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Africa: Differentiation vs standardisation

| By Aaron Noy | Reading Time: 4 minutes
To talk of a one-size-fits-all solution for Africa ignores the nuances in each market. With so many differing economic climates and technological infrastructures, suppliers must prepare for a range of contrasting eventualities in different territories, Altenar chief operating officer Dinos Stranomitis tells iGB.

Considering the size and scale of Africa, and the differing player habits across the continent, how do you go about developing a solution that can succeed in as many different markets as possible?
Differentiation versus standardisation is the key. You may have a standard solution with key core elements that are the same across all countries. Then you need to offer several different features and elements to fulfil the needs and wants of the local population. It sounds a bit difficult, but it isn’t really if you execute each project with proper attention and analysis.

Draw-based games are arguably as popular, if not more so, in markets such as Nigeria. Do you cater to those tastes?
Nigeria is a unique landscape, and should not be taken as the norm for all of Africa. In Nigeria the draw-based game is simply a bet with a quick play cycle, so the people love it. It works in countries where there are low levels of trust, where players need to know immediately if they win or not. Simply put, they do not feel they can leave the shop before the bet is settled. This is the main reason why virtual or draw-based games are so popular there.

Internet and smartphone penetration in some countries is particularly low, so have you made any effort to develop SMS or WAP-based solutions for these territories? And can this sort of solution be integrated with more modern technology?
It is a challenge for sure to reach an audience that doesn’t have the latest technology to hand. We went through an in-depth analysis to develop a front end that allows low-bandwidth devices to place bets.

At first we couldn’t believe it, but in Africa you genuinely need to have a website built in data-saving mode to become popular. Technologically, this doesn’t make much sense, but business-wise, it’s what you need to operate there.

With retail being so popular in countries such as Nigeria, Tanzania and South Africa, how can you drive adoption of online and mobile gambling – or does this require macroeconomic change to facilitate it?
You do not have to go that far. It’s a simple adoption to a hybrid system that allows the final consumer to place bets through low-end devices in a shop or via their mobile.

The ticket can be prepared online, and instead of validating it directly, a scanning device can transmit the ticket details to the cashier, who then validates the ticket on behalf of the customer. It sounds complicated, but a short demo will iron out any issues you may have.

Is there more value in competing in the largest markets, such as the UK and Italy, or targeting growth in emerging territories? and Do you see your efforts in Africa as being immediately beneficial to revenue growth or as a long-term project?
Africa is definitely a longer-term project. Europe is generating revenue, and Africa will generate revenue in the future. The average consumer in Africa is growing faster than the average consumer in Europe. This means that every time we sign up an African operator, we most likely will make less profit than we would with a European customer. However, longer term, there is the prospect of much bigger profits.

Which markets have you found to be particularly successful and which do you see as becoming successful in future?
Altenar is supplying licensed operators in Nigeria, Madagascar, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Ghana. We have a lot of knowledge of Zimbabwe and Tunisia, so we are awaiting the possibility of licensing there.

Other countries we see as potentially successful in future are Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda; we think our systems would certainly help operators succeed in those markets.

Considering Altenar’s regulated market footprint, how have you found regulatory processes in Africa? Do you feel these lag behind other jurisdictions?
It depends how you view it. Our experience in Nigeria was quite interesting as it feels like they have a proper regulatory framework. I’d say they are quite clever, as they understand that once you have a licence in the European Union or Great Britain, they check some elements but trust that when you’re certified and active in these markets, your systems should be viable there.

And who is competing? Do you see local brands leading or are international providers more popular?
It is a combination of both. In most territories you need a local partner. Once you have the proper local partner, the rest is easier. If you just operate from Europe, it’s hard to gain trust and harder to grow.

Contrary to what many people think, Africa needs a lot of investment if you really want to penetrate deeply into the market.

Are your clients on the continent local brands, or are they partners from other markets who you are helping to expand into African countries?
Altenar mainly works with local brands in Africa. It happens that these local brands tend to have international investors, but surely the local approach is the key point to success.

For new entrants, do you get many Enquiries from operators that work with different providers in other territories, to power their African sites or businesses?
Once you become familiar and successful in a market, you immediately get many requests coming from there. Word of mouth is essential to succeed in Africa, I would say.

Inbound queries are a mix of start-up projects with a relative chance of success, and existing operators wanting to make the next step with a higher-quality provider, one that will allow them a better, more profitable future. 

Altenar is the sponsor of the iGB Africa Report, which will be released next week. Read an exclusive extract here.

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