The Punter’s Choice – Top Sports in Africa

Sports gambling has long been popular in Africa, with over 70% of consumers having placed a bet at some point in their lives. In Kenya, it’s a staggering 83.9%! And that’s on a continent where mobile adoption still has ground to gain, and where finding a reliable stream of sporting events isn’t always a guarantee.

In short, gambling in Africa has huge potential for significant growth. There’s the demand, the interest in a wide range of sports, and rising wages in many countries. But what is the evidence for the growth of sports gambling in Africa? And which are the current favourite markets for African punters?

The proof is the in the Pudding

The obvious signs of a growing market are in the financial figures. The overall market is thought to be worth over $40 billion. Analysts are confident that we should see double-figure growth in the coming years.

The interest is clearly there, considering many consumers bet at least once per month. In Kenya, over a third of gamblers bet every single day. With most people spending less than $5 a day, but with economic prospects generally improving, it’s clear we should see growing figures.

Perhaps the greatest evidence of engagement in the African market is the big international companies are placing specific interests to drive growth, seeing the clear opportunity of the market. African consumers are not limited to local companies, or go out looking for international options, but instead are directly marketed to and can enjoy special offers specifically catered to locals.

The Sleeping Giant: Rugby

Let’s start not with the obvious number 1 (see below!), but with the sport that probably has the greatest growth potential in Africa. It’s not the first sport that comes to mind to the average African sports fan, but it’s gaining ground. It’s always been popular in South Africa, with the Springboks frequently ranking as one of the best rugby countries, but the sport is quickly gaining fans throughout the continent.

Kenya, for example, has seen some stratospheric growth in recent years and it’s an ideal case study on how a country can develop a sport from the ground up. The sport has only been actively promoted in recent years, and the investment is paying off. The Kenyan rugby sevens have seen spectacular success, and fans are taking note.

Rugby is also gaining ground in other African markets, and has built up a core niche following amongst keen gamblers. Winnings can be a little easier to come by, with companies keen to get players involved putting some great offers for African rugby fans.

Football (Soccer)

It will not surprise anyone that the most popular sport to bet on for African punters is football (no, not the NFL!). It’s easily the continent’s top sport, both in terms of fans and the number of players. According to polls, 53% of African gamblers focus mostly on football.

Specifically, African customers watch and place their bets on European football. With time zones being favourable for many, coverage of games being widespread, and most of the big-name players dotted across the top leagues of Europe, it’s no surprise it’s the biggest draw. It also helps that there is plenty of television and online coverage for African bettors to find in-depth analysis.

The Premier League is incredibly popular for punters, for example. Mo Salah, one of the top footballers anywhere (he’s worth over 100 million Euros according to KPMG), plays for one of the top clubs in Liverpool, while his ex-teammate Sadio Mane has just moved to Bayern Munich. Without African talent, English football just wouldn’t be the same.

African bettors not only want to watch their favourite players on the pitch, but it makes sense to use advanced knowledge and interest on ‘their’ players when placing a wager. It not only adds to the fun of watching football, but improves the odds of winning too.

Basketball (NBA)

Next on the list is basketball. African gamblers have long had an interest in hoops, with the Dream Team of 1992 spearheading the continent’s coverage of the American National Basketball Association (NBA).

With stars like Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley dunking their way to the history books, the NBA found a wave of new fans in Africa. The NBA also started to feature major talents who call Africa home. Hakeem Olajuwon was the first to make the move, and since then over 70 African players have made their living in the NBA.

Nigeria is perhaps the country with the greatest success in the NBA, having featured 27 players, including Festus Ezeli and Josh Okogie. And Giannis Antetokounmpo, perhaps the league’s top player, is Greek-Nigerian.

Basketball already has a significant following in Africa, but the room for expansion is clear for gambling companies. With local players enjoying improved facilities, better coaching, and direct investment from the NBA, we should see an even greater injection of African talent on American basketball courts in the coming years.

So What’s Next?

The sports betting market in Africa is still in its infancy, with plenty of room for growth. The last few years have seen record numbers, with analysts predicting a continuation in the coming years.

Expect African consumers to see a wider range of options, with bookmakers increasingly looking to take advantage of a growing market. With increased competition, product quality will increase across the board. It is our prediction that Africa will become one of the leading players in sports gambling in the coming decade.


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