The need for homegrown gambling events in Africa

The gambling industry is worth billions of dollars around the world and it’s no gain saying or repeating the fact that Africa is the next big thing in gaming

The above statement has been discussed in many of my articles on this platform and elsewhere and has been supported with many verifiable facts. Gambling in Africa is a transverse passion involving mostly young people, women, middle class and the elderly. In Sub-Saharan Africa, the gambling industry has provided jobs for millions of people in a continent that has the highest rate of unemployment in the world. In fact, gambling summarizes for better or for worse, the constant evolution of a continent that is regarded as the poverty capital of the world. Either you agree with me or not, the evolution and growth of online gambling industry in Africa made possible by the spread and growth of the internet and the availability of smartphones not to talk of demography puts Africa in a pole position as the next frontier of gaming. Taking cognizance of happenings in Latin America, especially with the legalization and subsequent take off of gambling in Brazil and the online gambling industry in Argentina getting a nod from the government, Latin America will surely be a force to reckon with but Africa still remains the investment destination for the gambling industry.

Gambling AfricaAfrica relies a lot on foreign direct investment from other parts of the world and the gambling industry is no exception. The platform created for investors to meet with government and local partners are few and without these platforms, growth in the gambling industry can’t be achieved. It is understandable that the gambling industry is a busy one and most of the gambling events are tailored toward promoting the industry in specific domain where they are created. The major gambling markets in Africa are South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya with South Africa controlling about 48 percent of the industry in Africa with the trio worth close to 40 billion dollars. Africa has witnessed regional growth in gaming especially in East Africa, Francophone Africa with North Africa showing signs of growth in the esports industry.

However, all the gaming events that take place in Africa have not been able to attract the much needed investments as it were. Eventus International, a Hong-Kong based company with office in South Africa first staged a gaming event in Africa. Initially, it was able to attract exhibitors and sound resource persons to its event but as time goes on, exhibitors at its events in Africa dwindled maybe because of the logistical problems in the region and the contents of its events were just begging the issues and wasn’t able to attract good speakers again. Aside from that, stating that football is the most popular sport in Africa is sounding like a broken record because it’s very obvious judging by its popularity. Its two major sporting events in Africa, Sportbetting West Africa (SBWA) and Sportbetting East Africa (SBEA) since inception about eight years ago have not provided rallying point for players in the industry. At SBWA 2019 which took place at Eko Hotel and Suite for instance, attendees were few compared to the 2018 edition which took place at the same venue and exhibitors also were very few. The event is for the West African players but hardly did any major gaming brand or top gaming executives or regulator from West Africa sub- region attended the event not even from neighboring country Ghana which shares border with Nigeria. At its 2018 conference for instance, a dinner event was organized to speak exclusively on responsible gambling. How on earth can we speak on responsible gambling in an event paid for and meant for a very few? For crying out loud, responsible gambling is an issue that should not be preserved for the privilege few because of its prevalence not only in Africa but globally. Few friends who attended the event were disappointed at what transpired and l believe such an event should be a platform for networking and not a place to talk about responsible gambling.

ICE Africa was the first major gambling event to take place in Africa. ICE London, Clarion Gaming’s premier and premium event is adjudged the biggest gaming event in the world. Attracting hundreds of gambling brands in the world and a has been a platform for fostering business relationships and networking for ages, expectations on ICE Africa to deliver good content, speakers and bring in would be investors was very high. The 2018 event was able to live up to expectations in terms of content, exhibitors and speakers and the event which took place in Johannesburg, South Africa was well attended by regulators and players in Africa. However, the 2019 event which took place at the same venue was shunned by players in the industry as a protest against the xenophobic attacks which took place in South Africa. Prior to the event, South African citizens have attacked, killed and destroyed lots of businesses owned by citizens of other countries in Africa continually.

AFRICA-2This went on for days, weeks and months without the South African government curtailing its citizens and punishing offenders. South Africa became unsafe and a lot of Africans and the intentional community did not attend the event. Aside from that, procuring a South African Visa is very difficult and expensive. Though, conditions for the issuance of visa is the prerogative of the South African government, however the conditions were very cumbersome and this put off a lot of people interested in attending the event. The content and speakers at the 2019 event was top notch but attendees and exhibitors were low compared to the 2018 inaugural edition. The clamor for the rotation of ICE Africa among African countries should be considered by the organizers judging by the dichotomy prevalent in Africa. The name of the event is ICE Africa; therefore major gambling jurisdictions in Africa should host the event among themselves as this will educate Europeans and other global citizens about Africa and its tourist attractions.

Though, no major physical gambling event took place in Africa in 2020 ditto for other parts of the world courtesy Covid-19, SBC a London based Organization and Monografie SA based in Buenos Aires, organized virtual events in Africa. The combined worth of the three leading gambling jurisdictions in Africa is about 40 billion US dollars and none of these countries have a good gambling event. To grow and attract foreign and local investors, there is need to have home grown gambling events in all major gambling jurisdictions in Africa. To reason is because; such platforms will and can address the major problems in that country. For instance, a gambling event in Nigeria can and will adequately address issues such as regulation, taxation, responsible gambling, marketing and what not. It will also open the gambling industry in Nigeria which is the second biggest in Africa to investors, allow gaming professionals to network and expand the gambling industry. Aside from that, Africa is made up of four major regions, namely West Africa, East Africa, Southern Africa and North Africa and nothing should stop us from organizing regional gaming events like it’s done in other climes. This will allow for regional growth of the industry especially now that Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement has come into force on January Ist 2021. Investors and top gaming executives globally can plan for these events because they will be listed in the gaming calendars every year.  

Article written by John Bamidele, founder of gbc.ng, a leading digital news portal on gaming in Africa. Well versed and experienced in Africa gaming, John has been a journalist for two decades working in Print and electronic media, writing on Sport, Marketing, Marketing Communication, Tourism and Politics.

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