Apart from a handful of countries across the continent, there currently exists no regular or detailed deep dive into Africa’s games industry. Self styled global market intelligence, data and analytics firms might share insightful perspectives on what they constitute as the state of the global gaming space, but the truth is, their concept of the world, is about as accurate as any sport that claims to host a “World Series”. Branding it as such doesn’t make it so.

From Algeria to Zimbabwe, Africa has long been on the cusp of a technological breakthrough, but for the first time ever and on the eve of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the time might be now for the continent to transition to the fore and become a pivotal player in the games industry.

Whilst home to the largest population of youth, what that represents in terms of the current state of the gaming landscape is at best vague. Together with a number of partners, industry voices, readings and data (provided by the excellent folks at Newzoo) as well as utilising a secondary research approach, GIA will look to present an ever evolving overview of gaming in Africa today – one country at a time.

The Numbers Game

Forecasts and more tangible metrics exist for a fraction of the countries in Africa. Whilst Newzoo has been revealed their findings on some of the larger local markets, it does tend to skew more towards projected consumer projected expenditure. on the consumer perspective. We know that the youth population in Africa is on the rise whilst pursuing increasing online connectivity. So far only two countries have 5G capabilities (Kenya and South Africa), with more to follow suite in the coming years.

The upward forecasts are backed by indicators that demonstrate just how much mobile broadband can support sustainable growth in Africa. For example, a 10 percent increase in mobile broadband adoption will lead to a 0.6 – 2.8% increase in economic growth; for every 1000 new broadband subscribers, 80 new jobs are created; and a doubling of the average achieved broadband speed generates an additional 0.3% in GDP growth.

In a report unveiled by Newzoo, the number of Sub-Saharan gamers has more than doubled in the last five years and the region is projected to be the fastest-growing globally for both mobile gamers and people who pay for games. For context, the Sub-Saharan region is every country that falls below the Saharan desert (46 countries) and excluding the Northern nations of Algeria, Djibouti, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Somalia, Sudan and Tunisia.

A closer look at those figures can be seen below:

Closely examining five major countries in the region (Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, and South Africa), the report reveals:

  • South Africa has the highest saturation of gamers, with 24m people playing within a population of 59m (40%).
  • 27% of people in Ghana play games, 23% in Nigeria, 22% in Kenya, and 13% in Ethiopia.
  • South Africa leads the way in total annual gaming revenue in 2021 ($290m), followed by Nigeria ($185M), and then Ghana ($42m), Kenya ($38m), and Ethiopia ($35m).
  • Through traditional channels, a higher proportion of South African gamers pay for games (43%) than Ghanaians and Ethiopians (33%) or Nigerians and Kenyans (32%). 

It certainly makes for a glowing endorsement of an industry gaining momentum. It does seem to be missing at least one North African country. Why?

According to recent reports there has been an increase in the flow of investment capital to Northern Africa. Most of which can be both attributed to a strong entrepreneurial culture boosted by the huge number of startup hubs as well as the North’s close ties to the MENA community.

Whilst 2020 and 2021 figures are hard to come by, a look at the three years previous shows how dominant the North African region has been in terms of revenue despite little to no data on Djibouti, Libya, Somalia and Sudan.

  • Egypt has accounted for almost 50% of revenue in the region in 2017, 2018 and 2019.
  • The legacy of Ubisoft’s Moroccan presence lingers with its 121M revenue in 2019 leading to it slotting into second place.

Want a refresher on last years trends, then feast your eyes on the 2021 African Games Industry Trends.

Funding on the rise: The past twelve months has been an exciting time for the industry with a concerted effort to present a kaleidoscope of funding options for aspiring and established developers. Both private and public options such as the Diverse Game Developer Fund, African Game Developer Prototype Fund, Black Game Developer Fund and many more launched or continued in 2021. That trend should continue with VCs likely to join the fray amidst a wave of industry consolidation.

Startup boom: The influx of capital should see the number of registered companies within the gaming space increase. Whilst that may not have a massive bearing on the number of developers currently creating in the industry, with financing opportunities available we could see some transition from bedroom developers into enterprises in an official capacity.

More Pan-African projects: Game development is no cakewalk. So in a bid to mitigate financial and logistical pain points, we can expect to see more cross-national collaboration between studios. This is still relatively new as revealed earlier on GIA with four studios working together to launch a mobile game. However, we could see more variations in this theme with the growth of support studios helping colleagues across the continent launch their games.

Introducing the Country Reports

In what has largely been an untapped and often ignored region by the capital and industry elite, the potential of the games industry in Africa can be enhanced by taking a granular approach to gain an understanding of the realities and challenges faced by each African country. Over the coming months GIA will attempt to do that.

A deep dive of this kind has never really been done before. The collation and presentation of country reports will be an undertaking and fluid process, but hopefully by the time the final report on Zimbabwe is published, we should have achieved the following goals:

  • A true understanding of the industry size (industry ecosystem)
  • The leading platforms of choice
  • The key developers per country
  • The challenges and goals of the industry within each country.

With that said, we begin the series of country reports by starting with a big one in a couple of days – South Africa.