With no doubt, African music has come far with high-profile artists who continue to make waves both at home and abroad. These musicians, apart from grabbing lots of awards and nominations for their excellent work and performances, have also acquired a great deal of wealth by doing what they know how to do best.
The following is a list of the top ten richest musicians of African descent as released by Forbes Africa. The list was put using factors such as sales, endorsement value, popularity, show rates, awards, YouTube views, investment, appearance in newspapers, social media presence, influence among others.
He is on top of the list, having over 35 million albums sold worldwide including several awards (five Grammy Award nominations) with singles that have dominated the charts – Smack That and Lonely. With 45 Billboard Hot 100 songs to his name, the Senegalese-American musician was recently listed by the Guinness Book of World Records as the number one selling artist for master ringtones in the world and has also made some cash from the Pepsi soccer ad campaign and other entrepreneurial projects. He has two record labels which helped pushed the careers of both Lady Gaga and T-Pain.
The founder of Konvict clothing also owns The Konfidence Foundation, a youth charity organization, and has since brought solar energy to half a billion African households with the Akon Lighting Africa. The singer and producer recently announced that he would introduce his own cryptocurrency called Akoin and build a new city in Senegal.
2. Black Coffee
Real name Nkosinathi Maphumulo, the multi-award-winning artist was born in South Africa’s house music province, Kwazulu-Natal (KZN) and raised in the Eastern Cape province, where Nelson Mandela hailed from, before moving back to KZN to study music.
His big break into the South African DJ scene came in 2003 when he was chosen as one of two South African participants in the Red Bull Music Academy and eventually founded Soulistic Music, a leading management and record company, and made himself officially known globally through a self-titled album.
Soulistic Music would begin signing releases from musicians such as Tumelo and Zakes Bantwini which achieved gold and platinum sales. Black Coffee has also worked with international acts such as Alicia Keys and Drake, bringing his work to the attention of many others. In 2016, he became the first South African to win a BET Award apart from grabbing three South African Music Awards and a DJ Award for Best Deep House.
3. Hugh Masekela
The “Father of South African Jazz” and Africa’s musical luminary left a big hole in Africa’s heart after his passing on January 23, 2018, in Johannesburg at the age of 78 following a long battle with prostate cancer. Despite the disease being discovered in 2008, the world-renowned flugelhornist, trumpeter, bandleader, composer, singer and political activist continued to perform until his death.
He portrayed his struggles and feelings towards the apartheid regime in his music and will tour his country and London before joining Dollar Brand, Kippie Moeketsi, Makhaya Ntshoko, Johnny Gertze to form the Jazz Epistles in 1959. They became the first African jazz group to record an LP.
Masekela released over 40 albums in his five decades solo career and has recorded with artists such as Harry Belafonte, Dizzy Gillespie, The Byrds, Fela Kuti, Marvin Gaye, Herb Alpert, Paul Simon, Stevie Wonder and the late Miriam Makeba. The Bring Him Back Home musician opened the South Africa 2010 FIFA World Cup Kick-Off Concert and the event’s Opening Ceremony in Soweto’s Soccer City.
Besides the many awards Masekela has won, he has been nominated three times for a Grammy Award including a nomination for Best World Music Album for his 2012 album Jabulani, Best Musical Cast Show Album for Sarafina! The Music Of Liberation (1989) and Best Contemporary Pop Performance for “Grazin’ in the Grass” (1968).
4. Don Jazzy
The third richest musician in Africa as of 2017/2018 was born Michael Collins Ajereh. The singer and music producer started playing music in church as a child before moving to the UK to pursue his dreams, where he worked as a security guard before getting the chance to play at restaurants and other venues with a band a friend introduced him to.
The successes he chalked from this made him venture into music production and with his then partner D’banj, they decided to return to Nigeria to make Afrobeats. Don Jazzy is now a multi-award winning artist, was once MTN brand ambassador and has a record label which hosts music stars like Dr SID and Tiwa Savage. The music producer has interests in real estate as well and has launched Flobyt, a company that provides free Wi-Fi in Nigeria.
The 24-year-old shot to fame with her debut album, Aquarius and has since worked with the likes of Usher, Chris Brown, Britney Spears, Nick Jonas, Future, and Chance The Rapper. The Zimbabwean-American’s powerful voice earned opening spots on tours with Nicki Minaj, Katy Perry and Maroon 5, according to Forbes.
