Introducing the unpaid brand ambassadors of Nigeria, featuring Davido
In December 2021, Davido, Africa’s most famous husky voice, sat down with the hosts of Earn Your Leisure. EYL is the viral podcast about wealth for African Americans. As the street says, it is not your grandma’s type of finance show — and boy, did Davido pour out his frustrations with Nigeria or what!
It’s deliciously ironic, isn’t it, that this same man proudly sells Nigeria to the rest of the world as a place of talent and enrapturing music (we’ll come back to this in a few paragraphs) — and he also appears to see the country as such a persistent prick in the posterior.
From the singer’s hourlong chat, three things immediately jumped out. One: he could speak in both the American and Nigerian accents… at the same time.
Two: If Davido took a job at any one of his father’s companies, the 29-year-old would be earning up to “a million dollars a month.”
Number Three — and this is where the rubber meets the road: No matter how connected you are, to run a big business in Nigeria, you must be locked in a permanent handshake with the tricky trio of cronyism, nepotism, and political grift.
That, ladies and gentlemen, was some brutally candid interview. Some fellow Nigerians might even say, for a person whose businessman father must still relate with the Nigerian establishment, Davido should have tempered his candour.
But doing that would have robbed his message of its potentially transfiguring sting, and in that case, the point of his superlong appearance on the hit programme would have amounted to a total of zero.
At one point in his exchange with the hosts, Davido pictured an illustrative sceneario from Nigerian business. He said, “Let’s say a 20-year-old… he builds this tech company that’s about to make like a billion dollars, right? And he walks into an establishment that wants to buy the company. So, he walks in and they’re talking and he’s probably like, ‘Yeah, I want one billion dollars [for my company]. Do you know the man [at the other end of the table] can say, ‘Don’t you have respect? Don’t you know I’m older than you?”
Ha-ha. You should check out this gem of an interview on YouTube. Like the rest of us, you’re liable to laugh out loud, although Davido’s point wasn’t to get us cackling. Instead, he’s saying business is rarely just business for Nigerians and, also, the problem with the government is a problem with the people. “There’s a lot of our mindsets of our culture that we have to change,” he said.
Meanwhile, in the year that recently ended, Davido marked 10 years as a singer. Ten years is a bloody long time in showbiz, and it’s even doubly momentous because Davido was supposed to be a fluke. He was at the beginning accused of a lack of talent — couldn’t dance, couldn’t sing, didn’t even have the voice to sing with. These were aside from the other issue of the day: he assumed he could buy his way into music success.
But as he says in his current hit song: “Tell them make them calm down/10 years I never gone down.”
But his global success, as it turned out, isn’t just for him. It’s for the critics who prematurely wrote him off. It’s for other Nigerians who now want to be the next Davido. It’s the government. It’s for Nigeria. Just like Grammy winners Burna Boy, Big Wiz (the artiste formerly known as Wizkid) and Davido delivers much more optimistic attention to Nigeria than the country’s short-lived ‘country branding’ endeavours.
If you’d look back through 2021, for instance, you’d recall that Afrobeats music from Nigeria was relentless. It delivered catchy, lucrative anthems after anthems for global audiences with which those audiences made social media collabs as well as remixes.
If I had the space and time, I’d list more names than Big Wiz, Tems, Fireboy DML, Joeboy, Tiwa Savage, Oma Lay, and Ayra Starr as the most undeniably massive cultural exports from the country in 2021. And there is a gazillion other hitmakers just revving to go. Collectively, these folks, the unpaid brand ambassadors of the federal republic, have built Nigeria into the base of the best music out of Africa.
The undisputed capital of African music — now that’s some branding. Because, if you think about it, what is branding after all if not what people say about you behind your back? It is, to deploy some marketing jargon: the unique selling proposition, the uncontested market space.
Sometimes the unchallenged uniqueness is carefully engineered. Some other time, as in the case with Afrobeats and Nigeria, it is spontaneously built in.
And what do you do in this instance? Well, if I were the Nigerian minister of culture and tourism or the minister of youth or the minister of commerce, I’d build on this happy accident.
To start with, I’d get myself a captivating experience package that’d be bringing more foreign currency into the country. Could be a theme park, could be a virtual concert series, could be a tech-enabled music city for talent and development, could be this, could be that. Ultimately, it’s to build on what the rest of the world is already buying from Africa’s most populated country.
As expected, there would be some pushback regarding the status and tangibility of music as a platform for country positioning. Compared to the prestige of oil and gas, science and tech, academia and tech, music just doesn’t sound that serious — and to us as Nigerians, the more complex the propositions, the more valuable they appear.
But music, being entertaining storytelling will convey the other merits the country can offer. It’s sort of how Hollywood movies sold America to everyone as the greatest nation on earth.
You know a country which recently built on an intrinsic advantage? Barbados. With the Welcome Stamp, the new visa category it introduced in the middle of 2020, the scenic Caribbean country now welcomes thousands of remote workers and their families. These applicants must each be confirmed employed, with a salary of at least $50,000 a year.
As COVID-19 dried up tourism, it also created the Work From Home concept. So, if Barbados couldn’t bring the world in for sightseeing, it could lure it in with a 12-month visa. When the people come, they’ll surely pay rent, buy groceries, subscribe for the Barbadian ultrafast fibreoptic connection, and still visit those pretty beaches.
For this simple tweak in its economic strategy, the government of Barbados has received tremendous accolades. And why not? Theirs is a genius case of using what you have to get what you want — in these wearisome times.
Now, if you happen to be a well-connected individual, send this article to a federal mister in your network.