Speaking on TV3’s New Day, a selection of industry experts from across the continent, comprising Music in Africa CEO Eddie Hatyite (South Africa), Kenyan broadcaster, Maryanne Emmie, Ghana’s Rudy, who is Executive Producer of Afro Nation, and Nigerian talent manager and business development executive, Godwin Tom have rued the adverse effects of COVID-19 on the creative industry in Africa.
Like the rest of the world, nearly every aspect of the African continent has been heavily hit, forcing many activities to grind to a halt as, per Hatyite’s observation, movement has been restricted to a few entertainment spaces (his home country of South Africa has been on lockdown for about fifty days, drastically affecting the tourism economy there).
On how COVID-19 has affected the Afro Nation Festival, specifically, Rudy Kwakye admitted to a complete freeze regarding plans. “You can’t even plan,” he lamented, especially as no end seems to be in sight regarding the pandemic. As to whether the 2020 Ghana-leg of the mammoth festival will come off later this year, Kwakye submitted that though it’s “still on the table[…] there is no firm confirmation I can give at this time, because the situation is still fluid.”
It also emerged from the discussion, that much of the industry has turned to the internet, particularly Instagram Live, to engage consumers of various entertainment products. Tom, who emphasised in his opening remark that measures being enforced by various governments (including sequesters) is a “necessary” way of “dealing with” the virus and expediting a return to normalcy, noted that more innovative strategies have to be conjured by creatives beyond Instagram, as the platform is becoming monotonous for consumers.
One novelty that has been occasioned by the current global pandemic is the holding of virtual concerts and awards. In Ghana, for example, over the past few months, artists like Shatta Wale, MEDiKAL, and M.anifest have all performed to virtual audiences. Weeks ago, the 3Music Awards was held to a virtual audience, as was the VGMA Heroes Concert days ago. Hatyite sees it as the new reality, but is unsure of digital events witnessing major investment as it still new territory that isn’t viable at present.
So far, governments in countries like Kenya and South Africa have announced stimulus packages for the creative industry (Kshs. 100 million for Kenya, and $8 million to be distributed between South Africa’s sports and creative arts sectors). Two challenge attend the move by governments, per the panel. The first relates to whether it is enough; the second, disbursement. This view was supported by Hatyite, and presumably the rest of the panel.
The West African countries of Ghana and Nigeria, though epicentres of African entertainment, are yet to receive support from government in this period. While this is widely considered unfortunate, Tom points out that Nigeria’s creative industry has largely been built by the artists themselves, hardly waiting on government assistance. “We’re figuring it out,” he assured.