Bobby Longhurst Speaks to iGB About Moving From Betting Shop to Mobile in Africa

With much of the continent’s mobile market remaining untapped, exciting opportunities abound for intrepid, forward-thinking operators.

Fortune favours the early mover, says Bobby Longhurst

For a region that has traditionally been ruled by retail, betting and gaming operators in Africa are at long last waking up to the power of mobile. In key markets such as Kenya, Ghana, Nigeria, Tanzania, South Africa and increasingly the Ivory Coast, mobile development is finally assuming its rightful place at the top of board room agendas. The impact of Covid-19 on the retail industry has naturally intensified focus, but with technology developing at pace across the continent, it was only a matter of time before mobile came under the spotlight.

The rise of mobile betting in these key markets has been pegged to the continuous growth of mobile money. Bettors in Africa are inherently sceptical, yet mobile money is now recognised as an established trust mark. Integration with local wallet providers helps operators build consumer confidence in their digital betting products. At the same time, deposit and withdrawals are of huge significance in African betting markets. When done correctly, a simple check out process can bring huge gains in terms of establishing credibility with new customers.

Climbing smartphone penetration rates are also fuelling mobile betting growth, but since the speed of adoption varies from market to market, there is still a long way to go before the impact reaches significance. Aside from South Africa, feature phones continue to dominate in most African markets and will do for some years to come. Such fragmentation creates a unique environment where operators need to cater for both lower and higher-grade devices, whilst also supporting the widely popular USSD betting. Add in the challenges of high data costs and limited network availability, and it’s clear that flexible solutions are prised to take the lead. With this in mind, we made the conscious effort almost a year ago to completely rebuild the UI / UX of our platform from scratch to tailor to the African market, whilst keeping high levels of flexibility to engage with third party providers of new and ever improving technologies.

A major part of this advancement was developing our platform for Opera Mini compatibility, unlocking access to 120 million users of the mobile browser across the continent. Much like USSD betting, the popularity of Opera Mini varies between nations, yet its relevance – and the opportunity it offers for the industry – is difficult to ignore. The browser allows operators to strip back a lot of the data heavy features of a mobile sportsbook, making it cheaper, easier, and quicker for punters to place bets, thereby addressing challenges that have typically halted growth of mobile betting in the region.

With Africa’s major players tipped to be making big moves into mobile in the next year to 18 months, the early movers on Opera Mini compatibility, especially if combined with USSD and mobile wallet integration, will gain a discernible market advantage. That said, to fully leverage the opportunity of these developments, operators need to move on from the out-dated platform technology that often powers the market-standard online offering. For those that are serious about mobile, choosing the right suppliers will be critical.

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