The sports betting industry is experiencing a rush of customers in countries south of the Sahel zone, which is considered a region in Africa that faces huge economic challenges. As reported, the spread of mobile phones, i.e. smartphones, is primarily responsible for the increasing popularity of wagering.
Young people and adolescents between the ages of 17 and 35 are using the technology more and more intensively to register with online bookmakers and place bets on sports events. According to a survey, 54 % of young people from the countries south of the Sahara have already participated in sports betting. The percentage of all customers that would want to use the mobile phone to place a bet is up to 75 %.
Technical Progress Drives Bets
Sub-Saharan Africa is a geographical zone that comprises a total of 49 countries. While the expansion of the mobile network in the past few years has mainly included the installation of slower 2G technology, the breakthrough was made by the end of 2019 when nearly half (around 45 %) of all connections in the region was based on faster 3G technology, and the introduction of 4G is underway. For most of the developed countries in the world, this is the level that has been overpassed a long time ago but for Africa it is huge.
A total of 456 million of the region’s approximately 920 million inhabitants were mobile customers in 2018. A number that is expected to increase to 623 million by 2025. An expansion of the mobile network and the Internet data speed not only offers great opportunities for mobile service providers and phone manufacturers but also for developers of digital applications. These also include the major sports betting companies, which, thanks to the innovation, can reach new customers in the continent away from the major metropolitan areas.
Now, bookmakers offer their customers in the sub-Saharan states both betting opportunities and constant advertising presence through sports sponsorship on TV and on social media channels. The expert fears that user engagement will increase through advertising on mobile devices. This would motivate players to keep making new bets. Some international sports clubs are already sponsored by sports betting providers of African origin. One example of this is SportPesa. The bookmaker quickly advanced to become the market leader in Kenya and works with football clubs in England, such as Hull City, Arsenal, and Everton. The betting company, founded in 2013, had already generated enough income to fund major Kenyan leagues before it finally ventured into the international market.
SportPesa is just one of many betting providers in Kenya who have suddenly become wealthy and have been able to win over a whole army of gamblers, mostly from the poorer parts of the population. The responsible supervisory authority in the country lists around 30 licensed operators with licenses for sports betting in Kenya among which are domestic and foreign bookmakers, and you can see which are these exactly here. At least 10 of them are aimed specifically at mobile phone users. They benefit from the combination of the growing mobile phone market and increasing mobile payment flows.
The Youth Are Looking for a Perspective
In addition to the growing availability of sports betting via apps and the influence of gambling advertising on young people, the lack of prospects in the future in the labor markets of the sub-Saharan countries is a particular reason for betting through mobile phones. According to economists, young people and adolescents hope that sports betting will improve their living conditions. Experts write that demographic development, in particular, is a challenge for the sub-Saharan region.
Africa has the youngest population in the world with an estimated 60 % of people under the age of 25. Of the 420 million young people on the continent, most are unemployed, have insecure jobs, or are in part-time work. For many in Africa, the polished advertising of sports betting providers is an irresistible invitation to wager.
The Possible Consequences of Sports Betting
The possible consequences of the increased scope of sports betting in the countries south of the Sahara could not only be economic in nature. The studies by African scientists predict significant societal consequences for gambling in these countries. In countries like Ethiopia, more than 73 % of young people have already participated in some form of gambling. It is a frightening number: after all, the number of adult gamblers in the country who are willing to risk a lot during wagering is already estimated at 37 %. It could increase significantly over the next few years as mobile betting expands.
Speaking of Africa’s future markets for sports betting overall, it has to be mentioned that the African sports betting market is growing in countries such as Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, and South Africa, among others. Although some of the countries of the sub-Sahel zone are working intensively on regulating sports betting on the government level, the providers’ incomes are rapidly increasing in many of the 49 countries. Kenya’s bookmakers alone are said to have earned close to 1.8 billion euros in the past 5 years and thus brought the state tax revenues of over 230 million euros. According to studies from a few years ago, 96 % of players in Kenya would like to use a mobile phone to bet.