AFRICA’S burgeoning creative industry – encompassing music, literature, film, theatre, visual arts, fashion and other artistic expressions – has witnessed remarkable growth and international recognition. But beneath the surface of this success, there exists a darker narrative, which is the prevalence of drug abuse within the creative space, one that the All Africa Music Awards (AFRIMA) is now seeking collaboration to address. President and Executive Producer of AFRIMA, Mike Dada, made the call during the High-Level Session on Addressing Substance Use and Related Mental Health Disorders, organized by the African Union in Lusaka, Zambia in November 8 – 10, 2023. The event’s theme was ‘Securing a Better Future for Youth, Women, and Children: Building Momentum Towards Africa We Want,’ and had in attendance presidents from various African countries, including ministers, diplomats, and technocrats.
Dada expressed deep concern over how drug abuse has negatively impacted many stars, particularly those in the music industry, resulting in loss of lives and debilitating illnesses. Citing a report, he revealed that drug abuse and related disorders claimed the lives of 379 celebrities across Africa from 1995 to 2013, with about 5,304 incidents of life-threatening illnesses recorded within the same period. Dada also underscored the importance of a stronger legal framework to ensure artistes use their platforms responsibly. He said AFRIMA supports measures that enforce penalties for artistes, who produce content that glorify drug use, and urged artistes to promote personal responsibility within the creative community.
“Artistes are role models but unfortunately audiences of some of them are aware of their involvement with drugs and that is why we believe that holding individuals accountable for drug-related offences within the creative industry is essential to creating a deterrent effect and fostering a culture of responsibility,” Dada argued. “We also believe that we can have an industry that can self-regulate on the issue of drug and drug abuse; the sector can adopt some measures, including compelling artistes to sign contracts with clauses that explicitly prohibit drug use. This can act as a deterrent. Artistes and industry professionals should be made aware of the consequences of drug abuse, including contract termination, legal actions, and damage to reputation.”
Director, Social Development, Culture and Sports, African Union Commission, Angela Martins (left); Director, Ministry of Health, Nigeria, Wosilat Abdulhameed; President/founder, AFRIMA Awards, Mike Dada; Minister of Health, Zambia, Honourable Sylvia Masebo (MP); Director, Drug Demand Reduction, Nigerian Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), Dr. Ngozi Madubuike at the recent 4-day High-Level Session on Addressing Substance Use and Related Mental Disorders Conference at the Mulugunshi Conference Centre in Lusaka, Zambia
Dada also stressed that drug abuse within the creative community poses a threat to the health and well-being of artistes and the sustainability of the industry. He called for a comprehensive, collaborative solution involving artistes, industry stakeholders, governments, and the public.
According to him, “The menace of drug abuse and disorder in the creative sector reflects how deeply the malaise has eaten into African society, and we at AFRIMA recognize that a comprehensive solution requires a collaborative effort from artistes, industry stakeholders, governments, and the public.”
While highlighting the need to target the supply channels, Dada insisted on strengthening measures against drug trafficking and distribution. He advocated for robust actions to identify and eliminate sources of illegal substances and prevent their infiltration into the creative industry. Dada said authorities must strengthen measures against drug trafficking and distribution, insisting that by targeting the supply channels, the flow of drugs into the hands of artistes and consumers would be disrupted.
“The influx of illicit drugs poses a significant threat to public health, security, and the overall well-being of the African society,” Dada argued. “It is evident we don’t have sufficient rehabilitation centres and policies to help addicts, hence the need for implementing robust measures to identify and eliminate sources of illegal substances, prevent their infiltration into the creative industry through the adoption of measures including effective border control, increased maritime security, utilization of advanced technology, increased penalties for traffickers, integration of intelligence gathering, among others. This is crucial for safeguarding communities and ensuring a healthier creative industry.”