These are powerhouses in the making. Inking unprecedented deals, performing in sold-out venues, chartering new commercial territories and making in-roads globally, they are Africa’s new generation of celebrities. They are exporting the African “brand of celebrity” across the continent and globally.
Last year Forbes readers were asked to name the most influential icons in contemporary African pop culture. And the response from that exercise was overwhelming, with musicians dominating the list of the “40 Most Powerful Celebrities In Africa”. Included on the inaugural list were some of the continent’s blockbuster actors, supermodels, athletes, movie producers, TV personalities and authors.
According to the 2012 Forbes Celebrity 100 list that came out earlier this year, it used to be sufficient for a celebrity to be really, really good at what they do – acting or singing. However today, celebs need to be businesses. And we are seeing that trend emerge with African celebrities. They are becoming so savvy in converting their celebrity into lucrative deals that the African “brand of celebrity” is becoming as bankable as that of Western superstars.
It makes perfect sense. Africa is a market unto itself. The African middle class alone is reported to be approximately the same size as the middle class populations of China and India. This middle class is a highly influential and rapidly growing consumer segment with a buying power that is demanding more products and services closely aligned with its own culture and lifestyle. This is evident in the success of content platforms such as iRokoTV(online distributor of Nigerian movies) and music, with D’Danj, Atumpan, Don Jazzy, Wizkid — big names behind Afro-beats, the West African sound that is going global, fast.
With a projected population of 1.2 billion people, and of that 313 million moving into the middle class, Africa’s exploding consumer base is a compelling enough force for its own celebrities to become BIG businesses. Not only are they entertainers and performers, but African celebrities are now negotiating and cutting big deals in the boardrooms of corporate Africa and around the world.
With their influence growing in Africa and globally, check their social media power, African celebs are commanding major magazine covers, negotiating big endorsement deals and touring across the globe. Nigerian recording artist, Tiwa Savage secured a lucrative endorsement deal with Pepsi; South African media personality, Boity Thulo inked a deal as the brand ambassador for Iman Cosmetics Africa and mega duo from Nigeria, PSquare reportedly charged USD$300,000 for their concert in Ghana earlier this year.
Their media visibility has been dramatic. South African media personality Bonang Matheba snagged the June 2011 cover of FHM Magazine, becoming the first Black South African celebrity to grace the cover of that men’s entertainment magazine. Nollywood actress Omotola Jalade Ekeinde is latest African celebrity with a reality show on African multi-national cable company, Dstv Mnet; so is South African singer and actress Kelly Khumalo with her reality show “Rolling with Kelly Khumalo” on free-to-air commercial television station, eTV. Plus African recording artists are now regulars on the popularBBC Radio 1Xtra.
More African celebrities are now Twitter verified, boasting six-figure followers, including Trevor Noah, D’Banj, Ajak Deng, 2Face, Don Jazzy, Genevieve Nnaji, Bonang Matheba, Omotola Jalade Ekeinde, WizKid, M.I. and BankyW. This speaks to their star power. Their Facebook fan pages, combined, run in the millions, indicating heightened engagement with their fans.
To form our list, we looked at African celebrities’ media visibility in print, television and radio, as well as online references on Google plus social media power, measured by looking at each celebrity’s presence on Facebook and Twitter. We combined that with information from record deals and releases, box office sales, touring, endorsements, new ventures and their general clout across the continent and the diaspora.
Here are the Top 13 African Celebrities To Watch in 2013:
Ahmen Soultan, Recording Artist, Morocco
Winner of the 2012 MTV Europe Music Awards for “Best Middle East Act” and “Best Middle East, Africa, India” and nominee for the “Best WorldWide Act”,Ahmed is a Moroccan singer artist who is considered as one of the leading artists of “Nayda,” the new Moroccan scene. In 2011, his song “Jokko” was nominated as best North African song and best African reggae song of the year. Ahmed has collaborated with American R&B recording artist, Ne-Yo on a song called “Amazing You”. He’s now working on his third album (planned for Spring 2013), for which he promises amazing collaborations.
David Oyelowo, Actor, Nigeria
David Oyelowo is a British-born Nigerian actor based in the U.S. This year has been a very busy year for David. He was in the George Lucas produced bio-pic “Red Tails”; Oscar-nominated film director, Lee Daniels’ “The Paperboy” opposite Nicole Kidman and Matthew McConaughey; Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln” starring Daniel Day-Lewis and Tommy Lee Jones and most recently “Jack Reacher” starring Tom Cruise. David also starred in the indie film, “Middle of Nowhere” for which he was nominated for the Independent Spirit Award for Best Supporting Male Actor.
Trevor Noah, Comedian, South Africa
Trevor is South African stand-up comedian, who made his U.S. television debut on NBC’s “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” in January of this year. A megastar in South Africa, Trevor has also been a radio DJ, actor and TV host. He toured the U.S with stand-up star comedian Gabriel Iglesia and presented his one man show “The Racist” at the Edinburgh Fringe in the U.K. Fresh off a very successful three month national tour in South Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa, Trevor is currently appearing in a six week sold out run at London’sSoho Theater.
Serge Ibaka, NBA basketball player, Republic of Congo
Born in Brazzaville, Republic of Congo, Serge Jonas Ibaka Ngobila is one of the most improved professional basketball player in the National Basketball Association (NBA). Commonly referred to as Serge Ibaka, Serge is a power forward with the Oklahoma City Thunder basketball team. He won a silver medal with the Spanish national basketball team at the 2012 Summer Olympics and is reported to be dating American R&B artist Keri Hilson.
