Spyros Stavropoulos, regional director (Africa) at Vermantia, on overcoming technology troubles in Africa’s thriving betting industry.
Africa is a diverse continent of more than 1.2 billion people, and with many countries exhibiting a real love for the gaming and excitement that our industry delivers, there are a wealth of opportunities that dedicated betting providers can take advantage of.
However, while the affinity displayed towards retail betting has been firmly on the radar of suppliers and operators throughout the global gambling industry for a number of years, tapping the continent’s potential is not without its challenges.
The African market is as dynamic as it is vast, and understanding the needs of each region is a vital part of delivering a successful offering – none more so than in adapting technology to fit the continent’s fragmented infrastructure – with a fully localised approach to regional challenges being essential.
Any retail operator looking to enter the market must find a way around significant connectivity and payment processing infrastructure gaps. While major cities in South Africa certainly benefit from a more developed infrastructure, this is far less the case further north and needs to be mitigated.
Low internet connectivity, high distribution costs and significant challenges with platform scalability all need to be overcome, and while mobile phone ownership is growing fast, handsets are far less sophisticated than what many operators will be accustomed to, and again need to be addressed to provide for a fully integrated, modern betting environment.
However, while the lack of technological infrastructure may present numerous obstacles, the use of tech can also be a great enabler when customised to local market conditions. Odds, virtual, live racing and sports video streaming can go a long way towards enhancing the user experience in a retail betting environment that can be considered underserved, as long as the right solutions are in place.
For a start, bespoke satellite broadcasting is essential, particularly in rural areas where internet connectivity may be unavailable or poor.
We provide our African partners with high-efficiency coding that delivers great picture quality while broadcasting at the minimum bandwidth requirements. It allows new locations to be served immediately, as well as centralised content management that offers varied content with minimum intervention at the retail network’s end-point.
We built the industry’s first Africa specific satellite TV channel in 2015 with this approach in mind, allowing operators to share a daily schedule of virtual games through a scalable, localised and cost-effective solution for our African operators.
Plug and play
Alongside this, self service betting terminals (SSBTs) are already becoming popular and are likely to outstrip over the counter betting soon enough as part of the ‘plug in and play’ betting environment. To work, terminals need to be integrated with regional payment preferences.
Operators shouldn’t expect to be providing for debit and credit cards. Cash and mobile payments are king in the majority of African markets, and it is likely to stay that way. Payment by mobile can be divided into two different types: text message, which requires having an account with a mobile provider, and can make up the majority of payments in the Sub-Saharan region.
Or, in South Africa, where more than 50% own a smartphone, ewallet-based payments can also be provided. Looking ahead, Africa’s wealth of opportunities for operators are only at the beginning. With a growing population who need no introduction to the thrill of gambling, retail-based betting is set to remain a permanent fixture, with satellite broadcasting and mobile payments being the key enablers to the continent’s success.