Is Youth Unemployment the African music industry's kryptonite?

Africa, in general terms is a young continent – from our economies to our own population.

We boast of over 200 million youth who have proved their power, particularly in the political atmosphere. We witnessed their power in the uprisings of Burkina Faso, we saw their power to shift political leadership in Nigeria. However this young continent who genuinely enjoy entertainment and music do not fully exercise their power in the potential growth in the music industry.

Just this past weekend, MTV Africa’s music awards gave a bird’s-eye view of the current situation of the music industry. A continent, boasting of 54 countries had only 5 countries walk away with MAMA Awards is a reflection of lack of growth in our music industry – the lack of purchasing power from the youth as one of the core reasons.

Although there are 200 million of us, according to the world bank, only 40% of our continental population are employed, leaving 60% of youth jobless – scattering for odd jobs in the informal sector, or whatever crumbs left in the private sector. Our financial impairment has led to seeing buying music as an extreme luxury – utilizing free platforms to listen and sometimes buy music.

Take Nigeria and South Africa as an example: two densely populated countries were the award garnering frontiers at the ceremony – particularly because their population (with of course, hard work and stellar marketing from the artist) automates popularity, which is the fuel for international recognition. Yet when it comes down to financial numbers, artists could still be reaping more if the same popularity was immediate sales.

Of course there are various factors towards the sustainable growth of an industry – but it needs the foundation of a buying target market. Currently, music’s target market relies on free social platforms to whet their music pangs. Radio, YouTube, S have become the hosts of music playlists, and we extend our downloading pleasures to piracy – using Bluetooth, USB flash drives and download managers instead of purchasing music legally. Buying music, has become an epitome of good living to some – as the money¬† goes to paying for our own existence; rent, water, food (which is debatable to some) and transportation (also, debatable – you will be humbled to see the lives some young people live).

That being said – we need to find ways for our music industry to expand – but its expansion will be a result of the youth ( the target market) playing expanding their own pockets – something that cannot be done without government and private sector intervention. So if you’re an artist, instead of claiming lack of support from your fans – promote youth employment, directly or indirectly. Let us all engage in what the public and private sector do to alleviate unemployment and encourage youth entrepreneurship. In order for this industry to grow (and others favoured by young people) we need to develop l thriving economy reflective of our population and expand our power into the finance world. That’s where the solution lies.