Barney Barrow – local people are the key in the acquirement of licenses
Barney Barrow – currently Africa Chief Executive for Pan Africa Entertainment a Senior executive with a proven track record of delivering results in emerging markets. Particular expertise in start-ups and entrepreneurial enterprises. Strong career in building successful businesses.
Hi is business leader with 10 years’ experience of African markets. Founder/partner level involvement in a number of startups and trade ventures across several sectors – Oil technology services, Energy, Gaming, Mobile Technology, B2B solutions, Forex CFD, Crypto & banking applications. Demonstrated strategic, business management, business development, technology, finance (including funding) and marketing experience. Leading African specialist, entrepreneur and business leader in gaming, sports betting, sports content and lotteries.
E-PLAY: You are one of the precursors of the gambling business in Kenya. The first bookmaker company John Power was founded in 2012, which successfully adopted the Kenyan market. What were the beginnings of this new betting business?
Barney Barrow: Having founded several businesses ranging from Events (yes I was a DJ) to online recruitment when I entered the gaming market – JPK was one of the first licensed gaming companies in Kenya, which allowed and pioneered the SMS betting and Mpesa mobile gaming strategies. One of the key lessons during this venture was that the partners a south African company – failed to understand and utilize the experience and local knowledge of the founding partners this ultimately led to my exit and rebirth into Cheza gaming.
E-PLAY: Another company you founded and as CEO is Cheza Gaming Kenya. You drew many remarks from your experience in running John Power and developed it into well-known in Kenya and Burundi. How did the history of these companies go?
Barney Barrow:After learning the key lessons in JPK lessons kept coming, un realistic tech providers are common across the Kenyan market place with many staging unrealistic approaches and uncertified tech developers.
Since becoming Africa Chief Executive for Pan Africa Entertainment prior to this Kenya & Burundi were always good markets, unfortunately Kenya and the unstable taxation regime which crippled many businesses lead to the degradation of the market it was at that point that Burundi became a market for us – And since then we have secured the national lottery with and in conjunction with the Burundi Government and the regulator, several licenses spanning from Slots, to retail casino, lotto and sports betting.
E-PLAY: You have experience in online gaming business and land base in several countries in East and Central Africa. In your opinion, what are the most important tasks for potential investors who want to do business in these countries?
Barney Barrow: Local content! Local Content! Don’t assume you know the market don’t assume highly skilled and experienced EU based employees are able to deliver in such countries, don’t assume you have the know it all approach, and certainly don’t copy paste business models from 1st world countries into developing nations, they simply don’t work!. Choosing the right business partner is an absolute when operating is Africa as political leverage is a prerequisite to launching and operating a successful business. The ability to provide protection for investment is paramount as political leverage is a tool often abused by competitors and government alike. There are many many people who will claim and state they know MR X, Mr. President and will even state he is the king – Be careful of such statements and how you treat them!
Local shareholders – They are valuable very valuable – Recognize money is not a monopoly local people are the key in the acquirement of licenses and other such assets. Cash is readily available everywhere. Value them appreciate them, recognize them, they are key to your success! They can also be the weakest link and be the detriment of your business pick them wisely and make sure you understand their backgrounds; connections be it political or not it’s important you understand who they are and the potential risks if any.
E-PLAY: Africa is currently considered by experts to be an emerging continent of gambling business, countries that have legalized and validated various forms of gambling are waiting for cooperation with representatives of this business from Europe. What is the main obstacle to the full development of this sector of the economy?
Barney Barrow: Anything new and anything in an emerging market takes development not only from an education point of view, but from socio economic point of views, understandings one’s country people, culture is also a key requirement to provide stable and consistent corporation. The know it all approach will not be taken easily there are many factors which enable and inhibit – Corruption, Political influence, Business influence, relationships are all both enablers and inhibitors. The main obstacle I would envisage is understanding how to regulate, what to expect, what services do regulators require in order to provide cost effective and efficient regulation – Many countries rely on very manual reporting processes which determine the effect of regulations.
Obstacles – can vary from region to region and take many forms however stability within the industry is one of the many obstacles faced in Africa, things can change overnight, hampering operators and over burdening the general business environment. Regulation’s need to be adaptive, inclusive and public participation is critical to understanding what operators and regulators alike feel and understand about the markets.
E-PLAY: What would you advise to invest in a gambling business, what to look out for and what can be adapted from similar businesses in Europe?
Barney Barrow: Leap frogging! – We are renowned on this approach – For example banking and access to ATMs in some regions is limited – Kenya as an example did away with the ATM approach and whent straight to mobile money for example. Changing consumer trends and purchasing power techniques are all for ever changing, data and mobile phone penetration is increasing however in comparison still somewhat behind, I think mergers would be the best placed opportunities for a lot of the large gaming corporations looking to come into the continent whereby you have strong local partners who know the lay of the land, and on the other side you have capital, experience and strong partnership opportunities allowing the local participants to localize the intended purpose.
Banking and finance always pose a challenge to new entrants, banks across Africa are becoming more and more complex when dealing with gaming companies resulting in the inability to fund a business and its operations well. We need solutions around this space.
Work permits and immigration status also pose a challenge with the build own transfer model often resulting in minimal knowledge hand over. Some countries are not PLC friendly laws and regulations around the courts lead to degradation amongst stakeholders – Forming proper secure structures which can attract foreign investment are also key to the business and the growth of.