Nigeria and Ghana share many historical and cultural similarities with both sharing an affinity for similar cuisines, fashion, and music among others. Both Anglophone countries continuously engage in healthy competition to expose West Africa to the world.
December is arguably one of the months for carefree spending and, in some ways, places around the world are forced to compete as a destination for people's amusement and enjoyment.
Surprisingly, countries like Ghana and Nigeria that don’t have fancy skyscrapers, the best of metro systems or abundance of elite shopping malls are beginning to attract visitors in large numbers
In Africa, cities including Accra, Lagos, and Abuja appear to be setting a distinguished standard during December. The remarkable level of hospitality is rapidly transforming both countries into a tourism destination, which further transcends into a more buoyant Christmas economy for West Africa.
What exactly has been attracting people that are mostly from Africa and the African diaspora to Ghana and Nigeria? An evident answer is mainly the boom of Afrobeats, the high number of live entertainment shows, parties, and the growing interest of the African diaspora in black heritage.
For several decades, Hip Hop and RnB have been the face of black music globally. Other genres of music in the black community were struggling to level with the two genres that were mostly music dominated by American artists. Jamaicans were arguably second-in-line with Dancehall and reggae, while other Afro genres like Afrobeats, Afrobeat (an entirely separate genre despite the similar name) and Highlife were still on the way up.
However, when international star Beyonce released her album “Lion King: The Gift” in 2019, featuring over 7 artists from west Africa, it became clear that Afrobeats had arrived and could be the “new oil” as described by Nigerian singer Davido.
Afrobeats is a 21st century genre of music that is iconic to Ghana and Nigeria. Music experts say that the West African counterparts created the genre by blending various indigenous genres like Jùjú music, dancehall, soca, Naija beats, highlife, and Naija beats. Over the years, genres including hip hop, grime and trap have also been infused into the composure of the Afrobeats.
Due to similarities in pronunciation and spelling, Afrobeats and Afrobeat are often confused for each other. Afrobeat was pioneered by popular Nigerian musician and activist the late Fela Anikulapo Kuti in the 1980s. He invented Afrobeat by mixing sounds of African Highlife with American funk, Jazz, and Blues.
Over the years, Afrobeats has seen a huge transition in its audience. The genre’s first audience was mostly in Ghana and Nigeria, but the sound has slowly grew across African countries thanks to platforms like “MTVbase Africa” and “Trace Africa”.
In little time after circulating Africa, Afrobeats became a sensation amongst countries with a high population of the African diaspora (England and America) and eventually leveled up to become a global music genre.
One major song that introduced Afrobeats to the world was Oliver Twist by former Good Music artist D’banj (or Oladapo Daniel Oyebanjo). The high tempo song which was released 9 years ago peaked at the top 10 hits in the UK singles chart in 2012 and reached No. 2 on the UK R&B chart.
Ghanaian artiste Fuse ODG also made waves with a smash hit title, “Azonto”. Aside from getting heavy rotation on British radio stations like BBC, the song also popularized the Ghanaian dance step which is also called Azonto.
Following the release of hit songs of this kind, Afrobeats has been on a global trajectory with the likes of Wizkid, Davido, Stonebwoy, and Burna Boy taking the wheel.
The success of Afrobeats around the world is quite glaring for the racially diverse and large crowd that fills up the high-capacity arena. A few weeks ago, Wizkid concluded a 3-day concert titled “Made in Lagos” (also the name of his last music album) at the O2 arena in London performing to over 70,000 people.
The Made in Lagos concert is only one of many Afro-beats success stories. Wizkid's single Essence (featuring Tems) was arguably one of the biggest songs in 2021, especially in the Afro community. Not only did the track experience heavy rotation on radio stations across North America, Europe, and Africa. It also grew into a social media anthem on platforms like Instagram and TikTok.
Previously, at the 63rd Annual Grammy Award Nigerian artist Burna Boy placed Afrobeats on a pedestal when he took home the award for Best Global Music Album with his 3rd album titled Twice As Tall.
While "A-list" African artists are continuously reinforcing the position of the genre globally. Promising acts are also capitalizing on the internet to reach a broader audience. About 2 months ago, one of the remixed versions of Ckay's 2019 single “Love Nwantinti” (featuring Axel and DJ Yo) gradually transformed into a social media sensation.
Shola Dennis, a Social Media Analyst said '' there was not a day went by on TikTok that someone wasn't playing “Love Nwantiti” by Ckay. I didn't even notice when I started picking on the lyrics of the song without knowing the meaning''.
During the peak of the song on TikTok, it was played in over 3 million videos from a variety of online influencers and content creators from North Africa, Asia, North America, and Europe. Away from the social media success, the song also put Afrobeat on the map when it was played at the 2021 MET Gala Awards while international model, Kendall Jenner was walking up the red carpet.
Ckay couldn't hold in his excitement when he realized his song had grown to become one of the most Shazamed songs in 2021.
West Africa is beginning to look more welcoming to people as music continues to expose the region in a positive light. From people singing along to Afrobeats songs in native languages like Yoruba, Igbo, Hausa, Twi, Fante and many more. People of the African diaspora have developed an interest in directly experiencing the region’s culture.
Romoke Martins, who was born and raised in Texas, USA said “when I listened to Wizkid's Ojuelegba, and realized it was a place in Lagos, I wanted to visit, see what it looks like, and even have the experience of hopping on a commercial bus”.
The interest of experiencing the culture has also caught the attention of people from the African diaspora as Black Americans and Caribbeans are finding West Africa homely. Douglas Jay commented, "I visited Nigeria and Ghana in 2019. My travel was motivated by the energy I experienced in Afrobeats parties in England, that further exposed me to the culture and I decided to come and see it for myself".
