Asake’s O2 Shutdown: The Call For Africa’s Own Music Meccas

Asake's O2 Shutdown The Call For Africa's Own Music Meccas

In August 2023, when Nigerian singer and songwriter Asake made his helicopter-landing entrance into London’s O2 Arena, he didn’t just make an epic moment; he echoed a historical pattern that is both inspiring and unsettling. His name joined a selective, illustrious list of African artists, including Wizkid, Davido, and Burna Boy, who have sold out one of the world’s most iconic venues. But as we relish in the glow of Asake’s astronomical rise to stardom—his albums making unprecedented debuts on international charts, his music echoing in the ears of millions globally—we must also pause to confront an uncomfortable truth. This truth is not about Asake’s brilliance; it’s about Africa’s continued outsourcing of its cultural validation and economic potential to far-flung continents.

The questions, then, loom large and unsettling: Why does an artiste from Nigeria, a nation bursting at the seams with cultural richness and audience numbers, have to traverse oceans to receive global recognition? Why does Africa’s entertainment industry, with its cacophony of rhythms and stories, still have to lean on the infrastructures of London, New York, or Sydney for its finest artistes to shine brightest? The time has come for this narrative to change, for Africa to invest in its own world-class stages and arenas. As African artists etch their names in international annals of music history, it’s time for the continent to build its own halls of fame, its own monumental venues, on its own rich soil. And in doing so, not only will it keep its talents closer to home but also open up a new chapter of opportunity and self-reliance that Africa so deeply deserves.

This is not merely a plea for bricks and mortar; it’s a clarion call for Africa’s cultural and economic renaissance. Asake’s meteoric rise to global stardom serves as a reflective prism, revealing the boundless talent and latent potential harbored within the African continent—a landmass that is a custodian of 30% of the planet’s natural resources, and whose entertainment industry, in Nigeria alone, is expected to soar to $10 billion by 2023. Yet, the irony is stark and poignant: Africa’s brightest stars often shine their luminous best not on African stages but on foreign platforms. This dissonance not only underscores our central argument but also accentuates the urgency: Africa’s imperative need to erect its own world-class entertainment edifices, conceptualised by Africans and built for Africans. What follows is an elevated discourse aimed at rerouting the axis of Africa’s entertainment orbit back to its rightful centre—Africa itself.

Supplementing this discourse are hard facts: According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Africa is not just culturally rich but staggeringly abundant in natural resources as well. It houses around 30% of the world’s mineral reserves, 8% of its natural gas, and 12% of its oil. Moreover, it boasts 40% of global gold reserves and up to 90% of chromium and platinum. When it comes to renewable resources, Africa is equally well-endowed, holding 65% of the world’s arable land and 10% of the planet’s internal renewable freshwater sources.

However, it’s crucial to mention that this bounty is not evenly spread across Africa’s expanse. While countries like South Africa and Nigeria are resource-rich, others may not be as fortunate. The presence of these natural treasures implies enormous possibilities for economic expansion and development. But the critical caveat here is sustainability: these resources must be harnessed and managed judiciously to create a prosperous future that is inclusive, benefiting all Africans.

So, in a world where Africa has the talent and the natural wealth to be an entertainment powerhouse, the missing piece of the puzzle is clear: infrastructure that matches its ambition. Once that gap is filled, Africa won’t just participate in the global entertainment narrative; it will redefine it.

The Asake Phenomenon: An Encore Across Oceans that Begs for a Homecoming

As the rotor blades of the helicopter whirred to a halt and the dazzling lights of London’s O2 Arena swept over Ahmed Ololade—professionally eulogised as Asake—the audience erupted into frenzied applause. He hadn’t merely stepped onto a stage; he had catapulted onto the global music scene in a fashion so extraordinary it will be spoken of for generations. It was a defining moment, not just for Asake but for the African music industry at large. His stratospheric rise—marked by groundbreaking albums, international chart-topping successes, and accolades such as the coveted Break Out Artist of the Year at the 2022 All Africa Music Awards—solidified his name in the annals of African music history.

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Yet, the sheer grandeur of Asake’s O2 moment throws into sharp relief an existential question for Africa’s booming entertainment industry: Why do its most prolific talents find their zenith of recognition not on the red soils of their homeland but in far-flung arenas across seas and skies?

The magnetism of Western venues like the O2 Arena is undisputed; their allure forms part of a broader narrative that situates Western recognition as the pinnacle of artistic achievement. While selling out such venues is an incredible feat that adds pages to an artiste’s international dossier, it also begs scrutiny. The setting of these accomplishments, occurring miles away from the lush landscapes and dynamic cities where these artists first found their voice, is incongruent with the vibrant realities and potentials of Africa’s own burgeoning entertainment landscape. It’s a jarring dissonance between where African music is made and where it is monumentalised.

It’s not that venues like the O2 Arena don’t deserve their fame or their place in an artiste’s journey. But every standing ovation in London or New York resounds with an echo, a haunting reverberation that asks: When will Africa have its own international halls of artistic validation? When will the Asakes of the continent no longer have to leave their shores to find stages grand enough to match their monumental talents?

This isn’t merely an ideological lament; it’s a call for action imbued with economic and socio-cultural imperatives. Asake’s transcontinental fame reflects not just his individual genius but also the collective brilliance and untapped potential of an African entertainment industry set to be worth billions. If channeled correctly, this value can be retained within the continent, providing jobs, spurring innovation, and enriching local communities, while furthering the global influence of African artistry.

