Universal Music pushes play on Africa expansion

The world's biggest music label, Universal Music, has appointed a new leadership team in Africa as it seeks to expand further into the continent in 2021.



Universal Music Group (UMG) has named a new CEO of its Africa division as the multinational music giant looks to capitalise on growing markets for recorded music across the continent.  

The US music company, majority owned by French media giant Vivendi, has promoted Sipho Dlamini to CEO of Universal Music South Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa.  

Dlamini, who joined the company in 2016, where he has promoted South African artists and African music around the world, will now oversee all of UMG’s operations within English-speaking Africa.  

UMG, which has divisions in Nigeria, Kenya, and South Africa, and a presence in French-speaking Côte d’Ivoire, Senegal, Cameroon and Morocco, says it will continue to expand on the continent in 2021. 

Global record labels are increasingly attracted to Africa’s vast and growing young population, the growth of internet and smartphones, and the increasing popularity of homegrown genres, including Nigeria’s Afrobeats. 

Streaming is increasingly popular – in South Africa, streaming should generate around $50.8m in 2022, more than three times what was generated in 2017, according to PwC, although steep data prices elsewhere could hold back growth. 

In 2018, UMG licensed its catalogue to Boomplay, Africa’s largest local streaming platform. 

UMG’s recent hits include albums by Nigerian Afrobeats star Tiwa Savage, South African rapper Nasty C and Kenya’s Sauti Sol.

As well as promoting artists within Africa, UMG, which has a presence in 60 countries, also aims to foster a global audience for African music. The company has agreed a strategic partnership between Nigeria’s Aristokrat Records and Universal Music France and launched Def Jam Africa as a standalone label dedicated to African hip-hop, Afrobeats and Trap music, with resources across five countries.  

The firm has also announced additional hires as it looks to grow its regional footprints. Lagos-based Chinedu Okeke, a live music entrepreneur, has been named managing director of Universal Music Nigeria and will expand existing operations in Nigeria and other English-speaking West African markets. Johannesburg-based Elouise Kelly, a former managing director at advertising and media agency Ogilvy, has been appointed chief operating officer at Universal Music South Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa.  

“I am thrilled to announce these strategic appointments, as we look to further develop our domestic infrastructure and label rosters within Africa,” said Adam Granite, executive vice-president for market development.  

“Most integral to achieving our long-term ambitions, is to build a strong leadership team on the ground, with deep foundations in each country to help grow a dynamic ecosystem for all to benefit in the future.” 

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