East Africa is perhaps one of the most exciting and attractive regions of the world at the moment as far as the betting and gambling industry is concerned. The activities have always been popular in that part of the world, and the ongoing spread of smartphones and the internet has meant that more and more people are now gaining access to online gambling in East Africa.
According to Alessandro Pizzolotto, the CEO of STM Gaming, which is a certified partner of BtoBet in Africa, East Africa will be at the forefront of mobile and online gambling, largely due to the fact that it already has the highest per capita registered and active mobile money accounts, and also leads for the volume of such transactions. It is thus also leading the entire continent of Africa for transactions made through payment gateways as well as for mobile money, while in the sub-Saharan African region, the number of people, especially youngsters and millennials, who are using mobile phones to place bets is steadily increasing. All of these numbers and trends point towards the region quickly becoming very big for online gambling, not just in Africa, but globally. At the same time, with the growth in online gambling, there has also been greater recognition and acceptance of cryptocurrency-based casino websites, where payments and withdrawals can be done using various cryptocurrencies. These have also been growing in popularity, and such bitcoin online casino sites will also help drive the entire online gambling ecosystem in Africa and elsewhere.
Sports betting is also hugely popular in Eastern Africa, as it is across the continent, and this is mainly down to the popularity of sports itself in Africa. This has been highlighted by the increase in the number of elite African sportsmen, particularly in football, with the likes of Senegal’s Sadio Mane at Liverpool and Kalidou Koulibaly at Napoli, Gabon’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang at Arsenal, Egyptian Mohamed Salah at Liverpool, Algerian captain Riyad Mahrez at Manchester City and Hakim Ziyech at Chelsea, to name just a few of the players who are doing well at major clubs in the big European football leagues. In terms of actual markets, Kenya and Uganda are leading the eastern region of Africa for online gambling, while, as stated earlier, the data suggests that more and more young people are using their smartphones to gamble and place bets on sporting events.
There have been some problems regarding weak laws and regulations in Africa, which have said to offer a perfect environment for gambling. However, the M-Pesa and SMS payments issues that took place in Kenya last year actually showed that local laws do work, and the government’s actions in blocking these payment systems cut off millions of customers from a widely-used network. The escalating and strict regulations imposed by governments were perhaps not necessary, but they show that the regulatory system is present and strong, which can only help online gambling going forward.
The biggest reason for East Africa’s prominence in online gambling is due to the variety of payment services and gateways that are available, even though Africa as a continent is still far behind the likes of Europe when it comes to financial inclusion. Countries such as Rwanda, Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania have some of the highest per capita mobile money accounts, with rapid growth taking place, and the number of these accounts going higher than the number of bank accounts. The launch of M-Pesa by Vodacom was the catalyst for this growth, as the lack of established financial infrastructure, combined with the falling cost of smartphones and internet plans, led to mobile money transactions being so widespread across Africa, but especially in east Africa. Looking at Nigeria and Kenya as a comparison, these discrepancies can be clearly seen. 73% of the Kenyan population have reported as having a mobile money account, with 56% of them having an account with a bank or financial institution. However, in Nigeria, just 39% of people have a bank account, and only 5.6% had a mobile money account. This shows how financial inclusion has been driven by mobile money in east Africa, and this is why online gambling is much stronger in that region as well.