Ed: A non Africa in DC post to kick the weekend off, dedicated readers will know that a major mission of mine is to expose DC’s Africa policy wonks to African entertainment – Africa in 2013 remains a continent that is in many respects Eurocentric: think airline routes, education systems, etc.
Accordingly, I’m very interested in the engagement of major African powers on the continent. For awhile, I’ve been very interested in the diffusion of South Africa’s commercial and economic presence across Africa (think establishments like the grilled chicken purveyor, Nando’s, which I will forever cherish as a result of this commercial and grocery stores like Spar and OK). This acceleration since the end of apartheid has been rapid. South African fast food chains can be found across the cities of west and east Africa; of interest to the policy wonks, this diffusion manifests itself in the deployment of South African troops to places like the Central African Republic.
Much of this expansion has been at the expense of Nigeria. I don’t believe that Nigerian fast food/retail outlets, like Mr. Biggs, have anywhere near the same reach as those of South Africa. As of late however, I think that I need to turn more attention to Nigeria’s engagements in Africa.
Demographics alone makes Nigeria important. Nigerians can be found all over the continent. I recall that when I was studying in Namibia almost 10 years ago there was a great national fear of Nigerian criminals operating in Windhoek. In 2010, while vacationing in Durban, South Africa, I saw numerous posters promoting parties for Nigeria’s 50th year of independence. On a recent trip to Liberia, a Nigerian businessman accused me causing a car wreck.
I’ve lately become quite an aficionado of Nigerian pop music (expect a post on that this weekend, it’ll have a bit of a DC slant). While Nigerian corporations seem to be currently losing the battle to South African ones for retail domination of the continent, demographics are helping Nigeria win the battle on the entertainment front. In my experience, South African music (like Kwaito) has a very limited following in much of Africa and is not even that strong in the SADC (southern African) region, with Namibia being a notable exception.
Conversely, Nigerian pop stars are massive throughout west Africa and are quickly gaining ground across the continent. The same holds true for Nollywood movies. Accordingly, I was very interested to see this piece in a Zimbabwean state paper about an upcoming performance by D’banj, a Nigerian star with ties to Kanye West.