Opinion: Why Nigerian Musicians Prosper More Globally Than Other African Artists

Wizkid and Burna Boy perform at The O2 Arena in London, December 2021.

Photo by Joseph Okpako/WireImage

Opinion: Why Nigerian Musicians Prosper More Globally Than Other African Artists

We take a look at Nigerian pop music on the global stage and a few reasons why it's performing significantly well.

African creatives are curious why Nigerian music prospers more around the world than other African music. The recent rift between Nigerian star Burna Boy and Ghanaian dancehall singer Shatta Wale is not where the grievances started. South Africans were the first to ponder on this. Sometime in July 2019, music fans in South Africa engaged each other on Twitter as they tried to uncover the mystery behind Nigerian music performance on the global market.

Many attributed the success of Nigerian music to the nation's population. Others believe that Nigerian musicians are more sedulous than their counterparts from other African countries. Though there are some elements of truth in both schools of thought, they are not factual.

On Christmas day 2021, Shatta Wale and Medikal collaborated to host the 'Freedom Concert' at the Accra Sports Stadium in Ghana. Halfway through the concert, Shatta Wale seized the opportunity to address some issues within the Ghanaian music industry. He used an F-word on Nigerian artists while calling out the Nigerian media for not giving Ghanaians a chance to shine in the Nigerian media space.

After the concert, Shatta Wale continued to rant on Twitter. Later, Stonebwoy showed solidarity to Shatta Wale. Stonebwoy suggested that the Nigerian population is the reason behind the success of Nigerian music on the global stage. He also noted that the Nigerian media sidelines music from Ghana and denies them access to the mainstream market. Stonebwoy called on Nigerians to stand in to help forge a united Africa by deliberately allowing music from other African countries to flourish on Nigerian platforms on local and international levels.

This incident didn't sit well with the 'African Giant,' Burna Boy. He quickly shared his thoughts, alleging that it is a "grave disservice" to push an agenda that could separate beautiful African nations and cause disunity.

The issues around global dominance of Nigerian music have been in existence for a while. With a close look at Nigerian pop music on the global stage, here are a few reasons Nigerian music is performing significantly well.

Population & Internet Access

With an estimated population of 213 million people as of January 2022, Nigeria is the most populated nation in Africa (according to World Meters). Statista claims around 43% to 51% of the Nigerian population have access to the internet. That is more than 108 million people as of July 2021. Ethiopia, Africa's second most populated country, has a population of 114 million people. The implication is that the number of Nigerians on the internet is slightly less than the entire population of Ethiopia.

The percentage of Nigerians with access to the internet gives them the power to resonate and trend globally on platforms like TikTok and Twitter. TikTok is the latest tool for music discovery, making it easy for Nigerian music to taste the global market.

Diasporan Markets

With 40% of Nigerians living in poverty in 2020 (according to The Nigerian National Bureau of Statistics), an average Nigerian's dream is to leave. In 2015, UNDESA estimated the number of Nigerian international emigrants to be 1.2 million, giving the Nigerian music industry an added audience in the global market.

CBNC Africa predicts that in 2050 African diaspora will triple to 100 million people. Currently, 34 million Africans live outside their country of birth. Africans in the diaspora are another market Nigerians try to tap into when marketing their songs. They identify the demand forAfrican culture and lifestyle in the diaspora communities, hence they push Afrobeats to them. Music becomes the easiest way for them to connect with the motherland.


Language is crucial in music. Even though it might not be as vital as melody, it enables the audience to further connect to tracks. The language in which a song is performed increases its potential concerning popularity and longevity. The science is simple: people remember what they understand — and Nigerians know this. Even when they perform in their local languages, they ensure the chorus or hook is English. This is a deliberate choice.

In reality, this means that once the music gets into the media, it stands a chance of getting adopted and personalized by about 1.75 billion English-speaking people, a quarter of the world's population. The above figure does not include other non-English speaking communities that could fall in love with the song's melody.

Major Label Presence

Major labels have been in Nigeria for years. Wizkid, Davido, Burna Boy, Tiwa Savage, and Omah Lay have deals with either Sony Music, Universal Music, or Warner Music. The presence of these labels in the Nigerian music space increases their capital strength for production, branding, marketing, amongst others. The albums released with these labels boast features from international superstars hatching new markets for these artists as a byproduct of these collaborations. This also extends to building relationships and riding on existing partnerships made available by these labels for support from international media and music streaming companies.


Branding and lifestyle are vital. The Nigerians understand this. Hence they invest so much in developing brands and lifestyles for their artists. Rema came with a mask. Ruger is known for his eye patch. The imagery created by these items makes it easier for the audience to identify and differentiate these brands. The luxurious lifestyle also contributes to the buzz around these artists.