Najib Balinda – Experience allows us to understand what our African partners need

As part of the interviews for Magazine E-PLAY, we will introduce Mr. Najib Balinda, a business development, marketing and advertising specialist with 11 years of experience in the gaming industry, both stationary and online sports betting, casinos and gaming clubs and street slot machines game.

Mr. Balinda has worked in 4 different gaming markets in Africa, ie Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania and Ghana. He has been involved in the setup of operations and has conducted marketing campaigns in various countries outside Africa. He currently holds the position of Business Development Manager for Africa at Betgenius

E-PLAY: You are an expert in the African gambling industry, with over 10 years of experience. Now Business Development Manager for Africa at Betgenius, a renowned leader in sportsbook technology, services and innovation, what attracted you to join the business?

NB: I’ve been aware of Betgenius throughout my time in the sector and what’s always stood out is the way the team tailors its technology and services to every partner.

Rather than just simply providing sportsbook content, Betgenius works hand-in-hand with local operators. Our in-house understanding of African sports betting allows us to help our partners thrive and fulfil their business goals.

That impressed me long before I joined and I know that’s a view shared by many of my former colleagues. I couldn’t wait to get started when the opportunity came about.

E-PLAY: Given we’re facing an unprecedented period affecting the entire sector, how can operators protect revenues and plan for the future?

NB: The recent retail shutdown caused by the pandemic has accelerated the growth of online sports betting, a trend that’s been gathering speed in east and west African markets for some time.

Players are becoming increasingly familiar and comfortable with the online betting experience and in order to maximize revenues in this landscape, we’re advising our partners to look at real-time digital marketing as we head into the new European football season.

Our Genius Sports Media arm uses an innovative technique, called programmatic, which allows sportsbooks to run highly targeted online marketing campaigns at scale. Powered by data, messaging and ad creative are always linked to the live sporting narrative. It’s a great way to acquire customers, drive loyalty and ensure your prices and promotions stand out.

E-PLAY: For many years, you worked in management roles for leading sportsbooks in Uganda, Kenya, Ghana and Tanzania. Has this experience helped you in your role at Betgenius?

NB: A sportsbook background has given me a vital understanding of what our African partners want and need.

I know, for example, how important it is to have confidence in your trading and understand what’s driving your price movements – even when you outsource. That’s why I always make sure local operators have direct access to our global trading teams.

Staying in regular touch with our traders also allows African sportsbooks to tailor their strategy and make the most of our flexible trading features. We allow everything from overrounds to content offering and suspension settings to be fully customized and localized for every partner.

E-PLAY: Hopefully normality will quickly resume and gambling turnover will return to pre-pandemic levels. What long-term trends do you expect to see in African gaming?

NB: The shift to online isn’t slowing down anytime soon. And as we’ve seen in Nigeria, with increased online engagement soon comes a surge in in-play betting turnover, particularly on football.

African sports fans love to watch live football and in-play via mobile adds to the excitement, allowing them to apply their knowledge and place bets based on how matches unfold. It’s not at all cannibalistic to pre-match turnover, so operators should be extremely excited.

In the next two years, a competitive in-play football offering will grow in importance in Kenya, Uganda, Ghana and Tanzania. High market-uptime, a complete market range and a live cash out function are three crucial areas operators must invest in. Fast, accurate and reliable live data holds the key.

E-PLAY: Africa is a unique region where GDP per capita tends to be low, yet sports betting is highly popular. How does that translate to betting activity and what challenges does it present?

NB: Betting with small stakes to win big from football accumulators is a behavioural pattern our African partners regularly see. BetBuilder, our same-game-accumulator product, is hugely popular when the biggest football teams play.

The primary challenge facing sportsbooks because of the socio-economic landscape is ensuring players are gambling in a safe and responsible way. Genius Sports Media’s brand safety measures are highly valuable in this sense, adding extra layers of protection so vulnerable groups, like under 18’s, don’t receive gambling marketing.

E-PLAY: To what extent does the use of mobile money in popular telephone networks impact the gambling sector?

NB: It’s easier now than ever before to deposit and withdraw sportsbook and casinos funds across Africa. This is yet another factor that feeds into the appeal of online betting.

Leading mobile money firms like Mpesa, MTN, Airtel and Vodacom have done a great job of building consumer trust. Sportsbook customers now feel safe and comfortable making transactions via mobile and that historically hasn’t always been the case.

But the relationship between betting and mobile money works in reverse, too. African operators can contribute significantly to mobile money turnover and brand reputation. So I see the growth of mobile money as mutually beneficial.

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