Africa is a highly musical continent, with genres spanning from Afrobeat, Ndombolo, Rhumba, Bongo, Benga, and Kwaito, to Reggae, Hip-hop, and R&B. From traditional and cultural events to modern concerts and bus rides, music is often a key feature of life in Africa. But like every form of art, music is best conceived by the listener, and personal tastes vary. While music preference is diverse across the continent and even across one country, there are perceivable patterns based on locations, demographics, and cultures.

Thankfully, data can point out patterns in several aspects of life – including personal preferences. In the case of music, research can be used to examine questions such as what music people are listening to, how they are listening to it, and their feelings on various issues in the music world.

It is against this background that we recently conducted a GeoPoll Rapid Survey in four markets – Nigeria, Ghana, South Africa, and Kenya. The goal was to understand the type of music people in these countries listen to, how and when they access it, what they look for, their favorite local and international musicians, and their feelings on issues affecting music, among others. The survey was conducted among 5,825 respondents of all ages in the four countries, via the GeoPoll App. This article is first in a series of articles where we crunch the data.

For the love of music

Whereas many people listen to many genres of music, there is one that stands out as their favorite. We asked the respondents to pick their most favorite genre, out of a list of the most common genres. Overall, the favorite genre in the four countries is Religous Music (19%), followed by Hip Hop/Rap(17%) and R&B/Pop (16%).

Favorite music genre, overall

When you look at the four countries individually, religious songs are still most popular in both Kenya and Ghana. Nigerians mostly nod their heads to Hip-hop while most South Africans mellow out with softer R&B/Pop/Soul.

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Favorite genre, by country

Some people listen to music all the time, while others may tune in and out over the course of the week, so GeoPoll wanted to better understand the length of time our respondents are listening to music. We found that over 80% of respondents in the four countries listen to music for more than one hour per day. South Africa has the highest percentage of people (52%) listening to music over 3 hours a day, followed by Kenya at 36%.

Africa: how often do you listen to music?

Local vs. International Music

There has been a protracted campaign in several countries in Africa pushing for more local music to be played. Top Kenyan musicians have been campaigning for media houses and entertainment spots to play more Kenyan music, South Africa’s SABC recently brought in a 90% quota for local music,  and there has been a “80% GH Music On Our Airwaves” campaign in Ghana. This has been driven by concerns that the local music industry has not been growing. So, we asked if listeners are listening to more domestic or international music. In 3 out of the 4 countries, listeners love their local hits more than music from other countries. Only in South Africa do the respondents listen to more international than local music.

Local or International?

But, is the media heeding to this and playing enough local music? Most listeners agree that the media is promoting their own, especially in Nigeria, with a whopping 91% of listeners saying that they are content with the amount of Naija Music the media plays.

media playing local music

Access to Music

People listen to music from different places, so we asked about the channels our respondents mostly access their music from. A majority of people in the four countries most often listen to pre-saved music on their phones, MP3 players, CDs and computers (35.08%). Radio also remains a favorite of many, with 27.42% listening to their music on the radio. These two categories likely have been cut down by the rise of online streaming, with an average of 16.12% of the respondents saying they mostly listen to music from online channels such as YouTube and subscription services.

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Channels most oftenly used for music

In terms of streaming online, Nigeria leads at a distance with the proportion of users who are paying for streaming services (46.67%), followed by Kenya at 27.2%. However, it seems many South Africans were subscribing to paid online streaming services but stopped at some point. 25% of the respondents in South Africa say they’ve subscribed to such services in the past but stopped, which is higher than those who are currently subscribed.

subscription to online streaming services Africa

Could this be caused by the availability of free file sharing websites? They may or may not be legal, but many people use them to download songs for free. 85% of our respondents on average indicated downloading music from free file-sharing websites, which includes 91% of Nigerian respondents and 88% of Kenyan respondents.

downloading music for free Africa
“There are places I can download music for free, so we just download it.” 


Look forward to the next part in this series, The Africa Music Report 2019, for more information on opinions on the best musicians in each of the countries, additional information from other African countries and globally, as well as the countries in Africa producing the most popular songs.

About this GeoPoll survey

GeoPoll offers more mobile-based modes than any other research provider in Africa, Latin America, and Asia, allowing our clients to reach their target audience quickly. Our team are experts in producing actionable insights from around the world and guide you throughout the research process.

We conducted this Rapid Survey via the Mobile Application Mode by targeting a random sample of the GeoPoll App users. To learn more about the methodology we used in conducting this survey, and learn about our capabilities in different parts of the world, please contact GeoPoll here.