Millennials and Gen Z of West Africa are gradually shaking off the traditional ambiance of December where Christmas carols, fancy dining, and end-of-the-year parties have been the main attraction. In more recent times, the buzz of the Christmas season is now mainly centered on music concerts, live shows, parties, and festivals.
Apart from the high thousands of people that come out to experience their favorite artist's performance. One thing that is widely visible across urban centers in Nigeria and Ghana is billboards displaying dates for upcoming concerts. Certainly, live entertainment has become the craze for December, as a ticket gift to a live concert would probably have more value than a Christmas card.
In less than 15 years, Lagos and Abuja have experienced a tremendous change in the number of December gigs. In the past major shows like “Rhythm Unplugged” and “Star Mega Jams” dominated the season. However, more events are now present in December which is mainly due to an increase in middle-income earners and frequent return of Nigerian immigrants during holidays.
Artists like Wizkid, 2Face, Davido, Tiwa Savage, Burnaboy, Show Dem Camp have consistently delivered their concerts for the last four years while promising acts have also taken advantage of the period to grow their fan base for the year ahead.
Additionally, the presence of International music stars has been consistent in Nigeria towards the end of the year. Some examples are Megan thee Stallion, Skepta, Chris Brown, Bobby Brown, and Future.
Currently, almost every day of the festive season is scheduled for a major show up until the first few days of January. With an abundance of music concerts, festivals, raves, and parties, Nigerian youths have tagged the season "Detty December"; a term that emphasizes excessive and carefree fun and sometimes spending out of pocket for the festive period.
Detty December has not only caught the attention of the urban population, but major brands like First Bank and Pepsi have also committed to evolving the Xmas experience within the country. 10 years ago, Pepsi started off sponsoring one major event which was the Rhythm unplugged. In 2019 the non-alcoholic beverage brand has sponsored over 8 shows in Lagos and Abuja (MeganTheStallion, Teni 'The Billionaire Experience', Tiwa Savage with 'Savage Experience). Similarly, First Bank has backed three different shows with the hashtag *FirstbankIssaVybe*, the 2019 edition brought international rapper Future.
Ghana's Afrochella is currently one of the biggest music festivals in Africa. The 2019 edition of the 10-day event saw over 10,000 people from all corners of the world gather at Accra's El Wak Sports Stadium.
Aside from African performing artists like Stonebwoy, Wendy Shay Sarkodie, Samini, Tiwa Savage and Wande Coal, international celebrities of African descent like Naomi Campbell, and Idris Elba were present to grace the occasion thus reinforcing the country’s position as a place of black heritage.
Afrochella promoters seek to redefine African diversity by uniting natives of the continent and African diaspora as they believe this is a unique social dynamic for the continent. Aside from Afrochella, another big festival called Afronation is making serious waves in Ghana. The urban beach festival, which started in Portugal, had its African debut in 2019 at the Laboma beach, Accra.
Each day of the 3-day beach event recorded over 3,000 people who came to experience a blend of Nigerian and Ghanian artists Olamide, Shatta Wale, Wizkid, Naira Marley, amongst some international acts.
As show business becomes more promising in West Africa, event planners are also seizing every opportunity possible to introduce new projects that can further elevate the end-of-the-year experience. This year in Ghana, a new concert, WILDALAND festival, is slated for Dec 26–27 2021.
Afrochella and Afronation are putting Ghana on the map as a festival location. Unique parties like PineXGinja are also upscaling Ghana's December experience. PineXGinja, which started in 2018 is a soirée that merges Ghanaian and Jamaican cultures, using music and performance to create a tropical-themed night for admirers of Jamaican culture, in Ghana, and Kingston, Jamaica.
In 2019, Ghana launched an initiative called “Year of Return”. The social campaign was the country's strategy of attracting more people, especially from the large African diaspora to visit the Gold Coast for tourism, heritage, and business.
Most of the visitors who came from North America and Europe showed more interest in the tourism and heritage aspects of the initiative. A report shows that over 900,000 people arrived in Ghana in 2019, exceeding the government’s projection of 500,000.
Additionally, The Year of Return also commemorated the 400th anniversary of the return of enslaved Africans. International celebrities like Ludacris, Steve Harvey, TI, Boris Kodjee, Akon, and many more attended the event. The Ghanaian government hopes to beat the achievements of Year of Return with another initiative called Beyond the Return running from 2020–2030.
Although Nigeria hasn't officially launched any campaign that invites people from the African diaspora, the country is, in some way benefiting, from the interest of black people around the world that want to explore the continent.
African Americans and Afro-Europeans also pay visits to the country during their Christmas holidays. Some of them are motivated by their Nigerian friends who live abroad, while others have simply built up some courage to explore their ancestral land.
While both Ghana and Nigeria are thriving as memorable places for December, a grave issue seems to be arising within the continent which is the spread of the Omicron variant of Covid-19.
A few weeks ago, Nigeria was red-flagged as a danger zone for the virus by the United Kingdom and the United States. From all indications, potential travelers would have to weigh their options as countries might impose strict quarantine measures on people going in and out of the country.
Last December for both Nigeria and Ghana was more low key as the majority of West African natives living abroad and foreigners couldn't travel back home due to COVID-19 lockdown. Major shows and concerts couldn't hold as social distancing became the new norm for people. In addition, hotel bookings and flight tickets sales have been reduced significantly.
With little and inconsistent data, it is quite difficult to estimate how much was lost through tourism in West Africa. However, it is reported that tourism in Ghana dropped by 55% while over 770,000 jobs were lost in Nigeria. Both countries will be looking to bounce back from their Covid struggles in the coming years and to build on their growing cultural influence not just in West Africa, but also the wider world.