African Gaming is Going its Own Way

The African games industry is flourishing, but it is developing on a path all of its own.

February 10, 2015

/ by Tin Salamunic

Online leisure in Africa is not the same as it is in the industrialized nations. There are fewer home consoles across Africa and direct internet access is limited compared to more industrialized parts of the world, but that doesn't mean that the same appetite for recreational gaming is absent. In South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya, for example, there are highly developed games industries. Explicit legalisation permitting online casinos in Kenya and Nigeria has seen consistent and consolidated growth in those countries as they look to build towards the sort of established infrastructure that has made South Africa one of the World’s go to destinations for casino gamblers. When it comes to gambling, Africa is very much on the up.

Inevitably, these developing gambling markets are not yet on the same scale as those of Europe or the South African resorts but the rapid uptake of smartphones - which is effectively by-passing the pc stage of development that occurred elsewhere - means that there is a rapidly developing market for games producers of all persuasions to target. It has been estimated that by 2017 there will be as many as 334 million smartphone connections across the continent and it's expected that the figure will continue to rise exponentially. That makes for a lot of gaming.

But just as there is an appetite for online gambling in Africa, there is the same playful impulse that marks the rest of the world’s take up of communications technologies. When you bear in mind that an estimated 55 percent of mobile Internet is used on gaming in Africa and 52 percent is used on social media, it isn’t hard to see just how strong that appetite for mobile leisure is.

Development companies such as the South African Afroes, Luma Arcade and Kola Studios, develop games specifically targeted at the tastes of African gamers. For example, Kola have developed an online version of a card game popular in Uganda - Matatu - that is unlikely to catch on elsewhere, but which is tremendously popular throughout East Africa. Such concerns may limit the potential impact of African developers in the short term, but at the same time it points to the appreciation of customer appetites that demands a local knowledge.

It is that strong cultural identity, aligned with the lack of attention from European and American markets that looks set to see the African games market continue to develop along its own trajectory. That might just make for some surprising developments. Despite all prejudices to the contrary, there is no shortage of creativity, entrepreneurial energy or market intelligence in Africa. Just as it is easy to imagine that their gaming appetites are more like ours than they really are, it is equally easy to overlook what we all have in common.

Article by: Peter Ito

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