In recent months the popularity of esports betting has grown exponentially worldwide, with the industry being one of the only sporting sectors to not be severely impacted by the global pandemic.
Nevertheless, the industry’s impact in specific regions has yet to be fully analysed outside of Europe and the US. At SBC Digital Summit Africa, a panel of experts from the sector discussed the growing popularity of esports and its betting industry in the continent.
Sidick Bakayoko, the managing director of Paradise Game, highlighted that Africa is going through a huge change in its esports landscape right now, particularly due to the effects of COVID-19. As a result of this shift, the industry’s betting scene could also rise in prominence.
Bakayoko stated: “There are going to be a lot of changes in the way people can view video games and the way they can view regular entertainment. I definitely think it’s going to have a positive impact on our industry, which is video gaming, as a whole. I think betting is definitely going to benefit from the new trends.
“For esports betting to explode in Africa you have to have the population and I think we definitely have the numbers, and you have a population that’s growing, and you have a middle class population that’s growing. I can see a real big parallel between what you can see in Europe or in the US. What you can see here is just that it’s going to take a little bit more time, just like seeing the movie industry more than 15 years ago, which is now starting to work very well.”
Douglas Ogeto, CEO of Ludique Works, agreed that Africa’s esports and subsequently its betting sector is developing. According to Ogeto, the continent is still developing its own esports niche – even in terms of game development – with steps also being taken alongside developing a competitive gaming betting sector.
He commented: “In Ghana, we’ve seen our studio do a local version of what other countries will call poker. They basically took the card playing game and customised it to the local context and then made it a multiplayer game. This has been well received and with this kind of grassroots level, and local adoption of what works for the local economy, the local market will definitely see more games coming out that have an esport element.”
Compared to mature esports markets such as Europe, Africa is still in its infancy, however, this does not necessarily mean that its betting scene is underdeveloped.
Ghana Esports Association’s president Kwesi Hayford explained that the appetite for gambling is apparent in the continent: “We have known betting in gaming at grassroots, but we didn’t even refer to it as betting. It was between the gamers themselves. It’s called ‘loser pay and winner stay’ and when you go to the small game centres in Ghana, it is there.
“It is their form of betting, people bet on two players playing. They could bet and put money together and say ‘the winner who’s able to stay and play and the matches takes the money. The elemental of betting has been within the ecosystem in Africa.”
The panel, which was moderated by Code Red Esports COO Luke Cotton, also featured the likes of Ryan Macquet, the founder of the Africa Electronic Sports Association, and League of Extraordinary Gamers’ founder and CEO Emmanuel Oyelakin, with the discussion ranging from the general state of the esports sector to the region’s popularity with eFootball titles such as FIFA and PES.
As the panel came to a close, the question was raised as to what operators must do if they wish to delve into this growing esports region. Oyelakin explained that for a smooth integration into the esports betting market in Africa it is imperative that the companies check the rules and regulation whilst also aligning with esports organisers to ensure that the correct measures are being used.
“I would advise that the betting operators go behind the esports organisers,” he concluded. “We need to be able to clearly find the limitations and be able to walk around them, it is what it is, but in Nigeria, there is the cultural aspect and also the religious aspect.”