12 Jul, 2023
5 reasons why Africa is leading the creative revolution

Sub-Saharan African capitals are booming with creativity and bucking the trend on growing the creative economy. Dynamic leaders across capitals like Dakar, Johannesburg and Nairobi are leading a creative revolution. They are a fearless generation who aim to change the status quo on culture and creativity, in their cities and across the Africa continent.

That’s why at the World Cities Culture Forum, the leading network of 40+ global creative cities, is working with African cities.

Join us on 12 July for the African Alternatives webinar with a panel of African city leaders and sharing insights of new research with Andani.Africa and the British Council.

Over the past 10 months, (CHeCK) we spoke to creative leaders in Sub-Saharan African capitals including capitals Accra, Addis Ababa, Cape Town, Dakar, Freetown, Harare, Johannesburg, Kampala, Kigali, Lagos, and Nairobi.  

Five reasons (and five questions) why African capitals are leading the creative revolution:


  • It’s a numbers game

Cities like Accra, Kigali and Lagos are growing cities with expansive creative economies.

Africa’s population is set to double by 2050, this growth is mainly across Sub-Saharan cities that will soon become megapolis. At the same time, the growth rate of the creative economy in Africa consistently outpaces that of all other industries (UNCTAD).  Urban growth must go hand in hand with planning and support for creative growth.

Numbers matter when making the case. The Creative Vibrancy Index for African Cities demonstrates that there is infrastructure, innovation and attractiveness. It shows that creativity is not just the DNA of African capitals, it’s also a driving and unstoppable force. Culture leaders can use the data to leverage resources and influence city governments.


  • It’s the economy

African capitals embrace a wide definition of culture, which includes the creative industries. Alongside  heritage, museums and cultural tourism, the production and export of music, film, fashion and screen games are all seen as part of the ecosystem. 

Nollywood, Nigeria’s film industry is one of the fastest-growing creative industries in the world and could become the country’s greatest export, according to PwC. The industry employs creatives but also a myriad of jobs behind the scenes from accountants to lawyers, drivers to catering companies.  The job potential to address economic inequality is huge.

Culture is a key driver for the visitor industries, a key theme in our research. Also, digital platforms are turbo-charging the distribution of creative Africa on a global scale. Revenue from digital music streaming alone is expected to reach $500 million by 2025, up from only $100 million in 2017, according to the World Bank. 

Access to finance to the creative sector and workforce training remains a challenge. 


  • People and Places

A vibrant creative city is often based on two pillars: 

  1. Places. A city needs spaces where culture is consumed (theatres, cinemas, music venues, etc.) and where it is produced (artists’ studios, creative hubs, rehearsal spaces, etc.). 

      2. People. Creative talent needs freedom to innovate and access to legal, financial and political know-how.

African cities are investing in infrastructure like cultural centres, museums, creative hubs, and incubators. Planning for culture and civic spaces needs to be part of rapid urbanisation.

For creatives, it is crucial to strengthen intellectual property (IP) rights and improve enforcement. IP laws in Africa vary from country to country, but there are regional agreements like the African Regional Intellectual Property Organization (ARIPO) and the Organisation Africaine de la Propriété Intellectuelle (OAPI).


  • Entrepreneurs and City Government: a matter of trust

There is no shortage of talent and innovation. A new generation of African commercially savvy and highly educated entrepreneurs are leading the way.  The challenge remains for city governments, increasingly recognising the economic potential of the creative industries, to take steps to support this growth. 

Our research reveals that some African cities have cultural strategies in place, including Cape Town, Dakar, Harare, Kampala, and Nairobi, with policies to foster entrepreneurship and create an enabling environment for creative businesses.

But implementation is crucial. Governments must consult with creatives. And creatives must organise and offer recommendations. The successful delivery of policy is a joint effort between political, civic and creative leaders. Building trust and honest dialogue is imperative.


  • African capitals unite!

Sharing solutions to urban challenges advances progress. That’s why at World Cities Culture Forum we believe in using benchmarking data and leadership exchanges to share the best ideas amongst cities. Last year, Lagos and Warsaw took part in our Leadership Exchange Programme supported by @BloombergDotOrg on hosting art biennales and visual arts trade events.

There is an increasing emphasis on international partnerships to foster knowledge exchange and strengthen skills in African cities. But there isn’t (as of yet) a dedicated network for African global cities and culture. 

Our research shows that African cities would welcome being partners of the World Cities Culture Forum to access peer support, learn from other cities and access relevant research and data. 


Cities are at the forefront of innovation and progress. And it’s no surprise that the creatives are leading the way. Creative tribes are often the avant-garde of change, they drive and thrive in open, safe and tolerant societies. May the creative revolution begin.


And 5 questions:

  • Will the creative economy support rapid urbanisation and development in African capitals?
  • Will strategic investment and digital upskilling enable jobs and address inequality ?
  • Will space and talent be supported to continue the upwards trend ?
  • Will city governments and creatives work together?
  • Will international networks work with and for African cities?


By Andani Africa