Entertainment in Sub-Saharan Africa: A Cross-Country study of Pan-African Entertainment Performance and Development


Just at the base of the African continent is the sub-Saharan region comprising four regions, which are East, West, Central, and Southern Africa. This region is made up of 48 out of the 54 countries on the continent, encompassing a wide range of countries from Mauritania to Madagascar, excluding 4 countries in North Africa. Among outstanding sectors such as infrastructure, trade, telecommunications, and agriculture is the media and entertainment industry, a part of the tertiary sector with many sub-industries devoted to every aspect of entertainment including Movies/Cinema/Theatre, Television, Radio, Dance, Music, Publishing, Internet, Advertising, Gaming etc. Advances in technology have generally made the entertainment and media industry more accessible and created new markets in Africa (Bitanihirwe et al, 2022). The Entertainment industry in Africa remains one of the shining attractions that the continent possesses in its relationship with the Western world and the world at large. However, in specific destinations like Nigeria, there is a need for further scrutiny due to its prospects (Akinola & Ogunnubi, 2020).

Entertainment in Africa consists of a diverse range of constructs that have been closely woven into the culture of the people and traveled around the world with immigration both forced and voluntary. From folklore to traditions that have governed the beliefs and lifestyles of generations, the entertainment industry has grown to encompass music, drama, comedy, and art exhibitions. It now consists of creative means of expression proudly appreciated, celebrated, and appropriated around the globe, all traceable to their roots in African traditions and expressions. For example, the spread of popular music forms such as “adaha”, “konkoma” and “highlife” are part of trans-cultural evolution (Collins, 2005).

Njogu (2005) in his book “making entertainment useful” defines entertainment as a central means of engagement with a pivotal role of increasing levels of knowledge, transforming attitudes and behavior through active participation and dialogue as a result towards cultural and community consciousness. With implications on culture and health, entertainment is observed to be a form of identity mediated for health matters.

Musicians, artists, policymakers, educationists, health workers, and performers all make up the self-conscious urban community coming together to reflect on how culture can be utilized for the good of 21st-century society. The development of urban African performing arts has involved several Afro-centric arts, music, and entertainment movements which has led to the core of this article, revealing the music and movie industries as primary entertainment industries (Coplan, 1979). Hence this study will focus primarily on West and East Africa.

The entertainment sector in Africa is very much an emerging market, with an ambition to break competition and deepen the continent’s potential through investments in African creativity. Through multifaceted means of how the entertainment industry has contributed to the globalization of African countries, it may take numerous efforts to contribute to needed social change. An example of such could be an entertainment-education initiative with lasting potential to facilitate sustainability (Njogu, 2005). For the purpose of this study, we will streamline our focus on the contribution of the entertainment industries in 2 countries to the economy and GDP within the past 2 decades. We will also look at how such have grown, considering the funding involved and the factors that fueled this growth.
Seeing as the music industry is a significant contributor to the entertainment industry in Sub-Saharan Africa, according to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), Nigeria, South Africa, and Kenya lead the music markets in Sub-Saharan Africa. In the same vein, the film industry in Sub-Saharan Africa is booming especially as Nollywood, Nigeria’s film industry, features as the second-largest film industry in the world in terms of the number of films produced, behind India’s Bollywood.

Kacou (2015) reveals that global spending on media & entertainment is projected to grow at a 6.1% compounded annual rate over the next five years until 2017 while forecasting Western Europe and North America to have the slowest growth rates i.e., 4.7% and 3.0% respectively. On the other hand, the Middle East/Africa and Latin America have the highest increase in overall spending, 11.8% and 10.3% respectively.

Mobile gaming is a first choice for African market’s young savvy populations, and overall, Africa’s media & entertainment growth is predicted at 5% GDP per annum until 2015 with four (4) countries, Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana, and South Africa, poised to offer outstanding opportunities for all modes of entertainment – film, television, digital media and mobile. This generates high returns both for creators and for investors (Kacou, 2015). Despite this growth and success, there are challenges to be addressed, such as piracy, inadequate funding and infrastructure, and lack of regulation. Governments in Sub-Saharan Africa are constantly strategizing, recognizing the importance of the unique industry actively providing support through funding and policies. In November 2020, the Kenyan government launched the Film Policy 2020 to support the growth of the film industry in the country. Key stakeholders that make up the media & entertainment industry value chain in Africa include content creators, programmers, distribution systems and consumer devices which is further broken down into twelve industry product segments, namely Consumer and educational book publishing, filmed entertainment Business-to-business publishing, Radio Out-of-home advertising, video games, Consumer magazine publishing, sports etc.

