Management

ICE Africa Digital: Day 3 round-up

4 minutes read
The final day of ICE Africa Digital saw sessions focus on the challenges of market entry.

Remember, all of the three days’ sessions are available to watch on-demand

The day began with industry consultant Mark Tipping offering an overview of key considerations for operators looking to move into African markets. This, Tipping explained, was no mean feat – operators would have to make changes to the way they operate, the way they develop technology, and even changes to their corporate structures. 

But central to any plans to move into an African territory was mobile. Tipping explained that by 2025 there will be 475m mobile internet users, and 614m unique mobile subscribers. Not only was it the most popular channel, but thanks to mobile money solutions it also provided the most widely used payment solution. 

But even if players had a mobile device, mobile internet usage lags behind, meaning operators would have to reverse engineer USSD and SMS solutions, as well as often having to run data-light and WAP-compatible sites. 

In a later session, Jason Roberts of Betty Bingo largely summed up the challenge facing newcomers. After decades working in the European industry for leading operators such as Gala Coral, Roberts said that 18 months of working in Africa had largely taught him that he needed to re-learn everything. 

Even a confirmation email, when a new customer set up an account was no use – the players did not have email, meaning focus shifted to registering accounts via SMS. 

While this may be true of online bingo and casino – something far less widespread than sports betting on the continent, Tipping said that even though football led the way in terms of popular betting sports, the secondary sports varied from country to country. 

In Francophone markets, for example, racing tends to be popular, though in South Africa fixed-odds lottery betting was arguably more prevalent. Jackpots, however, appear to be key across multiple countries, whether that’s accumulator bonuses in Nigeria, or soccer  jackpots in Kenya.

This means that while a focus on a smaller number of sports and markets may allow for a narrower product range, it still has to offer the right product range. 

Furthermore, he added, customers may not be expensive to acquire, but are difficult to retain. That means a big welcome bonus may not prompt them to keep betting with one brand, but smaller retention bonuses for existing players may be more effective in getting them to stick around.

Even getting into a market was not as simple as securing a local licence and taking bets, Tipping explained. Many countries require international businesses to have a local partner, and one that owned a percentage of the operation. This can range from 10% in Ghana to 20% in Mozambique, he said.

Finding that partner was crucial, according to the panel for the session ‘Partnership access – how investors and suppliers can work with local businesses’. Jimmy Keneth Masaoe of the Tanzania Sports Betting Association explained that without that local knowledge operators would simply fail. 

Knowing the market, the people, and even the terms to use when operating a product could be the difference between success or failure, he explained.

Joe Kaado of Nigeria’s Lottomania added that local knowledge provided an insight into key regulatory and governmental issues. Kaado was speaking from experience, having had a launch in Ghana derailed by regulatory challenges. 

However BetBonanza’s Adekunle Adeniji admitted that finding partners was hard, and more clarity was needed for newcomers to understand who was reputable, and who could help their businesses. 

He recommended operators speak to other local brands to get a better picture of the landscape, and pointed out that lotteries and regulators were increasingly proving advice to investors in Nigeria. Something similar is happening in Tanzania, Masaoe noted, through the country’s Gaming Board.

Due diligence on these potential partners was key for investors, the panel agreed. Even more so, they added, was to stick within the rules – do not violate local laws or fail to comply with investment regulations.

Read iGB’s round-ups of the discussion and debate at ICE Africa Digital for day one and day two. And don’t forget, all content is available to watch on-demand via the ICE Africa site.

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