Professionalization and structuring of the music industry in sub-Saharan Africa

Initiated in 2014 by the International Music Council, the AMDP aimed to give an opportunity to young students and music professionals from Africa to be trained and acquire the skills essential to the practice of their profession.

“We firmly believe that the music industry on the African continent is at a turning point in its artistic and economic history: African musicians are today exported all over the world; digital and internet tools have changed the way in which we produce, distribute and use a music that today generates significant economic revenue, and festivals that bloom everywhere in Africa have become the showcase of this great dynamic. It is then essential that the new generation of cultural managers have the ability to continue this structuring of the cultural sector in Africa and build a strong and sustainable ecosystem”, explains Charles Houdart, in charge of the implementation of the project.

The initial network of partners has grown exponentially and made it possible to constitute in 3 years a substantial group of promoters, students, artists, organizations and cultural actors. AMDP remains in all respects a major success in that it has allowed initiating innovative activities which have demonstrated their relevance and accuracy in relation to the initial objective: the professionalization and structuring of the music industry in sub-Saharan Africa. These activities include:

  • Academic exchanges for 40 students of the Technical University of Kenya and Makerere University (Uganda);
  • Internships (1-4 months) for 25 students and young professionals in music festivals on the continent (Sauti za Busara, Lake of Stars, Shoko Festival, Le Kolatier, Feux de Brazza, Visa for Music, Timitar, FEMUA, …);
  • 2 « IMPACT Music Conferences » in Harare and Abidjan;
  • Nearly 50 students from Kenya, Uganda, Germany, DRC and Ivory Coast did a 10-day immersion course to discover landmark African festivals;
  • Workshops of practical training in the management of festivals, communication, mobilization of sponsors, stage management,... in Zanzibar, Zimbabwe, Cameroon, Congo, Côte d'Ivoire... by a selection of renowned African experts and professionals for 100 beneficiaries;
  • More than 200 participants were trained in music management and sound engineering in Malawi and Mozambique;
  • Assistance in the publication of research and articles on the music industry in Africa, provision of teaching resources, and participation in academic and professional conferences for researchers and operators from the continent; 
  • And finally the organisation of the first African Forum on Music in Segou, Mali, attended in September 2016 under the aegis of the African Council, by nearly 80 actors of the music industry from around the world.

Some concrete and sustainable results

Cultural exchanges

This activity involved a student exchange between two African universities: Makerere University (Uganda) and the Technical University of Kenya. The activities set up by each university have sought to combine theoretical lessons and field activities. As a consequence of this action, practical learning has now been incorporated into the curricula of the two universities.

Long and short placements for African and European student at African music festivals

This component of the project had the ambition to allow students from the music and musicology departments of African and European universities to experience fieldwork in a music festival and thus to strengthen their skills and aptitude for “employability”. These workshops have created permanent links between African and European universities and African music festivals.

Training workshops for festivals teams and exchanges of professionals between festivals

This component of the project has enabled young music professionals with significant professional experience to work in AMDP partner organizations and gain experience in the field of another music festival. The aim was also to create professional and artistic synergies between different music festivals on the African continent and thereby facilitate the exchange of people, skills and information within the African cultural industry.

Technical training

The Bayimba festival had a real deficit of skills in the field of sound. The director of the festival had expressed the need for training so that the local technicians could acquire the necessary skills and autonomously take charge of the sound of the event in the future. After this training, the technicians are now autonomous and, by extension, have improved the quality of sound engineering services in Kampala and Uganda.

AMDV also organised training courses within FEMUA. The general theme of this training was the organisation of cultural events and music festivals, with a particular focus on communication and marketing. The objectives announced by the trainer were to strengthen the capacities of Ivorian professionals in the design, management and conduct of cultural events, including festivals.

Capacity building workshops for African cultural and musical organisations

“The brainstorming about African music has led us to organise workshops to reflect on the evolution of the creative economies and their importance in the social and economic growth of developing countries,” explains Charles Houdart. “At a time when the African and world music industry is undergoing a profound transformation with the widespread adoption of the digital economy, it was essential for AMDP to propose an annual report on the state of the African music industry at the digital age and thus position itself at the heart of the realities of the sector”.

In addition:

1. In several countries, (Côte d'Ivoire and Burkina in particular) local authorities place the professionalisation of the cultural sector as a priority in cultural and educational public policies;

2. Some AMDP activities are pursued independently by a few partners (training workshops at Music Crossroads, courses organised by the HIFA / Sauti za Busara festival);

3. AMDP has succeeded in creating a communication and information sharing network that continues after the end of funding. The events and initiatives of each partner are relayed and shared by all on all the social networks and other channels of communication, thus creating a community around AMDP and actions implemented or promoted;

4. The International Music Council also continued its commitment beyond the funding of the ACPCultures + programme by organizing the 3rd IMPACT Music Conference in Accra in April 2017.

What were the weak points of the project and the mistakes not to be made? “In the design phase of the project, we have inserted too many activities,” says Houdart. “Some of the components of the project were not relevant, lacked of structural support and had, subsequently, less impact. We also underestimated the workload for some partners, who had to accumulate tasks related to AMDP to those usual and regular”.

What are the main principles and common values that guided the project? “Leaning through the practice of fieldwork and experience is essential”, answers Charles Houdard. “It is essential to focus on a South/South transfer of competencies between African experts and young professionals. To achieve this goal, it is important to put forward the necessary continental and international mobility, and facilitate professional networking”, he concludes.


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October 12, 2017
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