Landscape of Opportunity

landscape-of-opportunity

Big game hunters head for Africa

Six months have passed since we last took a very broad and very brief look at the state of our industry in Africa. The continuing economic growth of the continent, combined with an increasing willingness by various legislators to embrace the industry’s tax revenue potential and introduce manageable regulation, is providing ever-increasing opportunities. Added to this has been a rapid acceleration in both affordable broadband and mobile device usage. As such, Africa is now a landscape rich in opportunity.

A continent that is football crazy

Africa is also a sports-mad continent, with football a massive favourite. The success of the various national teams, and the individual successes of superstar African players across the major European leagues, has produced a continent, and a generation, that is fanatical about its football. And in the south of the continent, cultural heritage has also resulted in huge interest in rugby, cricket and even horse racing. With the viewing of games and events made so much easier via satellite TV and portable personal devices, the stars clearly became aligned for sports betting to take off.

It is therefore no great surprise that the popularity of sports betting – and particularly online – has grown so rapidly across Africa in recent years. The industry is expanding at great pace to meet this demand and cater to those who want to gamble from home or on the move. However, as in any rapidly developing market, there are unscrupulous operators who present risks to players and turn legislators against the industry as a whole, and there is still a vast network of unregulated and ‘underground’ operations.

Lawlessness will not last forever

Of course, a lack of any regulation can be widely interpreted as meaning that if there are no laws in place to break, then services can be offered without risk of penalty. This is an approach that, at present, is being widely adopted across the continent by numerous non-African operators. However, this lack of legislation will not last forever and, ultimately, the long-term potential of the continent will depend upon a transparently legitimate approach by both operators and suppliers.

Sports betting and online gaming is now fully legal in 16 African nations, and the good news is that there are now numerous resources where a deeper understanding of the state of the various markets can be learned. From the players’ perspective, websites such as GamblingAfrica both list by country, and categorise by type, those online sportsbooks and casinos that are appropriately licensed.

For example, in South Africa, in-person sports betting is legal but only by adults over the age of 18 and only in casinos and licensed betting shops. However, online sports betting is legal, but only in relation to specific sports – football and rugby. And the use of ‘prediction’ markets in any other non-sports sectors is illegal.

A land of legislative inconsistencies

Beyond sports betting, in the wider iGaming sectors, the legalities are even less clear. Most African countries do not have specific laws relating to online gambling, although there are some where specific laws on online gambling have been enacted. In Ethiopia, online gambling is illegal while in Nigeria, gambling via the internet is permitted in designated areas such as casinos. In Nigeria, it is also the case that certain regulations have been imposed at regional level and are not recognised by the federal authorities.

As of today, very few African nations have legal online casinos. In those that do, the regulations are very much in line with those imposed upon the land-based sector. So in Kenya, online casinos are regulated by the Kenya Currencies & Financial Trading Authority and in Zimbabwe, they are regulated by the Zimbabwe Gaming & Wagering Board. In other countries where online casinos are operating, these are unregulated, which also means that they are potentially illegal and, by definition, somewhat ‘insecure’.

Positive steps in South Africa

Back in the 1990s, South Africa was the first country in the continent to legalise and regulate sports betting, and the South African government is constantly seeking to expand the scope of online gaming regulation. Recent initiatives such as the National Gambling Amendment Bill and the Computer Games Regulations Amendment Bill aim to regulate a range of online games, including slots, casino games and sports betting. With operating licenses also required, these initiatives will also impose including minimum financial requirements and mandatory cyber-security standards.

And positive steps in Nigeria

Today, the online gaming sector in Nigeria, Africa’s most populated nation, is estimated to be worth US$3 billion. But a lack of adequate regulation inevitably resulted in big upsurges in cyber-crime, fraud and money laundering. This led to the introduction of a new gaming regulatory framework by the Nigerian federal government. Interested operators must now apply for a Virtual Gaming Licence, with only a select few being successful. In addition to permitting the public provision of games, the Nigerian Virtual Gaming License also involves the strict, real-time monitoring of all license holders.

Evolution & Education

In summary, it is only possible to conclude that Africa is indeed a land of opportunity. The continent is rich in natural resources beyond the imagination, with population demographics that point towards a love of leisure and recreation. As the various economies flourish, and individual disposable incomes rise and are more widely spread, these markets will rapidly expand. But expansion is no good without evolution, and as the rest of the world seeks to enter the African betting and gaming sectors, they should do so in a spirit of evolution and education, because the ‘long game’ will surely be the biggest winner in this case.

Background:

Africa is the world’s second largest and second most populated continent. With a total population of around 1.5bn, it accounts for around 20% of the world’s population. This population is also the youngest of all the continents, with an average age of around 20, compared to over 30 in the rest of the world. This large, young population, coupled with recent economic expansion, mean that Africa is a market that offers huge potential across a range of spheres.

The continent holds 90% of the world’s platinum, 50% of its gold, 90& of its cobalt and one-third of its uranium. The Democratic Republic of Congo has 70% of the world’s coltan, a mineral used in the production of tantalum capacitors for electronic devices such as mobile phones.

Africa consists of eight territories and 54 sovereign states, with all nations cooperating through the African Union, with the 10 wealthiest nations being Egypt, Nigeria, South Africa, Algeria, Morocco, Ethiopia, Kenya, Angola, Sudan and Ghana.

And in recent years in particular, the African legislative and economic landscape has been evolving, with the result that the continent is now an increasingly exciting and tempting market for investors and operators across the iGaming and sports betting sectors.