Home Secretary Suella Braverman’s department stopped at least 20 artists from entering the UK to perform at Afrobeat festivals.
Music insiders say West African artists are treated with more suspicion despite being part of a multi-million-dollar industry, and when visas are granted to stars, their dancers have been turned down.
Afrobeat stars fume that Britain is the hardest embassy in the world to deal with, and they are routinely given short stays of just two weeks which prevents them from making the most of their visit.
Music-lovers say this is the biggest attack on a Black music genre by British authorities since dancehall in the 1990s.
Ghanaian singer Ishmael Nii Arday Ankrah, known as Nii Funny, who had a visa application refused in 2021, told The Voice: “It is not fair for them to treat us that way because the UK is our former enslavers so if we are going there to play a show, I think they have to support us.”
Mr Ankrah’s management team insists they “submitted all the right documents” but Home Office officials turned the application down after questioning why his UK-based sponsor had so much money when they were so young.
The singer was aware of numerous African artists having their visa applications denied but are not willing to publicly speak about it as there is a stigma attached to visa refusals from Britain – which many believe will tarnish their brand and reputation.
Being refused entry to the UK can also have a negative impact on other overseas trips.
He said he was only given two weeks on his last visa which put limitations on his plans.
Christian Borquaye, who manages three prominent African artists and is based in Birmingham, said he personally knows at least 20 artists who have been refused visas and had “their money taken by the Home Office.”
Emmanuel Boakye Bidewtey, is the CEO of Livenewsgh Creative Hub, and is also an artist and event manager based in Ghana.
He says he knows of five African artists who have recently had their UK visa applications denied and, since the start of 2023, one artist has been prohibited from travelling to Britain.
In the UK, the rise of African music has directly resulted in the launch of the landmark official Afrobeats music chart.
Each week, the UK’s 20 most popular Afrobeats songs – based on sales and streams across a seven-day period – are compiled by the Official Charts Company (OCC).
With a buzzing African music scene now on British shores – which has been undoubtedly driven by Britain’s African and Caribbean community – the UK is now being seen as a key market for artists to tap into.
Afrobeats and Afro-dancehall artist Article Wan said that while he has never been denied a UK visa many of his musical peers have experienced problems.
He said: “The artist maybe travelling with five dancers going for a show and most of the time three dancers are going to be given a visa and two are going to be denied.”
A Home Office spokesperson said: “Musicians and performers are a valued and important part of UK culture with the country attracting world class entertainers and musicians from around the globe.
“All visa applications are carefully considered on their individual merits in accordance with the immigration rules.
“The application process is designed to ensure that all visa decisions can be made using the most accurate information and is fair for all applicants.”