The story of Non-fungible tokens (NFTs) has been spreading like wildfire recently, and Africa has joined the carnival. From art and music to games and videos, some of these digital assets are selling in millions of dollars.
In case you don’t know, NFTs are unique and non-interchangeable units of data on a digital ledger called the blockchain, which is the underpinning technology of cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and Ethereum.
Although they’ve been in existence since 2014, NFTs are gaining popularity and influence now because they are becoming an increasingly popular way to buy and sell digital artwork. According to a report by The Guardian in 2021, collectors and traders spent $22 billion on NFTs, up from $100 million in 2020.
Nigerian record label owner, Don Jazzy became the pacesetter in the Nigerian music industry in 2021 when he made up to $300,000 in ten minutes on an NFT, after collaborating with a digital artist who created three artworks and had him add a background sound to them. Jacon Osinachi Igwe is regarded as the first African artist to exhibit a series of NFTs at Christie’s, a renowned auction house in London.
Africans are now dancing harder in the NFT party. A survey by Finder ranks Nigeria as the 6th largest adopter of NFTs and South Africa as 12th. The survey also hints that NFT adoption will more than double in these countries due to the high interest among respondents.
In 2021, several digital artists of African descent made their mark and had their works minted on several platforms like Opensea, Foundation, Super Rare, Mintable, Wax, and many others. African digital artists also built communities like Africa NFT Community, Black NFT Art, Network of African NFT Artists, Afro Future DAO, Kenyan NFT Club, and Nigeria NFT Community. These communities served as a platform to promote collaborations and share ideas, resources, and challenges, as well as online and hybrid events, focused on branding, storytelling, art promotion, and helping up-and-coming artists to scale
However, with the giant strides of Africans in the NFT space, there are bottlenecks artists and traders face.
Topping the infamous list of countries that have placed a ban on all activities relating to cryptocurrency is the largest crypto market in Africa — Nigeria, followed by Kenya, Burundi and several other African countries. Nigeria’s federal government ordered banks to shut down all accounts used for crypto transactions. The ban hinders artists active involvement in NFTs.
Shortage of collectors
African artists still have a market problem. The number of creators is hugely overwhelming compared to the art collectors. There are not enough African collectors in the NFTs space.
Universally, the creator economy is estimated to be worth around $100 billion. However, African creators have not received as much recognition as their global counterparts. As a result, they don’t generate as much revenue. Also, many creators here do have a hard time receiving payments since global payment processors are not fully established for users in Africa.
One of the most challenging issues in the African NFT space is the exorbitant gas fees required for minting on most NFT marketplaces. Though this cost is a threat to innovation everywhere, it hinders many African artists, particularly budding ones, from participating.
African art creators continue to use NFTs to leverage the shift of art to the digital world despite the hurdles. Going by projections, it would continue to garner attention and grow more influential as the world fully embraces virtual currencies and digital assets.
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