Burna Boy or Davido, and Nollywood or Jollof rice. Some of us even get the occasional “How far?” and “How you dey?” greetings from acquaintances who’ve been exposed to some Nigerian lingo through Youtube or Netflix. Or they ask you about crazy Lagos parties because they saw Eric attend a Nigerian ‘Owambe’ on an episode of Sex Education, or heard Ed Sheeran’s verse on the remix of Fireboy’s infectious global hit, ‘Peru’.
Add that to the countless African-based entertainers and creators who now have the type of global recognition and impact that previous generations of African artistes and creatives would have thought impossible, be it in mainstream Hollywood, Atlanta strip clubs or on UK radio. Everyone, from Jay Z and Beyonce, to Drake and Justin Bieber seems to want a dose of contemporary West African pop music, commonly referred to as ‘Afro Beats’ (not to be confused with the late great Fela Kuti’s Afrobeat).
So, what does this mean for marketing and communication professionals? It means that elements and themes of African pop culture have the potential to be that new, fresh, unique and untapped engagement vehicle to communicate and connect with urban youths all over the world, especially in the West.
Of course, there is the danger of cultural appropriation and misuse. However, if done tastefully, respectfully and authentically, through collaborations with actual owners and influencers within the culture, the incorporation of African artforms and creativity into global youth marketing communications can help brand custodians refresh their communications and delight new audiences, especially young people in places with significant African communities like the UK, Western Europe and North America.
Wizkid selling out London’s O2 Arena for three nights in a row in November 2021 was no fluke, and it is further proof of the power that Africa’s contemporary popular culture, its custodians and creators now wield over the world’s youth.
February 1, 2022