Julius Onah, Film-maker, Nigeria
Emmy-Award winning, film and television director and producer, J.J. Abrams announced that he has selected Nigerian-born filmmaker Julius Onah, to direct his top secret sci-fi project, “God Particle”. The film will be developed through InSurge Pictures, Paramount Pictures’ micro-budget division. The 29-year-old Nigerian born film-maker made a name for himself with his short films “Little Girl Blue” and “Big Man”. His short film, “The Boundary”, designated by Amnesty International as one of its “Movies That Matter“, was acquired by American premium cable television network, Home Box Office (HBO). He most recently completed his debut feature length movie “The Girl Is In Trouble”, which was executive produced by Spike Lee. Julius has an MFA in film from the prestigious Tisch School of the Arts at New York University where he was a Dean’s Fellow.
Kudzanai Chiurai, Artist, Painter, Zimbabwe
The first Black student to graduate with a Bachelor’s degree in Fine Art from the University of Pretoria in South Africa, Kudzanai is regarded as one of the fastest rising talents in contemporary African art. So impressive was his work that the university faculty named him “Most Promising Art Student”. His art-work has been exhibited at the prestigious Museum of Modern Art in New York City, the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and dOCUMENTA13, the mega- exhibition of contemporary art that takes place every 5 years in Kassel, Germany. Kudzanai’s film “Iyeza” has been selected to be screened as part of the short films program at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival. “Iyeza” was one of only three African based short films to be selected.
Mataano, Fashion Designers, Ethiopia
Born in the United States, but raised in Somalia until they were nine years old and had to flee their country’s violent civil war, the Brooklyn-basedMohallim sisters launched their fashion line,Mataano, which means “twins” in Somali, in 2008. Oprah Winfrey hailed the identical twin sisters,Ayaan and Idyl Mohallim as future millionaire moguls on her popular talk-show the same year their fashion label was launched. Four years later, the Mohallim sisters have presented their collections at fashion weeks from New York City to Lagos, Nigeria to Johannesburg, South Africa. CNN Inside Africaprofiled the design duo for a feature on African fashion. This year the Mataano twins announced their partnership with supermodel Iman’s IMAN Cosmetics for which they are also the brand ambassadors.
DJ Sbu, DJ, Recording Artist, Social Entrepreneur, South Africa
Sbusiso Leope, popularly known as DJ Sbu, is an entertainer, media personality, philanthropist, and abusinessman. A role model to South African youth, DJ Sbu goes to at least three high schools weekly to share his inspirational story about how he overcame poverty and became successful in life. Voted “Sunday Times Coolest Brand of 2012,” DJ Sbu released his 6th studio album, “Sound Revival Volume 2” earlier this year. It has since been certified platinum.
Ajak Deng, Supermodel, Sudan
The Sudanese supermodel burst into the scene in 2009 when she debuted at the spring Michael Angel show at Mercedes Benz New York Fashion Week. She has closed the Valentino couture show and also walked at fashion weeks in New York City, London and Paris for Gucci, Givenchy, Jean Paul Gaultier, Armani, Lanvin, Chloé, Marc by Marc Jacobs and Arise African Collective. One of the faces of Benetton, Ajak has been featured in various magazines, most notably Vogue, “Interview” with Mikael Jansson and “V” with Amy Troost.
Camp Mulla, Hip Hop Group, Kenya
The five-member, award-winning group is considered one of the most exciting hip hop groups in Kenya. After winning several awards locally, Camp Mulla became the first Kenyan and East African artists to be nominated at the 2012 BET Awards for the “Best International Act – Africa” category”.
Sarkodie / R2Bees, Recording Artists, Ghana
The two-time Ghana Music Awards Artiste of the Year became the first Ghanaian artist to win a BET Award, walking away with the “Best International Act – Africa” category” earlier this year. For the second time, Sarkodie made a second appearance at the 2012 BET Hiphop Awards in Atlanta, Georgia, alongside hip hop artist Talib Kweli. Sarkodie’s third studio album, titled “Sarkology”, will be released in 2013.
Ghanaian mega-group R2Bees, made up of Faisal Hakeem (Paedae da Pralem) and Rashid Mugeez, is behind some of the biggest hits coming out of West Africa. The hip-hop/hiplife group’s highly anticipated single featuring London-born, Ghanaian artist, Tinchy Stryder is due out in 2013.
Mark Tonderai Hodges, Film-maker, Zimbabwe
Mark Tonderai began his career in the media working as a writer, producer and presenter on the Mark Tonderai Show on BBC Radio 1 and weekending for BBC Radio 4. In 2002 he formed Shona Productions with partner and wife, Zoe Stewart, and wrote and starred in his debut feature, Dog Eat Dog. His latest film, ‘House at the End of the Street’, which he directed, brought inUS$36 million at the box office.
Bonang Matheba, Media Personality, South Africa
Bonang is undoubtedly South Africa’s leading female television presenter, reality TV Host, and radio DJ. A favorite with South African youth, Bonang won the 2012 Glamour Magazine Woman Of The Year Award. Bonang most recently joined South African Broadcasting Corporation, SABC3’s flagship lifestyle and entertainment show, “Top Billing” as one of the hosts.