African countries are becoming desirable destinations for betting and gaming operators to aim for in 2021 and going forward. Mobile gambling in Africa has already occupied a large share of the market and it continues to grow its presence in the region. According to Statista, as of September 2021, the residents of the African continent cumulatively accounted for around 11% of the internet users worldwide, predominantly accessing the web on their phones or smart devices. The tendency is expected to grow as phones and cheap broadband internet is becoming more accessible to the wider public. Africa is the second-largest and second-most populated continent with roughly 54 countries with no two countries exactly the same. When talking about a rapidly expanding African market for betting operators, it makes sense to concentrate on the sub-Saharan regions, and even more specifically South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya, which are the largest gaming markets, with the players having spent $290mln, $185mln, and $38mln respectively on mobile games, according to PocketGamer’s overview for 2021. The sub-Saharan region thus shows a lot of promise for potential market opportunities. Reasons for African gambling market growth Gambling and sports betting in Africa has long become intrinsic to the everyday life of Africans, both as entertainment and a source of income. Africans love to bet on sports. When looking at various surveys and censuses, 50% of South Africans place bets on a regular basis and others play occasionally. An estimated 30% of Nigerians actively engage in sports betting, typically these are young people aged 18 to 40 years old. The gambling market in Africa is young and numerous, and gaming operators have all the reasons to expect it to grow in the future. Let’s go over just some of the reason: Covid changing the marketplace Since the start of lockdowns in 2019, the world has been shaken up and facing obstacles in the way people interact and go about their lives. The market was forced to shift and adapt which in many instances resulted in mass layoffs and growing unemployment. When the offline world seemed to be cut off, people had to rely on the web as a way to keep some resemblance of normalcy. Pre-pandemic Africa was already concerned with its high unemployment rate due to lack of economic opportunities in its many regions, especially for the youth that, even if employed, were settled in low-wage jobs or working in the informal sectors. Under these pressing circumstances, online gambling is a valid option for the African youth to make a living. Confined to their homes, people have more incentive to play online. They also have more time to study the game and its algorithms, predict all the possible outcomes and learn how to play to win. The gambling market continues to grow, both online and offline, more betting retail shops pop up across many countries and help create jobs for Africans. As the world eventually comes out of the pandemic, the tendency will remain and show a positive dynamic in the employment market. History of betting in Africa Africans are avid sports fans and actively follow sporting events in the world. Some of the sports most popular on the African betting market are football, horse racing, cricket, rugby, golf, with football garnering the most attention from bettors. The affection for football has its roots back in the 1800s when it was first introduced, and to this day it remains the most popular sport in Africa. It’s common to see large groups of people gather around a sports bar to watch a single match. Nowadays, sports betting has become a part of everyday life for many residents of the African continent, both as entertainment and as an opportunity to quickly earn some cash by placing microbets and turning as little as a hundred shillings into a few dollars. Seemingly a small win in the scale of the gaming industry, it’s still good money to help African bettors support themselves and their families. Legislations specialties Sports betting has now become a part of the culture and everyday life in Africa, which is supported by the governments’ interest in the sector. On the state level, countries like South Africa and Nigeria attempt to regulate and turn it into a steady revenue source. Depending on the region, some kinds of betting and gambling are still not well-regulated or even tipping into the illegal territory. However, the dynamic growth of the sports betting market can’t leave the state indifferent as they are well aware of the potential merit coming from it. They put in place legislations to regulate the market and through licensing and taxation direct a new stream of revenue into the state budget. Challenges for sportsbook operators in Africa The market outlook for gaming operators in many African countries looks promising and as practice shows it’s worth stepping into. However, an operator considering entering the African market should understand its specifics, know what they are signing up for and plan accordingly. Slow networks and Mobile phones Internet use in Africa is steady on the rise, yet the majority of the users are still accessing the web with their mobile phones, and sometimes older versions - Android mobile phones using Edge, 2G and 3G networks - which means the speed is much slower when compared to European customers. Betting operators need to account for this if they still want to deliver a good user experience and improve engagement. This was the case with GOAT Interactive when our team set out to develop a betting platform optimized for low-end devices and slow networks. They successfully launched the MVP in September and have it operating live in four countries with plans to expand the application’s functionality and deliver it to over 20 African countries by 2023. Cultural differences It’s important to remember that Africa is a diverse continent with different cultural and religious backgrounds. If talking about sports betting, the cultural heritage of sports in Africa roots centuries back to when European sports, namely football, were first introduced. This explains the extreme popularity of these sports and makes for comfortable market prospects for sports betting. On the contrary, there’s a different stance when it comes to gambling which, through the lens of religion and culture, is perceived a lot more critically. Jurisdictions aspects of sports betting and gambling in Africa In the past gambling has been in and out of the legal status, and regulations largely differ country to country. Each country may have different laws as to what games are legal or require a license, how these activities are licensed or taxed: In Nigeria non-skilled card games, roulette, and dice games are illegal, slot machines are regulated and only allowed for licensed operators. Lottery, land-based casino, and sports betting are legal. In South Africa online gambling through servers outside the country has been banned since 2010. Gambling sites need to obtain a license from a gambling and betting board in one of the South African provinces. Province licensed horse racing and online sports betting are legal. In Kenya online gambling is legal and regulated by the Gaming Bill of 2019. However, foreign investors were discouraged to expand to this market due to high taxes. Kenyan government is going back and forth on whether to keep the tax high or scrape it altogether, leaving the betting operators in uncertainty. These are just some of the examples of what obstacles may stay in the way of betting operators entering new markets in Africa. This calls for a meticulous and careful approach when choosing the direction in establishing their presence in the market. Opportunities for gambling businesses in Africa & Predictions for gambling market Gambling in Africa is a growing part of the market that has the potential to become a valuable revenue source making the governments of certain countries more lenient in their regulations and invested in creating a welcoming environment for betting operators. Analyzing the state of the market, we can observe some tendencies that are likely to stay well into the future and continue having an impact on the growth of the gambling market: Online mobile gambling as the main direction. Mobile devices will remain the primary access point for African bettors to online betting websites and apps for the foreseeable future. Overall growth of technologies in iGaming makes gaming and betting more accessible through cheaper devices and faster connections. Expansion of other types of betting and gambling. The gambling market is constantly shifting and changing. As the governments become more lenient with restrictions, more types of gambling may be expected to emerge on the market. How Symphony Solutions is expanding to the Africa market Symphony Solutions has its proven track record for delivering high-quality sports betting solutions and building excellent online experiences in the iGaming market. Since recently, we have expanded our reach to the African market when approached by a client who needed a flexible solution that would meet the needs specific to the sector and deliver an engaging customer experience, and that could be adapted for different countries and any future changes in the business needs of the client. Wrapping up Betting operators and providers can expect to find a solid ground for investment into the gaming and betting sector in sub-Saharan Africa. The specifics of the market and the demographics dictates what kind of products would have most prospects in turning in revenue. What would help providers to ease the “growing pains” when entering or expanding their reach on the market is understanding the needs of an African bettor and keeping the focus on delivering the best possible user experience.