Despite Africa’s huge influence on music repertoire across the globe, poor distribution networks and weak intellectual property laws, coupled with rampant piracy represent continuing challenges to the sector’s long-term growth.
Paul Collier, Oxford Professor and leading economist said about Africa's music industry: “At the practical level, the music industry has the potential to have a big impact on economic structure precisely because these economies are so small. You only need one or two real successes--you only need a Nashville--and you have transformed the export structure of an economy away from primary commodity dependence, and that will have major effects.
“There is also a psychological level. This is really important. Africa has to be seen to be succeeding in activities that have some glamour about them if it is to retain its own bright young people. At the moment, bright young Africans are leaving the continent. They are all over America. A vision that will retain bright youth in productive activities within Africa is essential. Another important psychological dimension is that until now, Africa has really not participated in global economic institutions. We need to be able to show how the new international economic architecture is relevant to Africa and that Africa can benefit from being part of it. The music industry has a potential for that. It has the potential to be a very visual practical image in turning a poor society around. The Nashville example is potent here in showing how a poor locality can be turned around.”
Key to maximising the sector’s potential is government recognition that the music business is a business and not just a cultural activity and that an abundance of creative talent is not the same having a successful music industry. Genuine Government support for the sector in the form of a policy framework, regulation, creative hubs and music education in schools and elsewhere is essential.
Industry experts and academics say it’s hard to calculate just how much the continent’s music industry is worth, nevertheless, it’s undoubtedly a market with real opportunity. A major reason is that spending on music related products and services is determined more by the age of the population than by its comparative wealth. In Africa, 60% of the population is under 24 years old —the youngest population of any region globally. Even for a small market like Sierra Leone, this represents a hugely under-tapped opportunity, particularly given our growing list of commercial talent.
One man - Abu Bakarr Turay, aka the Kabaka - is determined to change that, and no-one who has spent any time in Sierra Leone over the past couple of years, could possibly have missed the growth of his eponymous label - KME or Kabaka Multimedia Entertainment.
In person Kabaka is unexpected. For someone who may be Sierra Leone’s very own Berry Gordy, he’s surprisingly quiet. He favours understated black suits and has the knack of adding a business angle to most social occasions, reflective perhaps of his day job. He is a lawyer by profession, with 10 years of experience practising in Sierra Leone. He founded KME in 2017, and in the space of just over a year he has emerged with dizzying speed, as a genuine music mogul in the making.
Click below to read our exclusive profile of the Kabaka - KME's founder and CEO in the latest issue of Insight Magazine - Sierra Leone's most authoritative business and investment magazine.