Africa is Game

How do we unlock the next level?

Welcome to Tech Safari!

Your tour guide on African Tech 🧭

Hello to the new folks who have joined the Safari since the last edition.

If you haven't subscribed, join 19,397 smart folks curious about Tech in Africa.

Hey, welcome to this week’s edition of Tech Safari!

We held our webinar last night with Founders Factory Africa (FFA), on “The Female Founders Guide to Raising” - with great, candid insights from Farah Emara, CEO at FreshSource Global, Hope Ditlhakanyane, Investment Principal at FFA, and Gwera Kiwana, Co-Founder of Women Who Build Africa.

If you missed it, you can check out the recording here.

Now, onto this week’s edition.

27 years ago, Nokia released a mobile game that took over an entire generation.

They called it Snake.

You’d use buttons to guide a little snake, chasing food up and down a tiny, two-inch screen.

The snake would grow and grow, before biting its tail and bam - “Game Over”.

That marked the start of mobile gaming as we know it.

Fun. Addictive. And you could take it anywhere.

The snake slid into over 350 million Nokia phones worldwide.

And as the internet blew up in the early 2000s, so did mobile gaming.

We moved from brick phones to smartphones, and our games got smarter too.

Graphics got better. Gaming characters looked more real. And we had app stores that made finding and buying games easy.

By the end of 2022:

  • About 490,000 mobile games were available on Google Play Store, with about 472,000 on the Apple Store

  • The global mobile gaming market hit over $184.4 billion

And its impact had snaked into a continent often left out of gaming conversations - Africa.

Gaming in Africa has come a long way

Teenagers in Cameroon play FIFA in a video game studio.

Before mobile adoption exploded here, video gaming mostly happened in internet cafés.

These spaces are equipped with computers, fast internet, and gaming consoles, and players come together to play and pay by the hour.

They became popular because owning a gaming console was (and still is) a luxury.

But then mobile phones became more affordable, mobile internet took off, and everyone could game from their phones.

Today, Africa leads in mobile internet traffic globally.

And thanks to young people coming online our gaming industry is getting bigger and better.

Between 2015 and 2021, gamers on the continent nearly tripled – jumping from 77 million to 186 million.

And while gaming happens in 53% of homes in the US, in Africa 95% happens on smartphones or tablets.

Africa’s mobile advantage is a big deal for gaming.

And the continent’s mobile gamers are bringing in cash for gaming companies.

Last year, mobile gaming earned $778.6 million, making up about 90% of total game sales in Africa.

But, there's a whole other side to mobile gaming in Africa.

The people doing the work, creating games and giving Africans access to popular games from around the world.

These guys are at the centre of it all:

Gaming Studios

These studios bring together teams of gaming professionals to handle different parts of making a game, making production smoother and quality better.

But Africa only has a handful of them.

In 2022, there were around 250 registered and active gaming studios, mainly in Nigeria, South Africa, and Egypt.

In South Africa, which leads with 60 studios, only six seem to employ more than 10 people.

And the big studios dodge mobile games - sticking to the blockbuster games in computer gaming and consoles.

So, the smaller studios are pushing to create mobile games locally.

They may not make blockbuster titles, but they’ve shown that there's a demand for local mobile games.

But since money’s often tight, it puts a cap on what they can create.

Which is where publishers come in.

Mobile gaming publishers get games out into the world.

Once the game is made, they handle the rest - marketing, sales, and updates.

And so far, gaming publishers have played a huge role in getting the industry to where it is today.

Take Carry1st in South Africa.

Started in 2018, by Cordel Robbin-Coker, Lucy Hoffman, and Tinotenda Mundangepfupfu, it is now Africa’s largest video game publisher.

Carry1st oversees the marketing and distribution of popular mobile games across Africa.

They support gaming studios - providing a platform to share their games and collect payments across African channels.

But for mobile gaming publishers like Carry1st, relying solely on local studios just hasn't cut it.

So to stay afloat, Carry1st has to court global game studios.

In 2022, they struck a deal with Riot Games, the American game developer behind League of Legends, to be their payment partner in Africa.

But Africa needs more of its own mobile games.

Sure, scouting for popular games beyond our borders has boosted supply.

But out of 496 million mobile phone users, only 186 million were into mobile gaming two years ago.

We need everyone on board to build a billion-dollar gaming industry.

And here's why we reckon ramping up our own mobile game production will get us there:

1) Africa is not a priority market for global gaming studios

And it’s not intentional.

Well-funded mobile game development studios are mostly based in the US, Europe, and Asia.

And when you're making a game, you're recreating a part of the world through art, sound, and dialogue.

It's only natural for game developers to design games around what they're familiar with.

Their culture. Their lingo. Their geography. And even their currency.

Africa is not a priority market for global gaming studios - but it should be.

In Uganda, a mobile card game called Matatu is a big hit, with over 1 million downloads on Google Play Store.

The Matatu game in Uganda has connected with locals.

It’s a simple card game. But its Swahili title connects with locals, making it perform better than global card games.

2) Backing local mobile gaming studios will amp up our local talent pool

African developers, animators, and designers, really get what kind of gaming content would hit here.

But if they don't have a space to practice and learn, how are they supposed to create?

An animator working in a studio in Nigeria

So to recap, here's the lowdown on Africa's mobile gaming scene:

  • We've got just a handful of local studios, which are constrained

  • Many of these studios are small, and the rare big ones are more into targeting the small, affluent market with console games

  • So, gaming publishers are left with few local games to publish and are pushed to seek options elsewhere

Yet, the future of African gaming lies right here in our backyard.

The demand for gaming content is growing.

And if we back local studios to create games that connect with African audiences, that’s how we’ll unlock the next level.

And that's a wrap!

Did we miss anything? Or just want to say hey? I'd love to hear from you! You can:

And if you don't already, make sure to sign up to get this in your inbox next week.

And remember - it just takes just five referrals to join our WhatsApp community 👇🏾

What did you think of today's edition?

Login or Subscribe to participate in polls.

Catch you soon!