One of the fastest-growing segments of the global gaming market covers mobile playing. With a constant range of new games, this is an area that should keep developing around the planet, but what are the prospects for mobile gaming in Africa?

The mobile situation

The first point to consider here is that the ownership of smartphones has been growing rapidly on this continent in recent years, as has the coverage offered by mobile providers. These two factors have opened up the prospect of enjoying some mobile games for the first time to millions of Africans.

For instance, the GSMA reports that there were 272 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa who used the internet on a mobile basis in 2019. This is expected to increase to 475 million by 2025, by which time more than a quarter of these connections will be on a 4G network. Meanwhile, in North Africa, it is estimated that over 290 million people currently own cellphones.

Among the other interesting statistics in this respect, we can see that 500 million Africans are expected to operate mobile money accounts on their devices by the end of 2020. Despite the huge levels of growth seen in this respect, there is still scope for far more people to get connected in this way, to carry out serious tasks like managing their money as well as playing games.

Some of the key markets here are South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana, and Uganda, and in these countries, two-thirds of people access the internet from a mobile device. South Africa’s authorities have a target of 80% of the population having internet access by 2024, while this country is also leading the continent in terms of their planned 5G roll-out.

Major challenges are found in other areas, such as rural Kenya where smartphone penetration is rising but digital literacy remains low. This situation should begin to change, as more people become comfortable using these devices over time.

How many gamers are there in Africa?

A growing population is another one of the reasons why analysts believe that Africa could experience a massive mobile gaming upsurge in the years to come. Indeed, the population on the continent is expected to reach two billion in the coming decades.

There are few reliable sources of data concerning the current number of gamers on the continent. However, a Newzoo report from 2020 suggests that there are over 750 million gamers in Africa, Europe, and the Middle East combined. This would mean that over a quarter of all people who play games are based in these regions.

As we have seen in other parts of the world where mobile gaming has already exploded into the mainstream, this trend isn't restricted to those who already play on a PC or games console. Lots of people who have never thought of themselves as gamers have become fans of mobile games. Africa’s young population is also a determining factor, with over 200 million Africans aged 35 or under.

The variety of games

One of the key factors in the mobile gaming boom has been the massive amount of varied games available, meaning that there is something to suit every type of person and taste. Many games are free to download, with premium versions unblocking more content or upgrading to an ad-free version.

On a global basis, the most popular mobile games include Pokémon Go and Subway Surfers, each of which has comfortably passed the billion-download mark across the planet. The Despicable Me: Minion Rush title from Gameloft should be the next one to hit this milestone, with over 950 million downloads mentioned in the publisher's last update.

Mobile devices can also be used for a range of types of gaming experience, from puzzles like Gardenscapes to shooters such as Call of Duty: Mobile. What many of them have in common is a simple interface that allows anyone to pick it up and start playing in next to no time. There is no need to be a technology expert to start enjoying most of these games.

Many classic board games have also been adapted into a mobile format, with Monopoly and Carcassonne being a couple of the best examples of this genre that can now be played conveniently anywhere. Other popular past-times like crosswords, Sudoku, and word games can also be found for mobile devices.

Casino games such as roulette and slots can be played in this way too. Casinos.co.za explains that online casino platforms have evolved to let players download apps for smartphones or play on mobile browsers and even offer pay-by-phone options. Fierce competition means that most iGaming sites publish generous welcome packages that can include free spins, a cash match bonus, or a no-deposit bonus. Some also have loyalty schemes and regular cashback offers which are available to mobile players.

The big question is whether the rise in African mobile gaming will lead to a surge of new titles created and produced here. This is a huge global industry worth billions of dollars and African-made games like Fleet of One and The Harvest suggest that the talent is present to make games that could provide a boost to the region’s economy.

It seems certain that mobile gaming carries on growing in popularity in Africa. The fact that so many of the key elements are already in place suggests that it will be well worth keeping an eye on this market in the next few years.

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