West Africa as a Case study

Africa is a continent rapidly urbanized in the second half of the twentieth century and is evident in the trajectory of influential West African entertainment as seen from the introduction of Jazz in Lagos, Nigeria (Ayorinde, 2023). To enable a cross-cultural global community, technology-based streaming platforms services such as Netflix and Spotify have promoted a vision for themselves as stewards of a benevolent form of globalization thus creating ideals of international connection and affinity (Elkins, 2019). Nigeria is understood to be West Africa’s largest economy and the most densely populated country in Africa. With a population of over 200 million in the country and additional millions in the diaspora, Nigeria remains one of Africa’s influential actors economically, particularly in the entertainment industry. Popularly sought after by the likes of students, historians, party seekers, and researchers, entertainment is often investigated alongside tourism as to how it contributes to economic and social development (Wright and Hind, 2011).

Analysis of the West African Entertainment Industry depicts that with Nigeria as its major player, there is bound to be significant growth showcasing the same as a powerhouse within Africa and globally. Nigeria’s burgeoning population of over a couple of hundred individuals, as well as its thriving diaspora community, actively contributes to the industry’s success through music, film, and television. In Ghana around the early sixties, local popular entertainment played a vital role in the independence struggle and the creation of a national and Pan-African identity that endorsed numerous state and parastatal highlife bands such as indigenous performing groups set up by the Cocoa Marketing Board, Black Star (shipping) Line and state hand concerts. This also included members of the armed forces, the Workers Brigade, and the Farmers Council (Collins, 2005). What this implies in general to economic contribution is an inclusive industry, comprising the movie and music sectors. For instance,

the Nigerian movie industry commonly known as Nollywood, is estimated to be worth $3.5 billion according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) in 2020 while the music industry is estimated to contribute about $750 million as revealed by the Oxford Business Group in 2021. These figures suggest that the entertainment industry in West Africa is a significant player to Nigeria’s GDP, with a contribution between 0.5% to 1.4%, as reported by PwC and the NBS.

Per dominance, Nigeria’s entertainment industry extends beyond movies and music to encompass fashion and visual arts. The country has produced globally recognized artists, filmmakers, fashion designers, and visual artists etcetera, who have amassed substantial fame through entertainment both locally and internationally. This diverse range of creative fields has contributed to Nigeria’s reputation as a notable media powerhouse in Africa. Nollywood, Nigeria’s film industry, is widely regarded as the second-largest film industry in the world in terms of the number of films produced annually, surpassing Hollywood and behind only India’s Bollywood. In other words, Nollywood media and entertainment are known for their unique storytelling, cultural themes, and low-budget production. The industry has gained popularity not only within Africa but also among diaspora communities worldwide. Nollywood’s success has been attributed to its ability to produce relatable content that resonates with its audience.

In the same vein, the Nigerian music industry has experienced remarkable growth and has gained international recognition. It has produced globally acclaimed artists such as Wizkid, Davido, Burna Boy, and Tiwa Savage, who have achieved chart-topping success and collaborations with international artists. The emergence of music genres like Afrobeats and Pop, connecting African rhythms with global influences, has contributed to the industry’s popularity. This has led to a widespread use of digital platforms for music distribution and has played a significant role in expanding the reach of Nigerian music beyond its borders. Nigeria’s young and tech-savvy population is not left out as they have been instrumental in the growth of the entertainment industry. With increased internet penetration and smartphone usage, Nigerian artists and filmmakers have been able to leverage digital platforms to reach global audiences. Social media platforms like YouTube, Instagram, and Twitter have become essential tools for promoting music and movies, allowing artists to connect directly with their fans and co-producers.
The Nigerian entertainment industry as a case study is remarkable within the West African context. It exemplifies the potential for economic growth and cultural influence within the region. Its presence deepens the need for economic impact at the grassroots. Estimated to be worth over $3.5 million and $750 billion respectively, the Nigerian movie and music sector continuously leads in contribution to the country’s GDP. This economic impact is driven by various factors, including domestic consumption, international sales and distribution, and revenue generated from concerts, events, and endorsements. In terms of global recognition, Nigeria’s entertainment industry, a boost of merited recognition on the global stage. Nigerian artists have won prestigious awards, performed at international music festivals, and collaborated with renowned artists from around the world. Nollywood films have been showcased at international film festivals and gained attention for their unique storytelling and cultural representation.

