The State of Gaming and E-sport Space in Africa

According to a recent Gamers Industry Africa report, South Africa has the highest saturation of gamers across Africa, with 24 million people (almost half of its population) playing. Other major markets include Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, and Ethiopia.

In 2021, South Africa generated the most total annual gaming revenue at $290 million, followed by Nigeria ($185 million), Ghana ($42 million), Kenya ($38 million), and Ethiopia ($35 million).

The Gaming startups in Africa have been ‘dormant’, or rather not well known till the recent funding of Carry1st. The Gaming and E-sport field is a whole billion-dollar industry by itself.

Africa is slowly catching up with the professional gaming and gamer communities and e-sports competitions are becoming more popular on the continent as the growth of gamers increases to more than 180 million in the next five years, per a report.

As of 2021, 27% of people in Ghana play games, whereas that stat is 23% for Nigeria, 22% within Kenya, and 13% of Ethiopia’s populace.

Between 2015 and 2021, people who play games grew from 77 million to 186 million the study estimates.

Among that number, 177 million are reported to play on mobile devices. The study says that Sub-Saharan Africa is “one of the fastest-growing mobile gaming regions in the world.”

E-sport Adoption Barriers

Despite its vast potential, there are numerous barriers to the sustained growth of E-sports in Africa. They include

Broadband and Internet penetration

Broadband penetration is still quite low in Africa, and if e-sports is to really take off, up to date internet and cellular infrastructure is a necessary requirement. From the history of e-sports in western countries, one immediate factor that propelled its rise was the internet and how it promoted interconnectivity and community building. Although we are getting there, there is still a long way to go.

Although 5G is cropping up in some specific countries, this might change basing most of the players using First Player View games that are never hosted in Africa, this will speed up the adoption.

An effective legal machinery

Contractual disputes between participants and tournament organizers can often happen. An effective legal machinery that addresses these issues is not quite there yet in Africa. Issues regarding intellectual property, trademarks, media, sponsorship, contractual disagreements and so on can only be resolved by litigation. The legal system in Africa has not really kept up with the times regarding this and more needs to be done in this regard.

  • Sophisticated gadgets are also a big hurdle to cross, especially for African gamers. E-sports requires sophisticated gadgets and electronics, which may be very expensive for African gamers.
  • Sponsorship and collaborations are very important. As of today, only South Africa and Egypt are a part of the Global e-sports federation. It is also extremely hard for African gamers to qualify for international e-sports competitions. According to Stephen, game publishers and game developers in developed markets prefer to partner with Asians and rarely partner with Africans, which creates a significant barrier to sustained growth of eSports in Africa.

‘The more eSports competitions and celebrity gamers continue to integrate into pop culture, the more global investors, brands, and media outlets pay more attention. The industry is seeing a massive surge in investment from venture capitalists and private equity firms.” – reports Benjamin Dada.

Gaming Startups

Since its launch in 2018, Carry1st, a publisher of social games and interactive content across Africa, has raised funding from investors such as Google via its Africa Investment Fund and Avenir Growth Capital.

But more impressive is its backing from top-tier funds focused on web3 and gaming: Andreessen Horowitz (a16z), Konvoy Ventures and now Bitkraft Ventures, the lead investor in its newly announced $27 million pre-Series B round.

Both a16z and Konvoy participated in this financing round, which included TTV Capital, Alumni Ventures, Lateral Frontiers VC and Kepple Ventures. However, as a majority of the games being developed are mobile-based, I think it’s time we step a gear higher on Game Development and work on PC and consoles.

Most African countries have gaming commissions and laws that regulate gambling. South Africa has clear gaming laws and regulations. It was the first country to create gambling regulations on the continent. Also, online casinos are popular in the country.

Africa seems to be headed in the right Direction “PAGG will bring together games developed by its members for publishing under Gara, an African game store, and Afrocomix, a content hub for Afrocentric creative work.

These channels will enable content distribution and monetization by allowing locally relevant payment options, including mobile money and airtime billing.

They also plan to increase the number of Africa’s next-generation game developers through training and incubation, a function that has already taken off in Kenya, at the Nairobi Game Development Center.


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