Inching Towards eSports Sustainability in Africa

By 2030, the global Esports market size is projected to grow to $6.7 billion, up from $1.72 billion this year. For the most part, the exponential growth in the sector will be attributed to the streaming of games, increasing viewership, ticket sales, demand for tournament infrastructure, and gaming investment among others.

On a broader level, the African gaming market (PC, consoles, mobile etc.) is estimated at $1.92 million, and it is expected to grow to $3.3 million in 2028. Although growth is guaranteed with the increasing penetration of the internet, cheap gadgets, and booming youth population, sustainability of the sector, especially in Esports where gamers are now securing a professional career path, poses a challenge.

To ensure the long-term viability and growth of the sector, certain economic, environmental, and social factors must be keenly observed to attain sustainability, especially in the African context where Esports is in its nascent stage albeit showing a great deal of growth potential.

During the annual X-Summit, a conference organised by Gamr Africa, a leading infrastructure provider for the gaming ecosystem in Africa, a panel session was dedicated to addressing the crucial topic of Esports sustainability in Africa in the light of global trends.

Senegal’s Baba Dioum, a manager at Solo Esports, Ghana’s Kwesi Hayford, COO of Play Arena and Nigeria’s Kunmi Adenipebi, co-founder and CEO of Gamr Africa, shared the stage as panellists. The session tagged Tackling Sustainability of Esports in Africa, Viz-A-Viz Global Trends was chaired by QueenArrow, a Kenyan esports player and content creator.

For starters, all the panellists evaluated the different landscapes of the Esports culture in their countries saying that there has been a significant level of growth in terms of job creation, engagement, and investments.

“In Senegal, we started esports in 2020 to create a hub in our country, and to make sure that all the talented players we have will try to do their best to have the opportunity to compete at the highest stage. We are doing great stuff for Africa. Also, there is an event called Orange Esports Experience, which is one of the biggest events run by the company Orange, and it allows more than 15 countries to come and play Esports and create value for the players.” – Dioum stated.

On his part, Adenipebi noted that the esports community in Nigeria experienced growth following the COVID-19 lockdown that saw demand for gaming for entertainment and social interaction. He also noted that there has been an increased rate of casual gamers converting to professional Esports players in the short span.

“A lot of Esports companies are rising by the day. In the past year, we have seen over 2,000 teams erupt from different countries in Africa. Two or three years ago, there was nothing more than FEJA (Festival of Electronic and Video Games in Abidjan) on the continent. It was the only one trying to pitch African countries together. Immediately COVID hit, we were able to start doing online games. Everyone started connecting from one country to the other, and that’s what brought up the idea of Gamr and Gamr Africa in the first place,” – Adenipe stated.

Hayford said that the esports sector must prioritise commerciality for sustainability. He said that although the entry-level into the professional levels are quite low, efforts must be concerted in the area of professional player management to ensure that all opportunities in the sector are harnessed.

“Esports is a global citizenry. Anybody can get in,” – he said.

Within us, these are the storylines that we are trying to make, that the small boy along the street can look at esports and say, ‘I can play the game.’ Then let’s take you through a trajectory of six months of training to become a professional. That educational route is also there. And even if you don’t make it to be a pro-gamer, you can also make it to become a content creator or a shoutcaster. You can still find jobs, still find skill sets within the space.

Although the growth of the sector is certain in the coming years, these experts relayed that there are nuanced challenges in the sector. Currently, mobile gaming dominates Esports due to ease and affordability. The second-best option to deplore for a tournament is game consoles, but this has its limitations. In comparison to mobile games, consoles are fairly affordable; however, the release of new editions retailing at a premium makes it difficult for organisers to secure. And this often has its way of excluding players, either because they haven’t mastered the latest edition or they are reluctant to compete on an older console.

For virtual reality and augmented reality games, both Hayford and Adenipebi said that it isn’t a feasible venture in Africa yet. Asides from cost, they said AR/VR gaming requires an ecosystem of infrastructure, for example, 5G technology, which isn’t equally distributed across Africa. They project that the platform would be widely adopted in the next decade.

For the growing sector, Dioum stated that collaboration and strategic partnership with stakeholders for growth has been elusive. He, however, noted that the current path toed by esports companies has helped position them well for investors to realise their economic potential. He also hammered the need for embassies to prioritise processing travelling visas for professional Esports players going to international competitions. He said that their attendance is the easiest route to echo the activities of the Esports community in Africa.

Globally, there has been more and more conversation around incorporating Esports into school curriculums. There are now university Esports programmes, collegiate wsports options, and professional esports education available to interested persons. To replicate such a feat in Nigeria, Adenipebi said that plans are underway to introduce Esports education at the secondary school levels in Nigeria. He also emphasised the need for a dynamic and diverse community that embraces female players.

Lastly, the trio pointed out how the mental health of players contributes to the long-term sustainability of the sector, especially those affected by gameplay addiction and gambling.

In conclusion, the path to esports sustainability in Africa holds immense promise and potential for growth. As the global esports market continues to expand exponentially, Africa is positioning itself to be a significant player in the industry. By embracing these opportunities and overcoming the challenges through proffered solutions, Africa can pave the way for a thriving and inclusive Esports ecosystem that benefits players, fans, and the continent as a whole.


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