Djo Moupondo is a Congolese-Swedish musician and entrepreneur working in the fields of music and media with his label La Clique Music as well as in the fields of financial technology and human resources with his company SODEICO Holding. Right for Education spoke with him about music culture and entrepreneurship in Africa.
R:Ed: Can you tell us about yourself and your work with SODEICO and La Clique?
To start with the music, we have a label with projects all over the world. We have a radio station in the DRC and we produce audiovisual entertainment content focused on Africa in general and the DRC in particular.
We also have a company that distributes audio and video content. This year we launched our streaming platform with a goal to become the African brother of Spotify. It’s called Muska, it’s a company that promotes African music because we have noticed that there is no real African platform. The big platforms we know today have a lot of music, but they don’t promote African music. We want to promote African music and above all create an industry where African artists can find their feet in this musical crisis.
For SODEICO, it is a business group that has existed since 1987. We were a bit of everything before but since 2002 we have been focusing on the human resources sector, our core business. Having said that, in recent years we’ve also diversified.
In particular, we have diversified geographically. We are in six African countries and we are active throughout sub-Saharan Africa. We also work in development and management consulting as well as in financial technologies. In 2007, we created Onboard, the first company in Central Africa specialised in customer acquisition and the creation and integration of bank branches and in 2020, we acquired 50% of Maishapay, which is a Congolese wallet.
R:Ed: Can you tell us a little bit about African music? Is that a correct term?
I don’t think we can talk about African music in Africa because there are many different kinds of music. It’s like in the days when we used to talk about so-called Caribbean music. Today we talk about Reggae, Salsa, Calypso, Merengue and so on. The whole world began to understand that there was different music in the Caribbean. I think we have to do the same thing about Africa, so it’s important that Africans or African artists can assert their musical styles and their respective cultures.
There is not only one African culture and already in several African countries, there is not only one culture of the country. So, for example, there is a general culture that we can call Nigerian culture, but again, it is because we want to put things in categories and facilitate the understanding of the discourse of the people who define the norms. A national culture, somewhere, is a generality of things. Ultimately there are different cultures in each country. It’s the same with music.
R: Ed: Do you think most African musicians are still influenced by local or foreign music? Is African music becoming more Western or is it still very African?
Haha good question. In the 1990s and 2000s, the American and European influence was much stronger on the continent, but today, thanks to technology, the globalisation of African music means it is being listened to in other parts of the world.
Now we see more and more music that is born from the influence of African music. I’m talking of course about most of the Americans and Europeans who do R&B and pop. You can hear African influences in the tone and rhythm. Young rappers of African origin try to highlight the African influence in their music, even if they were born outside Africa they try to show their origins through music.
To answer your question, the local musical culture is very well preserved. Music is a rather unique field and it is a part of African culture that resists foreign influence in a very impressive way.
R:Ed What advice do you have for young artists in Africa?
I think there needs to be an overall dynamic. We need to work as a collective among artists. We must not be in a state of uncertainty and war. Competition is useless. We must work as a collective and put forward concrete projects.
We must work because today I have noticed that many artists are focusing on having views on YouTube. But YouTube is only a shop window: it highlights your product but what about the rest? Music is a job that costs a lot of money and a lot of time. You have to know how to find opportunities to earn money. As an artist, you can’t wait for someone to come and do things for you, even if you’re signed to a label, you have to take as much time if not more time than when you’re alone because a label is a partner that helps you to reach your goals. If you want to have a career, you have to know how to sacrifice yourself and take hits.
R: Ed: In your opinion, what is the relationship between foreign and local business in Africa?
Complex. Africa, as an independent continent in the age of industrialisation, is only a few years old. Only about 65 years which is very, very young. Foreign investment continues to dominate the economy and to create dependency and has retained a certain pattern of paternalism especially in francophone Africa where just a handful of people have developed wealth often illicitly. There remain, to this day, the after-effects of dictatorships and paternalistic types of leadership and very little effort and few initiatives to encourage entrepreneurship. Anglophone Africa has worked hard and advanced more rapidly. Countries like Nigeria, Ghana and even Kenya have created national economies where we see much more investment made by local entrepreneurs who have been able to make positive use of inflation and the entrepreneurial spirit of their populations.
African countries understand that there is a need for foreign investment, but they also understand today that foreign investment is not going to be enough and that foreign investment is not optimal for the sustainable development of their various countries either.