Her collaboration with Britney Spears produced Slumber Party which reached the #1 position on Billboard’s Dance Club Songs chart. Being a brand ambassador for various multinational brands has made her develop relationships with the influential such as Ralph Lauren, Alexander Wang, and MAC Cosmetics. Tinashe is the face and owner of her own lifestyle brand, Svu Svu, which was honoured as one of 2015’s ELLE Women in Music and was recently chosen by Janet Jackson to perform a tribute to her at the 2015 BET Awards.
Jidenna Theodore Mobisson knew he wanted to do music right at the age of 10 but his father had wanted him to become an engineer instead. Eventually, Jidenna connected with singer and Wonderland record label founder, Janelle Monáe who helped him to produce the hit Classic Man which had over 56 million views on YouTube before the remix with Kendrick Lamar.
For someone who doesn’t forget his roots, his debut album, The Chief, was promoted, first, in Lagos and Johannesburg. Jidenna has also worked with former US First Lady, Michelle Obama, on her education initiative, holds private shows and was in the HBO series Insecure.
Born Ayodeji Ibrahim Balogun, he rose to fame with Holla At Your Boy in 2010 and has since won many awards, including the BET Award for Best International Act Africa in 2012 and MTV Europe Music Award for Best Worldwide Act.
The proclaimed StarBoy has been doing his thing on and off the record charts and was recently honoured with October 6 being etched as “Wizkid Day” in Minnesota – for being the first African artist to sell out the Skyway Theatre. Just last month, he partnered with Nike to produce the “StarBoy Jersey,” “a shirt that simultaneously speaks to his local pride and Naija’s cultural clout. It sold out within 10 minutes of its release on the sneaker giant’s site.
Before that, the popular singer was garnering accolades by being featured on tracks by some of the hottest on the scene right now such as Drake, Dancehall artist Kranium, British-Nigerian rapper Skepta, Davido and Olamide – just to name a few. The Nigerian singer and songwriter also signed a multi-album worldwide deal with Sony Music International and has been a Pepsi ambassador.
Back in January, the “Assurance” hitmaker took to his Instagram page to share a photo of his latest acquisition, a 2018 Bentley Bentayga. Valued at around $246k, his “baby” finally touched down in July in Nigeria and he clearly couldn’t hide his excitement.
Born David Adedeji Adeleke, the 25-year old Afrobeats sensation has had a very successful career notching numerous accolades on the way with the 2018 BET Best International Act award being the most recent. He has proven to be a force to reckon with this year in the music scene. After having a successful 2017 with numerous awards and about five singles, his hit songs “If” and “Fall” went diamond and platinum in sales respectively this February.
The single “Back When” brought him to the music limelight in 2011 and is currently one of the hottest African artists. The Dami Duro hitmaker swept three awards in eight nominations at the 2017 Soundcity MVP Awards. This was after beating Wizkid, Mr Eazi, Maleek Berry and several others to grab the Best African Act award at Mobo Awards 2017. At the NEA Awards, the star also took home two awards for Hottest Single of the Year (“If“) and Afropop Male Act of the Year.
The Ghanaian rapper is the owner of Sarkcess Music, one of the most popular record labels in the country that is also empowering other African acts. Born Michael Owusu Addo, he began his career from the streets as an underground rapper before finally bringing out his debut album and first single, Baby, which had a million views on YouTube.
Noted for being one of the advocates of Azonto, a Ghanaian music and dance genre, Sarkodie was the first Ghanaian to win a BET award and has the most nominations. He was ranked the 19th “Most Influential Ghanaian” by e-TV Ghana in 2015 and in 2013 and 2015, got ranked 8th on FORBES and Channel O’s list, “Top 10 Richest/Bankable African Artists.”
He launched his clothing line Sark by Yas, in 2013 as well as other products such as Obidi Chief Headphones which endorses Samsung and telecommunications company, Tigo.
10. Oliver Mtukudzi
The Zimbabwean artist is credited with 65 albums with hit songs that people across the world continue to dance to. His Tuku Music album, featuring the smash hit “Todii” went gold in its first month of release in Zimbabwe, according to Forbes.
With millions of views on YouTube, he often sells out concerts in Angola and Zimbabwe and has over 30 awards apart from featuring in movies.