The point isn’t merely to bring the Asakes home but to make ‘home’ a place worthy of their global acclaim. To turn the spotlights towards African cities and fill arenas in Lagos, Nairobi, or Johannesburg with the same international fervor currently reserved for Western capitals. The aim is clear: to build infrastructures grand enough for our talents, within landscapes that nurtured them; to offer standing ovations on African soil for African excellence. Asake’s O2 Arena success is both an inspiration and a clarion call—a call to action for a continent ripe with possibility but still outsourcing its grandest stages.

Investing in Africa’s Future Through Entertainment Infrastructure

The pulse of Africa is rhythmic, set to the beats of drums and the melody of voices. It’s a continent humming with untapped cultural, natural, and human resources. With approximately 30% of the world’s natural resources, the economic backbone of Africa is stout, ready to support robust industries. In fact, Nigeria’s entertainment and media sector alone is slated to burgeon to an estimated $10 billion by 2023. Add to this, is an explosive $4.2 billion music scene, the dazzling sounds of over 100,000 registered artistes, and a population that spends on average $10 per month on entertainment, and you realise: Africa isn’t merely a reservoir of talent; it’s a cauldron of kinetic economic potential.

According to expert projections, Africa’s entertainment and media panorama is not just burgeoning; it’s on the brink of a watershed moment. By 2025, estimates indicate that the industry will soar to an impressive $13.8 billion. Breaking it down further, the current $5.3 billion worth of the African music market is expected to evolve into a resounding $7.7 billion in the same timeframe. To contextualise, the countries that are the linchpins of this entertainment revolution include powerhouses like Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya, Egypt, and Ghana.

Yet, glaringly missing in this landscape of cultural and economic efflorescence are state-of-the-art venues. The sort of platforms that can host the continent’s Asakes and Wizkids, without them having to cross oceans. The absence of such world-class infrastructures not only stifles artistic expression but serves as a straitjacket on an industry primed for exponential growth.

Of course, infrastructural deficits don’t exist in a vacuum. They are underpinned by a milieu of challenges ranging from the prohibitive costs of construction and maintenance to a lack of skilled labour. Toss into this mix, a dearth of governmental support and tepid private sector investment, and you have the perfect storm of constraints hobbling an industry otherwise ripe for global dominance.

But there’s a silver lining—there always is when a continent is rich in resources and resilience. Across Africa, transformative projects are underway that aim to redefine its entertainment infrastructure. These initiatives include not just the construction of avant-garde concert halls and theatres, but also state-of-the-art film studios and production facilities. Ancillary sectors, too, are receiving facelifts, from improvements in road and airport infrastructures to the development of skill-training programs designed to nurture the next generation of African talent.

If there’s one thing history teaches us, it’s that constraints aren’t destiny. Challenges can either be roadblocks or stepping stones; the difference lies in our approach. For Africa, each of these challenges is surmountable, an opportunity masked as a roadblock. By investing in the structural heart of its entertainment sector, Africa stands not merely to entertain the world but to build it—brick by brick, note by note. The reverberations of such a transformation would be felt not just in concert halls and movie theatres but in the very fabric of the continent, fostering economic growth, creating jobs, and, most importantly, anchoring the African talent on African soil.

A Clarion Call to Action—Charting Africa’s Autonomous Entertainment Odyssey

Africa is at an inflection point, a crossroads where it must decide how to channel its unbridled talent and unmatched resources into sustainable frameworks that extend beyond the surface allure of international accolades. As artistes like Asake, Olamide, Burna Boy, Wizkid, and Davido continue to scale global charts and garner universal acclaim, there lies beneath this glitzy narrative an underlying urgency: the imperative to reinvest this stardom into the continent’s own entertainment industry. The quest isn’t merely for global validation, but for an ecosystem that can sustain itself, generate jobs, catalyse tourism, and above all, keep Africa’s immense talent and resources within its shores.

What does it mean for Africa to fully capitalise on its cultural and material assets? It means nurturing an entertainment infrastructure that isn’t just a mirror to Western paradigms but a pioneering model in its own right. The development of world-class arenas, concert halls, and film studios in Africa is not just a lofty ideal; it’s a practical aspiration backed by hard economic data.

But the impetus must come from within. A new wave of public-private partnerships could be the linchpin in this transformative journey. If governments can create favourable policies and incentives, the private sector, with its knack for innovation and risk-taking, can step in to construct and manage these cultural citadels. These venues would not just be stages but hubs of creativity, incubators for talent, and focal points for international tourism.

Imagine an Africa where its artistes no longer fly thousands of miles to be heard but draw the world to its own doorstep. An Africa where the stage is homegrown, where the acoustics are familiar, where the applause reverberates through its own skies and into the hearts of its people. This isn’t just an aesthetic dream; it’s an economic catalyst, a socio-cultural paradigm shift.

It is a vision that transcends the music notes and screenplays to infiltrate broader sectors of society. A developed entertainment infrastructure could be the cornerstone for a pan-African renaissance, a blueprint for how Africa can be self-reliant, self-sustaining, and, crucially, self-defining. By seizing control of its entertainment narrative, Africa can rewrite its future, crafting a new story that no longer starts with its resources drained or its talent exported but with its potential amplified and its destiny self-determined.

Therefore, as we stand in awe of the Asakes and Wizkids who make us proud on global stages, let us pivot our collective gaze back home. The time for Africa to build its own international landmarks is not tomorrow; it’s today. This is not merely a call to action; it is a call to destiny, a challenge to every stakeholder—be it governmental bodies, private sectors, or the artistes themselves—to invest in the continent’s autonomous cultural future. Let Africa be the ground on which its stars stand and the sky against which they shine. Let the next chapter of African entertainment history be written not in the footnotes of other continents but in the headlines of its own.

Africa Digital News, New York