The 2017 Billboard awards held in the heart of the iconic Las Vegas strip proved to be monumental event for the African entertainment industry. The glitzy show held in the 20,000-seater T-Mobile Arena featured some of the biggest names in pop music, including Ed Sheeran and Miley Cyrus, who were nervously waiting to see if they would win an award.
Nigerian musician WizKid, however, was quietly confident that One Dance, a song he co-wrote with Canadian hip-hop colossus Drake, would win an award. Only a year earlier the song had become the most-streamed track on the digital music player Spotify.
WizKid's confidence was well placed. He became the first African to win a billboard award, actually winning three in all. To some commentators, the Nigerian star's success was a reflection of the new stature that Africa's entertainment sector is garnering across the world.
"We have seen a lot of collaborations that we wouldn't have seen before and WizKid's collaboration with Drake was a big moment," says Abiola Oke, CEO of OkayAfrica and Okaymusic. "Afrobeats music has created greater awareness and has positioned Africans in a way that hasn't been seen before."
Africa's entertainment sector has seen a boom over the last decade, especially in Nigeria, Kenya, and South Africa, where internet penetration has made huge inroads.
The music industry is one of the main drivers of growth in the sector. Spending on music in South Africa increased year-on-year by 2.7% to R2.2bn ($162m) in 2016, while revenues rose 9% to reach $39m and 5.8% to reach $20m in Nigeria and Kenya respectively.
The industry has been shaken up by subscriptionbased streaming services such as Apple Music and Google Play. Digital services have also helped spread African music across the globe new markets, according to Oke.
"The most glaring contribution that digital has made has been in the area of awareness. So, in music, you've seen an explosion of African music on the global landscape, particularly the Afrobeats genre," he says. "What the digital, and, more specifically, the social media revolution has been able to do has been to empower the audience in a manner which allows them to dictate what they find interesting rather than the big corporations making the determination for the audience."
Despite the growing popularity of streaming services, the majority of music accessed in Africa is still distributed by caller ring back tones, where callers can download tracks that are played...