While this economic impact has opened job opportunities for employment seekers and future talents, it has provided visibility to rising and established actors, musicians, filmmakers, directors, producers, and a range of supporting professionals.

The industry has accrued a talent base through platforms, acting as a launchpad for aspiring artists and creatives to showcase their skills and gain recognition. On the other hand, infrastructure and investment development for the Nigerian government and practitioners foster worldwide investment. For example, initiatives such as the Nigerian Film Corporation (NFC) and the National Film and Video Censors Board (NFVCB) have been established to regulate and support the film industry causing private investors, both domestic and international, to indicate interest in funding and promoting entertainment-based projects.

In conclusion, the West African entertainment industry has experienced remarkable growth and has become a major contributor to the country’s economy. Nigeria’s movie industry, Nollywood, renowned globally for its prolific production and cultural impact has single-handedly deepened its roots while the music industry has received deserved pomp with Nigerian artists making waves both locally and internationally. No doubt, the success of the Nigerian entertainment industry can be attributed to factors such as the country’s population, dominance of digital platforms, a tech-savvy and young population as well as cultural relevance. These elements have propelled Nigeria to the forefront of the African entertainment scene, contributing to economic growth, job creation, and global recognition. Although there lie challenges such as piracy, inadequate infrastructure, and limited access to funding and distribution channels, notwithstanding there is growing awareness to support the industry’s sustainability. More research and continued support are needed to enhance infrastructure investment and adequate development of effective policies and regulations.

East Africa as a Case study

Considering the comparative analysis of Nigeria and Kenya, the largest economies in West and East Africa respectively, Kenya is understood to also be a multi-ethnic and multi-racial country, largely recognized for its rapid industrialization and fast-growing tech space globally (Awe, 2021). According to the PWC Africa Entertainment and Media Outlook 2022-2026, Kenya witnessed rapid gains in internet advertising results to US$1.2milion behind traditional TV and home video while TV subscription revenue estimates US$420million recording an all-time high in 2021. As a country recognized for its rapid growth in technology (fintech especially), agriculture and tourism, Kenya has all the right tools for a thriving entertainment industry.

The Kenyan film and music industry has experienced significant growth in the past two decades, with a focus on producing high-quality content that appeals to both local and international audiences. In 2019, the Kenyan music industry was estimated to be worth around KES 11.7 billion ($108 million), while the film industry was estimated to be worth KES 5.3 billion ($49 million).

One of the factors contributing to the growth of the Kenyan entertainment industry is the increasing use of technology, which has allowed artists to reach a wider audience through social media platforms and streaming services. Additionally, there has been a growing interest in African culture and music globally, which has increased demand for Kenyan content.

In recent years, the Kenyan government has also implemented policies and initiatives aimed at supporting the growth of the entertainment industry, such as tax incentives for investors and the establishment of the Kenya Film Commission, which provides funding and support for local filmmakers. Originating from Luo villages in western Kenya by the middle of the 1950s and late 1960s was the dominant music genre in Kenya. Kenyan guitar–based dance music called “benga” is a popular mix of music and cultural identity. The finer details of the story of Benga are not agreed on, like which individual(s) played what specific role(s) in the creation of the genre, and what particular song(s) moved the genre to the Kenyan national music space. In the name of fighting tribalism and building the nation, the Moi state discouraged music genres like Benga whose lyrics were in Kenyan African languages other than the lingua franca and national language, Kiswahili (Mboya, 2021). The East African economic giant Kenya is said to hold a huge potential for entertainment and media companies. Last year, Netflix released its first Kenyan series, a gritty family drama called Country Queen.

