Dapo Oyebanje, popularly known by stage name D’banj, can be seen as one of the artists revolutionising African music with an influence around the world.
His music touches on issues such as gender equality and agriculture awareness, both helping drive the mission of building economic balance and ending poverty.
His colourful Instagram feed carries inspiring messages, such as “it’s on us to stop poverty” — carrying his call for every single citizen to take it upon themselves to fight poverty, as he does through his music.
According to the World Bank, while fewer people are living in extreme poverty around the world, the decline in poverty rates has slowed. And it’s raised concerns about achieving extreme poverty in time for the 2030 target.
The World Bank includes sub-Saharan Africa as an area that particularly needs to be focused on — adding that “under all but the most optimistic scenarios, poverty will remain in double digits by 2030, absent significant shifts in policy.”
“Over the last 25 years, more than a billion people have lifted themselves out of extreme poverty, and the global poverty rate is now lower than it has ever been in recorded history,” said World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim. “This is one of the greatest human achievements of our time.”
“But if we are going to end poverty by 2030, we need much more investment, particularly in building human capital, to help promote the inclusive growth it will take to reach the remaining poor,” he added. “For their sake, we cannot fail.”
In 2014, D’banj partnered with organisation the One Campaign to launch the “Do Agric” campaign, calling for African governments to commit to spending at least 10% of national budget on effective agricultural investment.
The campaign was an effort to push political leaders to adopt better policies that aim at boosting productivity, increase incomes, and help lift millions of Africans out of extreme poverty.
According to Director General of the UN Industrial Development Kandeh K. Yumkella, agriculture is the most important sector of the African economy and will have to be its driving engine out of poverty. It accounts for 65% of the continents employment and 75% of its domestic trade, he said.
D’banj, in his role as Nigeria's first UN Youth Ambassador for Peace, said in a TED talk in 2014 that through getting in touch with small scale farmers and women farmers he realised the power and importance of agriculture.
“Most of the uncultivated land left in the whole world is in Africa to do agriculture, I said ‘wow it is important for us to unravel that hidden wealth,’” he said.
To help spread the word, D’banj collaborated with 18 artists from 11 African countries to releasedCocoa ‘na Chocolate, a song aimed at raising awareness about the importance of agriculture in Africa.
In the TED talk he said: “We did the song because we wanted the farmers to know that they are not alone, that agriculture can be trendy, that agriculture can be classy. You can be a farmer and can be very wealthy.”
The song became a driving force to encourage people to a sign petition that was presented as a call for action — and it was through the song that D’banj connected to youth. The petition campaign was able to gather more than 2 million signatures.
“By the time we finished, over four months we got over two million youths signing the petition [highlighting] that agriculture is the way, it is the backdrop of our foundation and if we focus on it, we will end poverty,” he said.
The idea that “it is on us to end poverty” captures D’banj’s own brand of activism — to do whatever it takes to spread awareness about the role that everyone can play in the effort to end extreme poverty.
D'banj also said in an interview with #Music4Des that the campaign gave him an opportunity to learn that most established small scale farmers are women, highlighting the need for greater equality around the world.
He added that he “believes in order for us to have a poverty free world, we have to take care of some key things such as gender inequality.”
Gender activists around the world make it clear that in order to eradicate gender inequality everyone — including both men and women — should stand against it. In the words of Nigerian novelist and writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: “We should all be feminists.”
As part of his efforts to stand for women’s rights and against systems that discriminate against women, D’banj wrote the song Extraordinary — dedicated to celebrating women and sending a message that women are important members of our communities who are just as capable as men.
According to the award-winning artist, in many industries — especially the entertainment industry — it can be very hard for women to succeed, as they’re too often viewed as sexual objects rather than people with talent and ability, with great potential to succeed.
“Even if you can look at my industry, you find that it is very hard for women to succeed where men are,” he said in the interview with #Music4Des. “They are not seen as members of society who are capable, [all] we see is the body, we concentrate on the body.”
In the song, D’banj is saying we have to see beyond the female body to see the extraordinary potential women possess.
The lyrics also challenge the saying that “behind every successful man is a woman.”
“Now [it is] beside every successful man is a successful women,” he told #Music4Des. “What is good for he is good for she.”
D’banj will be helping continue the fight to combat extreme poverty, and achieve greater equality for everyone around the world, when he performs onstage at Global Citizen Festival: Mandela 100, presented and hosted by the Motsepe Foundation, on December 2 at Johannesburg’s FNB Stadium.
About the festival, D’banj said: “13 years ago, Mandela called on us to be the great generation that would end extreme poverty, injustice and inequality. Today, I’m proud to join the Global Citizen Festival: Mandela 100 in South Africa, as we answer his call and continue the fight for a more just and equitable world for all.”
The Global Citizen Festival: Mandela 100 is presented and hosted by The Motsepe Foundation, with major partners House of Mandela, Johnson & Johnson, Cisco, Nedbank, Vodacom, Coca Cola Africa, Big Concerts, BMGF Goalkeepers, Eldridge Industries, and associate partners HP and Microsoft.