The philanthropic organization Global Citizen is teaming up with Kendrick Lamar and Dave Free’s company, pgLang, in an ambitious effort to establish a major music touring circuit across Africa. A kickoff event, “Move Afrika: Rwanda,” will take place Dec. 6 with the hip-hop superstar as the headliner.
The December concert is being seen by Global Citizen as the beachhead in attempts to establish an infrastructure that would allow Africa to begin catching up with other continents where major tours are commonplace. pgLang has committed to curating annual “Move Afrika” shows for the next five years. An expansion to producing shows in Rwanda’s neighboring countries is expected by 2025.
Global Citizen co-founder and CEO Hugh Evans tells Variety where the impetus for Move Afrika came from, and what expectations are, with Lamar and his company providing a high-profile face for the initiative.
“Global Citizen has been operating on the continent since our very inception,” says Evans, whose organization is renowned for its all-star consciousness-raiser concerts. “We were honored to be there to celebrate Mandela’s 100th anniversary in 2018, alongside Beyonce and Jay Z and so many incredible artists. Then, during the pandemic, we were thrilled to be in Nigeria at the New Afrika Shrine, alongside Fela Kuti and an incredible lineup, and then last year in Accra, Ghana for the Global Citizen Festival alongside Usher, SZA, Tems and Stormzy.
“As we have expanded our footprint across the continent,” Evans continues, “what’s always occurred to us is just how unbelievable it is that there isn’t a mature touring circuit across the continent that connects north, south, east, and west Africa. So that’s why we’ve created Move Afrika, to achieve that goal over the coming five years.”
The CEO noted that Lamar has a history with his org that goes back to first performing at a Global Citizen Festival back in 2016. “I sat down recently with Kendrick and the pgLang team, and whether it’s Kendrick, Dave Free, Anthony or their entire team, they all share this massive passion to see that touring across the entire continent would become as prolific as it has become across Latin America, across North America, across Europe, across Australasia and across so many other continents.
“pgLang are going to be involved in every aspect of this initiative. They’re going to be involved from a musical curation point of view, helping to determine which artists are involved following in Kendrick’s footsteps. But they’re also going to be involved creatively as well, thinking through the creative rollout of the campaigns over the years, the look and feel, and the global broadcast. They really have become partners in this endeavor. And personally, I can’t think of anyone better on the planet than Kendrick Lamar and pgLang to be the curator. Kendrick has spent so much time on the continent himself; he’s so passionate about it. So when they said that the first performance that he does on the continent will be with Move Afrika, it’s a huge honor for this initiative.”
All of Global Citizen’s efforts ultimately lead toward the eradication of poverty, so the organization’s ultimate goals for Move Afrika have to do with creating sustainable positions for a concert business, not just providing live entertainment in a region that is starved for it.
“I’d say i’d say there’s two aspects to this that are that are critical for this to be successful,” Evans says. “The first one is to bring focus on job creation, which helps end extreme poverty through economic empowerment. When you create new jobs, you train production and crew and sound and lighting and security and staging. When you support micro-entrepreneurs across the continent to be part of that ecosystem, that is direct poverty alleviation. Jobs being created through certainty — through basically market certainty, in this case — is how you alleviate poverty.
“And then the second thing that’s really important to us,” Evans continues, “is that we want other artists to be able to take advantage of the infrastructure we build together over the next five years, both as part of the Move Afrika touring circuit and also independently. The success for this will be if it outlasts any initiative we do. In five or 10 years from now, when the world’s greatest artists are all touring across Africa, it’ll be amazing for African economic development; it’ll be amazing for artistic development; it’ll be amazing for job creation. That’s the measure of success.”
Most of Global Citizen’s star-filled concerts have been available for streaming or broadcast globally. That won’t be the case with Lamar’s concert in Rwanda on Dec. 6, which will also feature artists from the region as well as the American hip-hop poet laureate.
Says Evans, “Globally you won’t be able to stream this, but we are going to be working on a number of specials coming out of this that will be able to be viewed and streamed globally. But our focus from a broadcast point of view actually is to have the livestream be local. We want people across East Africa to be able to stream this and watch it on television live.”
Evans says the music world is already well aware of the need for an African touring circuit — almost as much as it is aware of the growing international interest in the music coming out of the continent.
“The most exciting thing, honestly, is the hunger I see from the artist community to achieve this dream. I don’t think this is Global Citizen’s dream per se; I think this is the world’s dream,” he says. “I think everyone has dreamed of doing this, and we’re just working to modestly try to create some scaffolding around it. In fact, probably not a week goes by when I don’t speak to an artist about their dream to do more across Africa.”
Speaking to African music as an export, he says, “Afrobeats has emerged as one of the most powerful music genres in the world, dominating markets. Afrobeats tracks were streamed more than 13 billion times on Spotify last year. And amazingly, more than a third of those streams came from young people aged 18 to 24. That’s why you’ve also seen all of the big award shows — not just the VMAs, but the Grammys — everyone is adding entire new award categories focused on Afrobeats. And I do believe this is the next frontier for the global music touring industry.”
His expectation is that a successful touring circuit will include local artists as well as visiting big names from the U.S. and other countries.
“It has to be done locally to support micro-entrepreneurs, to support communities, because the only way that something becomes sustainable is if local entrepreneurs (can rely on) predictability. And that’s why we’re not just committing to one year now” but five.
“In the last six months, I’ve had amazing meetings with the Ghanaian government, with the Nigerian government, with the Botswana government, with the South African government, with the Egyptian government, with the Kenyan government, and obviously with the Rwandan government. And really, you see across the entire continent — north, south, east, west — a huge desire for this to become a reality.”
More information, including how to obtain tickets for the December show, can be found at moveafrika.org, at, or via text on WhatsApp at +250 790 008 555.