INTERVIEWS Mark Schmidt Speaks to GBC About Accelerating the Move From Retail to Online in Africa 4 months ago Iwo Bulski Post Views: 251 As the Director of Sales for Africa at Pronet Gaming, tell us what made Africa so important to your organization? Mark Schmidt: Our strategy over the past two years has been primarily focused on increasing our presence within emerging markets, with Africa forming a particular focus. We differentiate ourselves from the competition by designing UI/UX specifically for the needs of African operators, with the flexibility and choice within that proposition effectively providing a bespoke solution. We have also combined our platform offering with Opera Mini compatibility, which is crucial in terms of reaching players in Africa and driving revenues for our partners. The infrastructural challenges in Africa should have been a huge factor to discourage investing in Africa for now but surprisingly, its not? MS: Clearly, challenges do exist in terms of infrastructure when examining mobile betting in particular. While smartphones are ubiquitous in many areas of the world, in Africa the picture changes sharply from country to country and data is expensive. In Nigeria, for example, the cheapest pre-paid plan has 50MB costing $0.30, in a country where the majority live on $1.25 or less a day. However, mobile money is widely accepted and if you also consider that our Opera Mini capability means we can provide to a huge number of people across Africa, then it becomes easier to understand why operators are acting now rather than waiting for the infrastructure to improve. We have witnessed a large incursion into Sub-Saharan Africa by foreign gaming brands. Sincerely speaking, l believe they are here because of our weak regulation and population. MS: We are fully committed to emerging markets and helping operators to grow their businesses within those markets. We cannot claim to speak on behalf of those operators we do not work with, but our partnerships in Africa are based upon platform provision that gravitates around the needs of the customer. It is this idea that informs everything we do. In your article, you made mention of the 5G Network investments in Africa. Can you give a timeline for this and why? MS: There has been lots of talk of the potential of 5G, particularly when it comes to the ways in which the speed, capacity and low latency of such networks will change online gambling. Research suggests there are 24 operators in 18 countries in Africa trialing 5G networks and South Africa is said to be at the forefront. In reality, I believe we are a long way off the stage where large swathes of Africa has rolled out this technology. What the 5G talk does illustrate, though, is that there is an appetite across Africa for network improvements and this can only be positive for our industry. Mobile Technology is propelling the growth of Online gaming in Africa. However, Africa is still dominated by retail. How soon do you see that migration from retail to online? MS: Covid-19 has certainly accelerated the move from retail to online. With many operators forced to shut the doors of their betting shops during lockdown over the past 12 months, the appetite has increased for many to take their first steps towards offering an omni-channel solution. We have played a major role in facilitating such moves by operators who want to take their businesses online, quickly. However, it’s also true that cash is still king across Africa, which is why we are also continuing to make major headway in our providing our platform solutions to the retail sector. Recently, Pronet Gaming entered into partnership with Winnerbet in Cameroon. Why Cameroon because there are bigger markets in Africa because Cameroon is not among the big gaming markets in Africa? MS: Our strategy across Africa is consistent in that we aim to form partnerships with major operators who wish to accelerate their commercial growth by utilizing our comprehensive platform. We believe that the more we can illustrate the strength of our product portfolio the better – whether that be in Cameroon, or any other country. You also had similar arrangement with Sahara Technology. What are you trying to achieve with these partnerships? MS: The more partnerships we form in Africa, including those with Winnerbet and Sahara, the more we can show to the world that these are markets that we understand. We harness local expertise to deliver the products across casino and sportsbooks that really engage with players and it’s the quality of tailored content we can offer to those players that will help drive our growth. Data is still expensive in Africa, l believe this is a great impediment to the growth of mobile gaming in Africa. MS: Unfortunately, there is a lot of truth to this statement. There are countries in Africa where the cost of data – anything up to $28 per gigabyte – is among the highest worldwide. Clearly, this has an adverse effect on mobile gaming growth. In addition to cost, connectivity, particularly away from urban areas, is an issue. While there is much work to be done, for now the USSD functionality on our platform allows customers to place bets from phones when without an internet connection. Your product at Pronet gaming is gradually making incursion into Africa, what are some of your observations and how have you been able to deal with them? MS: Some companies that have entered Africa have found to their cost that a one-size-fits-all approach to a richly diverse continent is not sufficient. To the contrary, our growth in the region has arrived through the provision of truly localized solutions. We work extremely hard with local partners and an extensive network of agents in order to deliver what is appropriate for operators in each and every country. Quoting you “ Our work has seen us advance our platform through the development of Opera mini capability”. Can you elucidate on that and what advantage has that given your organization in Africa. Our work on Opera Mini has revolutionized our approach in Africa, granting us access to the 120 million users of the mobile browser. Its dominance in the market, right across the continent, means operators can make use of its stripped-down feature set to make it easier and far cheaper for customers to place their bets. Enabling Opera Mini compatibility has provided a crucial edge for our operator partners. For more information on our services, visit www.pronetgaming.com. Iwo BulskiIssues related to the gambling business is engaged in more than 30 years. 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