Africa: waking a sleeping giantBy William - 13 March 2023
With tier one operators recently announcing strategic moves into the African market, Christophe Casanova, Chief Operating Officer at Honoré Gaming, believes there remains plenty of opportunity for others to get in on the action so long as they offer a highly localised product.
Africa is a region that’s been on operator radars for several years, but only a handful have made a play in the market to date.
The opportunity is undisputed; Africa is a vast market where there’s a strong appetite for betting among a population that often skews to the younger end of the scale and where mobile penetration continues to increase at a good rate.
More and more countries are embracing regulatory frameworks and are offering licences to international operators looking to make their online and mobile betting brands available to punters. Infrastructure improvements are being rolled out while economies are developing.
This makes Africa the ideal region for operators to target and that’s why we’re now starting to see some of the world’s biggest betting brands make their move. In recent months, Entain has gone live in Zambia with its flagship international sportsbook brand, bwin, while bet365 made its debut in Ghana just in time for the start of the World Cup.
Then there’s 888 which has announced its 888Africa joint venture and is now live in Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique and Zambia. And these are just the big boys – there’s also been a raft of market entries from tier two and tier three brands.
The time really is now for operators of all sizes to seize the African opportunity with both hands and deploy their brands in countries across the region. But to succeed they must take a considered approach and ensure they truly localise their product and offering.
In fact, the biggest mistake that operators can make is to simply take the approach used in other markets such as Europe and deploy it in Africa. We’ve already seen this in Nigeria where several European operators have entered the market but struggled to gain traction.
Localisation and respecting the culture in each market is an absolute must – it’s the difference between success and failure. Operators need to be mindful of the technical landscape they must navigate. This will differ from country to country but broadly speaking they will need to overcome challenges around limited bandwidth and the high data costs for consumers.
While mobile penetration is at a good level and rising, most people still use feature phones and not smartphones. Despite this, sportsbooks must still be intuitive and deliver an engaging player experience, especially on mobile which is the dominant channel of play in most African markets.
Bettors also expect to be able to access a huge range of odds and markets, as well as localised payment options. This means that operators need to use super lightweight platforms to power their brands, but platforms that still allow them to localise and personalise.
Ultimately, this requires a platform that’s been designed specifically for the unique challenges of the African market. Of course, this goes beyond language, currency and payment methods and covers all areas of the sportsbook from bonusing to customer support.
Another key area is loyalty and encouraging acquired players to continue wagering with the operator’s brand despite the tempting bonuses and incentives being offered by rival brands.
At Honoré Gaming, we’ve developed a loyalty scheme specifically for the African market. It takes a level-up format with players able to earn reward points for every bet they place – the higher the expected margin of the bet, the more points the player receives.
There are six levels in total and the system has been designed in a way that ensures between 20 per cent and 30 per cent of active players can clear at least the first level of the scheme each month.
Players are always able to see the number of reward points they hold as well as how many more points they need to reach the next level. They can also see how many points they could earn based on the active bets they have placed.
What’s more, the scheme considers the average number of bet lines that African players place, which ranges from seven to ten depending on the country, and the day-to-day philosophy that most players adopt which is why it provides weekly redemption and not monthly redemption.
Again, this is a highly localised loyalty scheme which is why it’s proved to be a great success with the operators that have launched it. On average, they’ve seen an average 24 per cent increase in the number of bets being placed per player per month.
There’s no doubt that Africa is a significant market and one that’s set to grow exponentially now that the power players have made their move. But there’s still plenty of opportunity for others to enter the fray and make their mark with a highly localised proposition for each market.