It’s no secret that the next billion online users will come from the African continent.
What people don’t realise, however, is just how close the next boom in internet users is, and how they can potentially open up new markets in areas other than the igaming industry.
Africa’s most populous country, Nigeria is just one of the nations leading a new digital revolution on the continent and is actively becoming a larger player in the global digital community.
Because Africa’s digital renaissance is coming now, users are going online and adopting modern technologies as their baseline, which is leading to a very different kind of user than in other parts of the world. This is partly down to infrastructure and economics, with internet accessibility coming later both in the form of coverage and physical user access and device ownership.
Cultural differences also mean that social media adoption isn’t as deep as in other areas, with a recent Hootsuite study reporting that active social media users in Nigeria total 12% of the total population.
This is a small number bearing in mind an internet penetration rate of some 55%. When it comes to the online betting industry, Kenyan outfit SportPesa is probably the most widely known of the African companies – but through its own engineering and not by luck. Breaking out of the Kenyan market with designs on global audiences, its ambitious sponsorship deals with Everton and Hull City have helped it become more well-known than other leading African companies, such as Uganda’s Betpawa. SportPesa has also shown that there is demand for betting services in Africa, with the company’s website reported to be the second most popular in Kenya.
SportPesa’s marketing strategy offers insights into how it has developed, as well as how it caters for other markets in Africa. In forming the rest of this article I’ve taken these learnings and added to them my experience of working in the African markets. I’m going to focus on the Nigerian market and how you can plan to make the most of the opportunity that it presents.
THE NIGERIAN IGAMING SCENE
Using Alexa data from January 2019, the second most popular website after Google in Nigeria is the betting portal Bet9ja. In terms of personal finances, only 40% of adults (defined here as those aged over 15) have a bank account with a financial institution, with 4.3% owning a credit card. A slightly higher number (5.6%) have a mobile money account, while a little over 12% of the population make purchases online (source: World Bank Global Financial Inclusion Data). Clearly, then, it’s important that your website or mobile application accommodates different payment and age verification methods.
Looking at the top Google search queries performed in Nigeria (according to Google Trends), there is a lot of attention around sport and betting. Examples of these terms in the 20 most searched phrases are:
- Bet9ja mobile
- Chelsea news
Unsurprisingly, there is a lot of interest in the English Premier League due to the brand’s global reach and its history of being home to many prominent Nigerian players. Note that the country’s most popular betting company is being searched for with ‘mobile’ attached as a branded compound – a clear indication of how significant mobile is in Nigeria.
THE IMPORTANCE OF MOBILE
Like with all markets, it’s vital that your services are available via handheld devices. However, in Nigeria the importance of being mobile-first is more than maintaining latest best practices. Current data from Statcounter shows that 69% of internet access in Nigeria is made via a mobile device, with 29% coming from desktop.
Tablets account for the remaining 2%. Mobile phone usage covers 84% of the population (approximately 162 million users), with Statista estimating that there are 23.3 million smartphones in use, according to GSMA Intelligence. This is forecast to grow to 140 million by 2025.
In terms of operating systems, 78% of smartphone users are said to be using Android, with iOS accounting for just 4%. Just under 10% of smartphones fall into the ‘unknown’ category (Statcounter.com).
Why is this important? Because the user base ultimately needs to lead and inform your investment into your digital offerings. Clearly it would make no sense to invest 80% of your resource into your iOS application over your Android version, as you’d only be catering for a small group of your potential user base at a higher level.
Outside of Nigeria, the average mobile penetration rate for western Africa averages 41% and southern Africa 51%, so Nigeria is above average when it comes to mobile adoption. For comparison, western Europe and North America (US & Canada) sit at about 95% mobile penetration (source: CIA World Factbook).
Given that Nigeria is a mobile-first market, it also means that customer service and support elements need to be accessible via mobile devices.
SPEED ISN’T ABOUT TOOL SCORES
Having tools to test and validate easily is important, especially when reporting to the wider business. But when it comes to site speed, in my view a lot of people focus too much on tools such as Lighthouse and GTMetrix for their scores.
According to the Speedtest Global Index, the average global mobile internet speed is 27.44mbps (down) and 10.62mbps (up). Nigeria averages 14.67mbps (down) and 6.86mbps (up), roughly half that of the UK, which averages 30.97mbps (down) and 11.17mbps (up). To put this into perspective, the size of the current English homepages of NordicBet and Betway are 1.8mb and 1.3mb respectively.
Given that Nigeria is ranked 110th for mobile internet speeds and 145th for fixed broadband speeds, it’s important to optimise your website, PWA and application to enable faster user experiences. This may come at the expense of some branded assets.
Another important thing to note about the Nigerian market is the frequency in which people there use the internet. According to data from the Google Consumer Barometer, 54% of Nigerians go online daily and nearly a third (30%) weekly.
It’s also important to note that of the mobile users, 96% are on prepaid connections (according to GSMA Intelligence data), so users are less likely to tolerate slow loading, heavy webpages and app data transfers when they’re paying upfront for data as a service. A lot of the country’s mobile users are also urban dwellers, which isn’t surprising given that on the Mobile Connectivity Index, Nigeria scores 35.86 out of 100 for network infrastructure.