Africa’s Gaming Boom Defies Global Slowdown

Africa’s gaming market is on the rise, despite the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic and the economic slowdown. According to data from research firm Newzoo, shared exclusively with CNBC, the sub-Saharan African gaming industry is expected to generate over $1 billion for the first time in 2024.

This is a remarkable achievement, considering that the global games market declined 4.3% in 2022 to $182.9 billion, as the effects of lockdowns and higher living costs reduced consumer spending on games. However, Africa’s gaming market grew 8.7% year over year in 2022, reaching $862.8 million in revenue.

The growth of gaming in Africa is driven by several factors, such as the rapid increase in population, internet penetration, smartphone adoption, and demand for digital entertainment. According to Newzoo, nearly 3.2 billion people will play games in 2022 worldwide, and 186 million of them will be from sub-Saharan Africa. That’s 16% of the region’s population, and the number is expected to grow further in the coming years.

Most of these gamers play on mobile devices, which account for 95% of the gaming audience in sub-Saharan Africa². Mobile gaming is also the primary source of revenue for the region’s gaming industry, generating $103.5 billion globally in 2022. Mobile games are popular because they are accessible, affordable, and diverse, catering to different tastes and preferences.

Some of the most successful mobile games in Africa are developed by local studios or publishers, such as Carry1st, which is headquartered in Cape Town. Carry1st has raised $12 million in funding and has partnered with global gaming companies like Riot Games and CrazyLabs to bring their games to African audiences. Carry1st’s CEO, Cordel Robbin-Coker, said that Africa is the future of gaming and that there is a strong appetite for content among African gamers³.

Other countries that have a vibrant gaming scene in Africa include South Africa, Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, and Ethiopia. South Africa has the highest number of gamers in the region, with 24 million people playing games out of a population of 59 million. It also has the highest revenue from gaming, with $290 million in 2022. Nigeria follows with 185 million gamers and $185 million in revenue.

The gaming industry in Africa faces some challenges as well, such as poor infrastructure, unreliable power supply, high data costs, piracy, and regulation. However, these challenges also create opportunities for innovation and collaboration among stakeholders. For example, some gaming companies are using cloud gaming services to stream games to low-end devices or offer offline modes to save data. Others are working with local payment providers or telecom operators to facilitate transactions or offer bundles.

The gaming industry in Africa is also benefiting from the global trends that are shaping the future of gaming, such as increased diversity, new platforms, cloud gaming, VR/AR, remakes/reboots, and live service models. These trends offer new ways for gamers to enjoy their favorite games or discover new ones.

As the gaming industry in Africa continues to grow and evolve, it will create more opportunities for developers, publishers, investors, advertisers, and gamers alike. Africa’s gaming market is expected to top $1 billion in 2024 — in the face of a global slowdown — but that could be just the beginning of its potential.

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