January 12, 2023 4 min read

ESA Gaming’s Thomas Smallwood: Reading into the African iGaming Market

ESA Gaming’s Head of Marketing, Thomas Smallwood, discusses the potential of the African iGaming markets and what the company learned in its own experience in the region

Smallwood talks about the exciting African markets where the supplier recently made its debut after launching its content with 888Africa, and five operator partners of BtoBet, reaching players in Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique, and Zambia.

Q: What countries in Africa do you currently see the most potential in with regulation around iGaming still evolving?

There are a number of countries that are currently considering a licensing system for online gambling, opening up the door for global operators and suppliers to enter the lucrative African marketplace.

The ones that currently offer the most potential are South Africa and Nigeria, with both countries recently announcing reform. South Africa’s largest operator, Sun International, has estimated that the size of the country’s online gambling market is $370m, showcasing the potential if regulation is done right.   

Tanzania is another market to keep an eye on as we expect there might be specific online gambling regulations floated shortly. As many of the countries are still unregulated or emerging, we see great untapped potential in Africa and think the market is ripe for a wide range of content.      

Q: What are the biggest challenges in African markets compared with countries in Europe?

Firstly, I would point out that there is a real danger in addressing Africa as one market and we see this happening a lot. From an iGaming perspective, it is no more one market than Europe, and all countries bring with them their own challenges. Africa is home to a strong and vibrant Muslim community, with gambling completely prohibited in many regions, and this needs to be considered. As mentioned above, regulation is at different stages and all countries take a slightly different approach, meaning thorough research is necessary before deciding to enter an African market. 

Connectivity and the high use of mobile devices are other challenges. Low data speeds and incompatible devices are still prevalent, creating a need for lightweight, fast-loading games. 

Sports betting remains more popular than online casino content so there is also an element of educating the local audience on other verticals. Introducing new ways to cross-sell is something that we focus on, and our products sit in the sportsbook, offering quick casino games by easily swiping between the two verticals. This offering is ideal for the African market as it is also optimized for mobile and presents players with easy-to-understand non-traditional titles without disrupting the betting experience.  

Q: Retail sports betting has traditionally been extremely popular in African markets, is there potential for online casino to boom?

Definitely. Perhaps one common factor among the many African markets is that they are largely sportsbook driven. This means a ratio of four or five to one when it comes to revenue from sports betting when compared to casinos, so there is much scope for cross-selling. As we have seen in other countries that have introduced online casino after sports betting, the vertical has quickly grown in popularity and often represents a bigger share of the market in well-established iGaming regions. In Africa, non-traditional content has proven successful, partly because it can include sporting elements and offer a simple, lightweight alternative to feature and graphic-rich slots. Crash games are a good example of this, and we see this vertical increasing in popularity.

In Africa, there is also a real social aspect to gambling which can be incorporated in non-traditional content by multiplayer aspects and chat functions.

As online gambling is becoming more prevalent, the marriage of retail and mobile is perfectly doable as demonstrated by plenty of markets around the world. Whether that is using physical points to recharge your betting account or connecting through PCs within a betting shop, this will be an important part of the puzzle in Africa.

Q: Is it important to have local support when looking to enter African markets as a European supplier?

I would say it’s crucial for suppliers to have local strategic partnerships for reselling content into Africa. Apart from having the local industry knowledge and expertise, partners can offer support with cultural differences, language, and bureaucracy, while also offering insight into regional quirks.

Even if a supplier has great success in European markets, it doesn’t automatically translate to triumph in other regions and any local support should be welcomed. Suppliers and operators should also share data generated from African markets to ensure that the industry fully understands local preferences and fully take advantage of the opportunity that the continent offers.

Co-editor

Stoyan holds over 8 years of esports and gambling writing experience under his belt and is specifically knowledgeable about developments within the online scene. He is a great asset to the GamblingNews.com team with his niche expertise and continual focus on providing our readers with articles that have a unique spin which differentiates us from the rest.

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