Obi Asika on what’s next for Afro Nation
Afro Nation co-founder Obi Asika has told IQ that further international growth could be on the cards for the world’s biggest Afrobeats festival.
Burna Boy and Wizkid will headline the brand’s debut Miami, Florida edition, presented by Event Horizon, SMADE and Live Nation at LoanDepot Park from 27-28 May, while previous Afro Nation festivals have taken place in Africa, Europe, and the Caribbean since the brand launched in 2019.
“We launched Afro Nation Miami recently and would love to do more shows in the US,” Asika tells IQ. “Brazil would be an incredible place to host an Afro Nation show and it is very much on our roadmap for the future, and of course more shows on the African continent.
“A lot goes into selecting locations for an Afro Nation festival, the beauty of the site, event infrastructure, travel logistics and accommodation for guests, but most importantly, everywhere you’ll find an Afro Nation event will be bringing joy to sites of cultural significance around the world.”
“Afrobeats is still a relatively new genre in terms of worldwide popularity and we are on a mission to help elevate the next generation of global superstars”
Event Horizon co-founder Asika has been co-head of UTA’s UK office since the company acquired his Echo Location Talent Agency in 2021, and will appear on The Open Forum: The industry health check panel at this year’s ILMC.
The leading agent stresses the importance of Afro Nation providing a platform for the next generation of talent, as well as showcasing globally renowned acts.
“Afrobeats is still a relatively new genre in terms of worldwide popularity and we are on a mission to help elevate the next generation of global superstars, so it was incredible to see such an enormous outpouring of love for artists such as Rema, CKay, Major League DJz and Uncle Waffles, as much as it was humbling to see how far artists like Wizkid, Davido and Burna Boy have come,” says Asika.
“We’re sure to witness some big moments with artists on an impressive trajectory like Fireboy DML and Asake this summer, and also like bringing massive non-English language acts like Dadju to even wider audiences.”
Last year, the festival marked its North American debut with Afro Nation Puerto Rico, as well as its return to Portugal for the second time and Ghana, for the first time since 2019. A Mexican edition had also been planned for September 2020, before the pandemic intervened.
“In 2023, we will be building on our VIP experience, elevating the beach club events and really optimising the stunning site that we build this festival on”
The 2023 Portugal event is scheduled for Portimão from 28-30 June, headlined by Burna Boy, 50 Cent and Booba.
“We’ve just announced the first phase line-up for Afro Nation Portugal 2023 and are really excited about the opportunity with the show this year,” says Asika. “We always strive to represent as many genres and artists from as many countries as possible, led by Africa, and we have a great platform to build on after an incredibly successful event in Portugal last year.
“2022 saw a great deal of change, with a huge, brand new main stage, raised production levels and a completely unique backstage artist village concept that we commissioned. In 2023, we will be building on our VIP experience, elevating the beach club events and really optimising the stunning site that we build this festival on.
“Evolving our infrastructure in an aesthetically pleasing way that is harmonious to our beach setting is incredibly important to us, in the same way we always look to support the local industry and economies by working collaboratively and constructively with everyone around us.”
Asika says ticket sales for Afro Nation Portugal’s 2022 edition “surpassed all our objectives” despite logistical issues related to the pandemic.
“The Portugal show doubled in size and we sold 50% of our tickets for 2023 before we even announced our line up, so we have built an incredibly loyal fanbase for the brand,” he says. “There were difficulties in getting access to certain equipment as our industry still felt the after effects of the pandemic and one thing we have done as a business to combat that is to invest more in owning our own inventory. For example we have invested into owning our own main stage, security barriers and steel shields to use at our festivals in Portugal and West Africa, and also to allow touring artists and other promotions – such as Global Citizens and Black Star Line Festival in 2022 – to access it.”
“We are generally hearing good things about ticket sales and if you have a strong brand with a clear identity then people will keep buying tickets”
He continues: “One issue we have faced with building events in multiple territories such as Ghana, Puerto Rico, Miami and Portugal is around artist travel and visa difficulties, but this is part of our commitment to having as much global representation on stage as we possibly can.
“Ticketing can also be an issue, a process we want to make as easy and accessible as possible, so we have partnered with Easol to sell our tickets and introduced them to African payment gateways so they can take payment from customers using African cards. We pride ourselves on partnering with innovative technologies and removing obstacles in the industry.”
While Asika acknowledges there is some concern in the live events industry over the potential effect on ticket sales from the cost of living crisis, he is feeling positive about the season ahead.
“We are generally hearing good things about ticket sales and if you have a strong brand with a clear identity then people will keep buying tickets,” he adds. “Due to the backlog from Covid there were too many shows last year. Now things are back to normal and we broadly have a positive outlook on the events industry. The travel industry also seems to be recovering well and, as a promoter who offers international event experiencers, that’s very promising to see.”
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