Africa Rising: Brands, music and youth culture

Africa is more than the sum of its well-publicised issues, and setting aside the obvious struggles that still trouble the continent, this emerging market is home to a rapidly growing – and much debated - consumer class. By 2016, in excess of 500 million Africans will live in urban cities, with consumer spending set to reach $1.4 trillion by 2020.

Africa is a vibrant, youth orientated continent, with the highest concentration of young people across the globe. Around 50% of Africans are less than 20 years old, with the 16-34 demographic accounting for around 65% of the entire continent’s consumer spending. Furthermore, unlike their somewhat spoilt Western counterparts, Africa’s Millennial generation is not pessimistic about its future (even with rapidly rising unemployment rates), in fact they are infectiously optimistic about what lies ahead. 

With the youth population in Africa set to rise faster than any other continent over the next decade, this ‘A Generation’ is one to watch as the next wave of youth pioneers tap into the country’s rich cultural heritage and make their collective voice, and spending power, known.

With arguably the strongest and most passionate musical culture on the planet, brands looking for a foothold with Africa’s youth are now tapping into the creative passion and freedom of this rising generation. Here we outline some of the key players: 

Converse – Player Xchange 

Converse, a brand widely known for its altruistic efforts in music, recently teamed up with online creative hub Okayafrica on a transcontinental collaborative music project. The concept sought to bring two artists together to combine their respective talent on a shared track. US rappers Go Dreamer and Sene teamed up with Kenyan viral hit group Just a Band and Nigerian rising pop star Bez on new music, brought to life from within Converse’s Rubber Tracks studio, with tracks ten given away as free downloads.

Brand benefits

Converse continues to bridge the musical void between continents, having previously championed a variety of Chinese bands at the SXSW festival in Austin Texas. This particular campaign, hones in on the brand’s on-going assistance to emerging artists and the creativity journey that underpins music creation, whilst celebrating the very best of progressive African music. Utilising a credible online partner also provides the promotion with added cultural gravitas.

Diesel – Studio Africa

With an aim to promote its new Africa inspired denim wear range (a tie up with the Bono and Ali Newson owned EDUN fashion brand), Diesel enlisted the help of nine African creatives from the fields of music, fashion, film, literature and photography, as it sought to champion African creativity and culture.

The Studio Africa campaign featured a number of key music events, from Boiler Room curated music nights in Paris, London and Rome - bringing African and Western artist together - to a dedicated streaming radio station showcasing a number of rising African musical talents.  

Brand benefits

A smart cultural mash-up from the Italian clothing brand that, like Converse above, fuses the creativity of one continent with another. What is particularly appealing about this project is the way in which the broader music events are supported by the highly personal stories of Africa’s creative pioneers; opening a window on the reality and struggle they have to be heard on a wider stage.  

Red Bull – Red Bull Studio Live

The Red Bull Studio in Cape Town, a state of the art recording studio for local creative talent, partnered up with the popular desert bound Oppikoppi festival in 2012, showcasing the best in South African electronica and dance music in front of a 20,000 strong crowd. Bringing its own unique live stage to the iconic festival, the brand provided energetic sets from the likes of Oskido, Haezer and Das Kapital. 

This festival activation got a mention in FRUKT’s 2012 Field Work report, outlining the best branded festival work of last year, and it - much like others listed in this article - epitomises the way brands are aligning with and actively promoting African music culture.

Brand benefits

Red Bull continues to apply its long-standing global music mentoring strategy in Cape Town, actively promoting South Africa music culture. Whether it's the numerous artists that frequent the Red Bull Studio or its Mix n Match podcasts with EDM online hub Electrotrash highlighting the musical influences behind local talent, the brand acts as a credible conduit between artists and their fans. Oppikoppi, with its influx of music influencers and the culturally curious, encompasses everything that is progressive about the South African music scene. A perfect fit for the brand's organic and creative approach to music marketing. 

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