Africa poised to dive into lucrative esports industry

Africa is exploring how it could become an Esport global player with the right technology extended by publishers, support from the Global Esports Federation (GEF) and Esport education. This is according to the recently held ‘Global Dialogue on Esports,’ facilitated by the Al for Good Global Summit and attended by delegates from many different countries.

Esports are played by millions around the world and have become a money-spinner for those who are able to get sponsorship and enter gaming tournaments with exceptionally large prize pools.

According to research done by Green Man Gaming, the esports industry has seen such a rapid growth that it was projected to generate revenues exceeding $1 billion by the end of 2019.  It also tripled its audiences to more than 443 million across the globe between 2012 and 2019.

Unfortunately, up until now Africa has been unable to access the industry, due to the continent’s high cost of data, limited tech infrastructure and electricity problems.

How to bridge the tech gap

However, the global dialogue discussed how Esports can help to bring digitalization to the more remote and less developed parts of the world. Chester King, a GEF Board member and CEO of the British Esports Association, explained how the issue of Africa was around technology.

“Africa is very exciting for all of us,” King said. “We would love to help Africa and the youth with a new digital economy, and we have some projects that will be announced soon.”  

One technology issue is around servers. When you play Esports the lag-time, also known as ping rates or latency, is vital. The problem now is that if you are in Africa and are playing people outside of Africa, you can never win because of the lag time.

King explained, “I think what is going to happen is that some of the big publishers will slowly move their servers for their games into certain countries in Africa and that will help stimulate a better response and interest.”

The expansion of technology is going to play a big part, especially investing in 5G. There will be more mobile gaming [in Africa] like in India, where there is hardly any PC or console gaming, it is more about hand held, he added.

Koen Schobbers, a professional esports athlete and Vice-chairperson of the GEF said “inclusion is one of the main points of the Esport Federation.”

Africa is a focus in the world of Esport and there will be more initiatives coming out later in the year, but it will be important to work hand-to-hand with the publishers to invest in the tech infrastructure, the webinar explained. Until this happens, Africa cannot be on the same playing field.

Progression through education

Sayo Owolabi, founder of the Lagos Esports Forum, explained how challenging it was to get young people in Nigeria (and some other countries in Africa) into Esports as it was ‘culturally’ looked down as mere gaming.  

The webinar highlighted the importance of Esport education, explaining how as India is playing more Esport, so too are they embracing Esports education.  “There is a role for us and every country to support Esport education.

“One of our partners, NASEF in America, does a great job of promoting free Esports education and they are going around the world promoting the curriculum which is a great initiative,” said King.

The global dialogue noted that even NASA uses the term ‘Trojan horse’ for describing Esports as a way to get kids to engage with each other and internally. It is a perfect analogy of Esports as a tool, activity or vehicle to get young users to understand more about other benefits in life.

Career opportunities are also an important part of Esport. “Working in Esports is basically like working in any other industry. There’s marketing teams, managers and health workers. Esport by itself is an industry,” added Schobbers.

The webinar also noted the importance of eye health, opportunities for the disabled, gender equality in the Esport world and the potential and power of Esports as a force for good. 

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