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The ascent of African entertainment

A global audience and increased investment are driving booming African film, TV, and music industries.
Illustration by Pola Maneli
  • The big idea

    African film, TV, and music are thriving. That’s good news for creators, homegrown platforms, and international companies hoping to be part of the story.

    Image copyright: Illustration by Pola Maneli
  • Charting investment in African entertainment

    African entertainment startups had their best funding year on record last year, raising a total of $13.9 million, almost 19 times what the sector had raised the previous year, and nearly 116 times what it had secured in 2018, according to a report by Disrupt Africa, a website for news on African tech startups. The money came mostly from local and foreign venture capital firms.

  • Homegrown platforms

    Homegrown music streaming services are facing competition from Spotify and Apple Music, who recently announced plans to expand further in the continent. Here’s who they’ll be up against: 

    🎵 Boomplay: Partly owned by Transsion Holdings, a Chinese company that is Africa’s number one mobile phone supplier. The app comes pre-installed on its phones, and had around 75 million users as of July 2020.

    🎵 Mdundo: Free music streaming and downloading service that started in Kenya in 2013, it allows people to download songs, rather than stream them, and plays ads at their start. Raised $6.4 million in its 2020 IPO. 

    🎵 MusicTime: Streaming app from MTN Group, one of Africa’s largest mobile network operators by subscribers. Launched in South Africa in 2018 as a pay-as-you-go service.

    More African audio streaming and downloading services include: Nigeria’s uduX and Spinlet, Kenya’s Smubu, South Africa’s Mziiki and Senegal’s MusikBi.

  • One big number

    400 million: The number of views on YouTube for global megahit Jerusalema by South Africa’s Master KG and Nomcebo as an example of how African entertainment is reaching new consumers. The route Jerusalema took to worldwide acclaim after its release in December 2019 is an example of the new pathways to success for African artists.

  • Case study

    In March, Africans were treated to a new original streaming series: a police procedural and legal drama called Crime & Justice, inspired by real-life local crime stories in Kenya. The show has revived debate and discussion around controversies that might have otherwise faded from the news.

    Revenue from subscription video-on-demand in Africa is expected to reach $1.5 billion by 2026. Last year, Digital TV research estimated that streaming video is expected to attract around 13 million subscribers in the next few years, led by Netflix, Disney+, and Showmax. The biggest audiences will be found in South Africa and Nigeria.

  • Quotable

    “What’s most personal tends to be most universal. Hyperlocal content can still travel, but there’s a freedom in telling stories without trying to second-guess a foreign gaze.”

    —Candice Fangueiro, Showmax’s head of content

  • Turn it up

    Listen to Quartz Africa’s Spotify playlist of some of the biggest artists breaking through borders to reach international audiences in the last few years. 

  • Keep reading

    To understand the #FreeSenegal movement, look to its music. Senegalese rapper Hakill had been working on a song about how fed up his generation was with the government. When violent protests broke out in March, he knew his song would strike a chord. 

    Africa’s fashion industry has its first dedicated investment company. Though sub-Saharan Africa’s apparel, textile, and footwear market is estimated to be worth $31 billion, entrepreneurs often function in the informal sector. Birimian Holdings hopes to change that. 

    How Ugandan is Oscar-winner Daniel Kaluuya? When Kaluuya won the award earlier this year, the Ugandan diaspora became engrossed in a debate about his African bona fides. 

    Netflix is retelling the lost tale of Japan’s first African samurai.  The action-filled anime, set in an alternative world of science fiction and fantasy, is steeped with magic and robots.

    African collectors are driving global sales of contemporary African art. Local collectors  are signaling to the world which artists they value and celebrate in their own markets.

    Africa’s first crypto art collections have investors and creators feeling optimistic. In addition to the potential monetary benefits, some are hopeful that crypto art could give artists more creative freedom and autonomy over their work.

    Is the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame ready for Fela Kuti? During his life, Fela made headlines as an engaged citizen fighting for social justice, not his music. Nearly 30 years since his passing, the world is still playing catch up.