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Olabimpe Akingba: Localisation is about connectivity not language

Home to more than 50 countries and some of the world’s fastest growing economies, not least amongst them Nigeria, it is no surprise that Africa has caught the attention of several prominent bookmakers.

The likes of Betsson (Betsafe), 888 Holdings (888AFRICA) and Betway have all found a foothold on the continent, but according to Olabimpe Akingba, Executive Secretary of the Association of Nigerian Bookmakers, Africa is unlike any other market.

Offering SBC some insights prior to her appearance at the SBC Summit Barcelona this month, Akingba gave a resounding ‘no’ when asked whether a one-size-fits-all business model can be applied across Africa in a similar fashion to other continents.

“The market is too dynamic and multifaceted,” she explained, emphasising the uniqueness of the region, adding that “it is made up of over one billion people ready to buy”.

In previous discussions around Africa at the SBC Summit Barcelona, panellists have emphasised the need for effective localisation across Africa’s various betting markets, such as Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa.

For Akingba, the European betting brands eyeing up African opportunities face a major challenge in connectivity. When asked about whether said firms can connect with African punters via a localisation strategy, she again responded with ‘I would say no’ – citing the continent’s various nations and diverse range of over 2,000 indigenous languages.

She elaborated: “Localisation isn’t about language adoption, it’s about connectivity, and it’s about adapting products and services to fit the unique cultural and regulatory context of different African countries. It’s about making your company relatable to your customers and other stakeholders.”

International operators are also guilty of three major misconceptions regarding Africa’s betting environment, Akingba asserted. Regarding consumers, operators have underestimated African diversity and undermined customers’ purchasing power.

From an operational standpoint, bookmakers have made ‘wrong assumptions about regulation’, have initiated the wrong hiring processes and conducted ‘sparse investment in content localisation and research.

It is clear that operators have a number of technological, operational and market hurdles to overcome if success is to be found in the African betting landscape. However, despite the challenges of connectivity via localisation, the right local partnerships can be significant.

“The African gaming industry is different in terms of internet penetration, regulatory framework and cultural disposition,” Akingba noted.

“The technical barrier is largely in terms of internet penetration, some of the data available suggest that 80% of urban dwellers in Africa use the internet and only 23% of rural dwellers use the internet. Operators need to position themselves properly in terms of their market penetration, customer acquisition and product development strategies. 

“In terms of culture I would say globalisation and the media has helped bridge the gap to the extent that it’s easy to listen, learn and adapt to possible differences. It is important to build strong partnerships with local organisations and influencers who understand the gaming landscape.”

The European and North American betting markets are undoubtedly more established than Africa, and more developed in areas such as technology. However, the markets are growing in size and prominence, and with that consumer demands are also changing.

On a regional level, West Africa is seeing more cross-border cooperation on gambling developments and increasing calls for player protection. As one example, Nigeria is one of the continent’s biggest markets, and Akingba stated: “I see the market expanding what it is currently”.

She continued: “There is a lot of collaboration going on within the West African community states in terms of ease of payment, data verification, data protection and technology adoption. In my assessment I think the local players want  improved customer service delivery and player protection.”

At previous SBC Summits and in interviews, stakeholders have repeatedly voiced concerns around regulation. Although Akingba believes that these are some misperceptions, it is clear regulatory conditions are a cause for caution among operators.

For example, at last year’s SBC Summit Barcelona, panellists reflected that regulatory changes are a regular occurrence on the continent, with some countries’ frameworks changing year by year, with Kenya often given as the most clear example.

Against an often shifting regulatory backdrop but also amid growing consumer demand for more effective customer protection, how can the industry safeguard its customers? In Akingba’s view, there is the ultimate responsibility of the bookmakers themselves.

“It is my opinion that operators need to be proactive in ensuring that player protection measures are at the fore-front of their operational strategy. 

“We can no longer deny the existence of gambling addiction within the African region as the industry continues to grow and operators must play their part in ensuring that their marketing content is not encouraging addiction or underage gaming at the very least.”

Much of the industry’s international attention over the past year has been on South America, where the emerging market of Brazil has seen many operators eagerly await what could become one of the world’s biggest betting markets.

However, with its population of over one billion, growing economies and young populations, Africa’s betting markets clearly present opportunities.

In Barcelona later this month, Akingba will feature on a roundtable on the Nigerian market as well as a panel discussing the development of the regional betting scene, something which she believes greater cross-industry and cross-border cooperation is essential for.

She concluded: “We all need to prioritise collaborative strategy rather than silo strategy. Collaboration with competitors, regulators and other stakeholders should be at the heart of our modus operandi.”

SBC Summit Barcelona is a leading global betting and iGaming show with a comprehensive high-level conference, a programme of major product launches, and a 350-booth expo. Click HERE to view the conference agenda and tickets.

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