The English author, Rudyard Kipling, said that “One cannot resist the lure of Africa.” He probably wasn’t talking about the appeal to sports betting companies from farther afield, but over recent years, the market across the continent of Africa has sprung up from nowhere and literally exploded. It has been reported that across the six wealthiest sub-Saharan African nations, more than 50% of young people have placed a bet and in Kenya, over 75% have done so.
As with the rest of the world, the greatest stimulus for this rapid growth is the proliferation of the smartphone, followed by the widening adoption of mobile money. The boom began in South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya and Zambia, and these remain the largest markets. But the other countries are catching on and in Africa as a whole, there are 54 recognised sovereign states and a further eight territories, so the room for expansion is massive.
Pioneers rarely consider the longer term
At the higher levels, the pro-gambling argument is always founded on the positive impacts made by sensible regulation and taxation on the wider economy and community. But pioneers rarely think long-term or operate at these higher levels. Their goal is to make money quickly, for themselves alone, and if they need to cut corners to do so, then so be it. Which is why the responsible and credible industry needs to be allowed to get into Africa and use its superior professionalism to show leadership, assisting local partners to do things right.
The Ethiopian Example
In the time of Emperor Haile Selassie, Ethiopia had one casino. When he was deposed in 1974, the new Marxist junta closed it. Their successors, the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front, shared the Marxists’ dislike of gambling and although the country’s National Lottery Administration was established in 1980, there is still only one casino hotel – The Ghion in Addis Ababa – and the first betting licence was not issued until 2012.
But today, sports betting is big business in Ethiopia, with over 400 retail betting shops spread across the 11 regional states and over 40 recognised online betting sites. The largest of these is 22Bet, with over 1,000 events covered each day. All licensed sports betting companies are required to transfer 20% of their profits to sporting institutions.
The Senegalese Example
In Senegal, 95% of the population is Muslim, and Islam openly opposes gambling in all its forms. But the national government allows gambling. Lonase runs the state national lottery and is the licensing authority, partnering with betting agencies such as Sunubet, Premier Bet and 1xBet. Senegal has one of Africa’s highest rates of internet penetration, with 89% of people connected, and mostly by mobile internet. And with its fantastic national team, and superstar players like Sadio Mane starring in the English Premier League, it is a nation obsessed by football. The locals call football and sports betting ‘parifoot’ and it is clear that presided over and operated correctly, it could be an industry with a bright future for all involved, rather than an activity considered illicit and unwanted by many traditionalist opponents.
The key will always be to do things right
Despite a low concentration of wealth in many of the 54 nations, the African continent has enjoyed recent economic expansion and offers a young population with enormous potential for business partners from so many established disciplines. The key to long-term success will always be to do things right. If companies from established markets can lay the correct foundations, establish meaningful partnerships with local entities who they educate and support and basically ‘give’ rather than ‘take’, then there can surely be a positive future for our industry in a territory so rich in resources and where the people simply love their sport.