Comparative Analysis: Western Versus Eastern African Entertainment Industries

Market size and revenue generation: The Western African entertainment industry is larger than the Eastern African entertainment industry. In contrast, the Eastern African entertainment industry is smaller, with countries such as Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda being the main players in the industry. The Western African entertainment industry generates more revenue than the Eastern African entertainment industry. The Nigerian music industry, for instance, generates an estimated $200 million annually, while Nollywood generates approximately $1 billion annually. In comparison, the Eastern African music and film industries generate less with Kenya’s music industry being worth around $108 million and its film industry worth $49 million.

Production Quality: The Western African entertainment industry has a reputation for producing content that is of high quality and is popular with audiences across Africa and beyond. Nollywood, for instance, has produced some of Africa’s most popular films, such as “The Wedding Party” and “Lionheart,” which have gained international recognition. The Nigerian music industry has also produced several award-winning artists, including Wizkid and Davido. The Eastern African entertainment industry, on the other hand, is known for producing content that is more localized and focused on regional audiences.

Influence and Recognition: The Western African entertainment industry has a greater influence on the African entertainment industry and is more widely recognized globally. Nigerian music and film, for example, are popular across the continent and beyond, and Nigerian artists and filmmakers are often featured in international media. The Eastern African entertainment industry, however, is still growing in influence and recognition.
Both the Western and Eastern African entertainment industries face similar challenges, including piracy, limited access to funding and distribution channels, and inadequate infrastructure. Both industries would thrive better with the required resources to address these challenges. Although the Western African entertainment industry is larger, generates more revenue, and has a greater influence and recognition compared to the Eastern African entertainment industry, both regions have a growing interest in boosting the face of African entertainment across the globe, providing opportunities for both regions to continue to grow and develop.

Challenges specific to entertainment indigenous to the Africa continent:

  1. Feasibility: Oftentimes, key demographic information on current situations is unreliable, out of date, or non-existent. This calls for more strategic measures to address data collection and or it doesn’t contain any detailed information other than regional population counts.
  2. Political Changes and Revolutions: A revolutionary approach will bring about stronger relationships anchored towards safeguarding investment for entertainment projects. This claim is supported by several studies and comes with its impacts as investors’ decisions are guided by the impact of accumulation and growth of wealth. This is crucial for investors seeking long-term success given the established implications caused by the COVID-19 pandemic (Mwesigye, 2021)
  3. Corruption: Corruption is endemic in many developing and transitional countries including Africa. As such, entertainment costs are considered unnecessary in certain Chinese firms used to exploit unaccounted expenses. Corruption is affected by several institutional factors therefore it is essential to put in place regulations that uplift the quality and outcome of entertainment services (Cai et al, 2011)


In conclusion, it is important to take a central view of other African countries to recommend a holistic solution for addressing the peculiarities of entertainment. Some time ago, cinemas and small screens were popular throughout West Africa, during an era of imperial rule and burgeoning urbanization however places like Dakar, Senegal’s capital, have established themselves as a West African cultural capital and a leading sports hub due to the renaissance in public cineplexes retreating film entertainment to the small screens (Saro-Wiwa, 2020). Budding markets such as Namibia and Botswana are five to six years behind the likes of South Africa largely due to the high price of streaming data and slower digital uptake, leaving populations to be more heavily dependent on traditional media, including newspapers and radio. The need for data and strategic forecasting is critical to the growth to becoming a global economy.
According to Delaporte (2021), mobile network industries and organizations the GSMA estimates only 28% of sub-Saharan Africans were connected to the internet at the end of 2020. In some third-tier markets, the situation still has big consequences on the power of the media – though things are picking up. The cheaper data becomes, the more entertainment-related activities which for audiences, create a lot more fragmentation, but will drive down the cost of online streaming. Sub-Saharan Africa’s entertainment industry is in the process of structuring itself. Within the last five years, governments, and development financial institutions, such as Afreximbank, the International Finance Corporation, the Agence Française de Développement and its subsidiary Proparco, and the African Development Bank – have set their gaze on the creative sector as a source of growth and job creation. However, beyond sub-Saharan Africa, Egypt, Morocco, and Tunisia are showing strong growth in gaming, visual arts, and animation respectively.


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Rachael Oiza, Tolulope Abe & Gladys Ehindola

Contributors at SocialGood Lagos