Africa surges to become the third largest e-gaming market with 186 million players

The number of gamers in Africa has more than doubled since 2015, from 77 million to 186 million players, making it one of the fastest-growing gaming markets in the world. Jay Shapiro, the chairperson of the pan-African Gaming Group states: “In Africa, it’s a fairly new industry. So, we’re starting from essentially zero about five years ago, to 10 years from now, we’re on track to become the third largest market globally in the world behind the US and China, just through sheer demographics – the fact that Africa has more than a billion youth.”

At Nairobi’s Afrigamer gaming hub, players travel from across the country to compete in tournaments. Afrigamer founder Emmanuel Oyewole talks about why, “This physical location helps you meet your friends, the people you meet online you get to meet them physically here. So, we make a safe space for them. Also, why you need to come here is again the issue of internet, not everyone will be able to subscribe for something big like a big mbps of internet in their house. So, you have to come here to be able to game.”

The vast majority of Africa’s gamers play on their phones. Shapiro explains, “Africa is very much a mobile-first continent. […] It’s predicted that by 2026 we’ll have more smartphones in Africa than all of India, for example. So, if you’re making games for Africa, you’re making them on your mobile phone.”

Shapiro is also the founder and CEO of Usiku Games which he says focuses on making mobile games for good, to counter Africa’s large online sports betting market. He speaks about some of their products, “We’ve done games about climate change and reforestation. We’ve done gender-based violence and sexual reproductive health science and math, education, all kinds of things that can be lessons that are inferred through the play of the game. We think that the potential for African games that are made in Africa, either for Africa, or to share African stories with the world is just massive.”

Game Producer and CEO of Kunta Content Dean Gichukie is developing a uniquely African story – a Masai-themed game for PC and console, called ‘Hiru’.  But, he notes, “There really isn’t an ecosystem of game developers who’ve made games for years, maybe even decades, who we are able to lean on for support, for advice, for feedback, for assistance. That’s essentially the biggest challenge because it motivates the second one, which is getting access to funding or funds.”

Gichukie believes that exploring the virtual world can lead to real-life changes, stating: “Games are really powerful in that they’re able to place you within the world and the reality of the player and of the character and being able to do that from an African standpoint is really rare. Being able to show this is the journey of a young African man, this is what it’s like living in Africa and dealing with African problems on a daily basis and being able to give people the empathy of their reality of being African.”

Also in this month’s episode, CNN’s Larry Madowo sits down with the CEO of Founders Factory Africa Bongani Sithole to discuss the African start-up ecosystem.

(See more from Marketplace Africa).


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