Africa Spotlight Part 2: KYC, Localisation and the Players, with Keith Hathaway, CEO AF Gam Elite


In Part Two of our Africa Spotlight, Keith Hathaway, CEO of Af Gam Elite explores KYC, localisation, language and what to expect from African players. 

KYC and CRM:

This is one area that really did blow my mind.

Some years ago in an office in Nairobi, my first day at the company and I was talking to the CPO. The subject of CRM came up and he explained that the company has well over a million registered players, yet not a single name, address, DOB or email! Just an MSISDN (Mobile Station International Subscriber Directory Number) for every player.

All you ask for is their mobile number and nothing else, all KYC is taken care of by the Telco as to get a mobile money account you have to have provided ID.

Licensing authorities seem happy to accept this, but it blew my mind, more than a million punters and not a single detail on them. It has to be said that a few Telcos provide basic details, like the name. But you will never get a DOB or email address.

So how the hell does CRM work?  The simple answer is, SMS, in the main.  I did say it was like going back to the year 2000!

So we now have the old Nokia GSM mobile phone and now we have SMS as the main CRM tool! A company I once worked for, this time in Tanzania, sent more than 70 million SMS’s in a single calendar month.

There are some other player contacts that go on, here we are again, back in the year 2000 and when call centres are a thing!  High volume outbound call centres are big in Africa, staff costs are low, so why not?

There are also roadshows and events, large events and roadshows really do work. They can be expensive, but they really do get a buzz about your brand. The only way that Africa was well ahead of the curve is online influencers. These are a mainstay of many African gambling companies, especially Sports Betting, marketing campaigns.

Going Local:

In Africa it’s far more than language localization, that really is the easy part, but you need to, quite literally, go local!

Almost all African gaming licenses require a local shareholder. This varies in the minimum equity amounts but it can be as high as 30%, even those that do not require this are discussing asking for significantly higher security deposits for companies solely overseas-owned operators.

Many local partners are not real partners operationally, they are dummy and paper directors and shareholders, but some are the real deal and add huge value. Especially when regard to keeping the licensing board happy, also ensuring any facilitation that you will have to pay is “fair”.

You will also need strong local staff, you can have one or two trusted staff from overseas or recruit international experienced staff, this can add value but with or without this you need a strong local core in any region you operate in. It is important that natives see other natives or at least other Africans as the face of your brand operationally.

They will in the main, not look so deeply at ownership, but they need to see a native or at least an African at the wheel, so to speak.

The Players:

What can you expect from African players? Simply put, you can expect huge player numbers but very low player values.

Average player values can be as low as $5, if you get anywhere near a $50 player value you will be making serious amounts of cash. This is a huge amount in Africa. In context, $50 is a week’s pay for most non-management workers in many African countries, in the UK the average weeks’ pay is $740, so if you get a $50 player value you are getting an equivalent to a player value of $740 from the UK.

But the numbers really do add up, as you have 68 million people in the UK with 1.35 billion in Africa. So, this shows more than ever Africa is a volume over value market.

A new start online casino in Europe will expect a few thousand players in the first month unless they have a mega-budget. In Africa, you will likely get 100,000+ new players without breaking too much sweat and a fair to modest budget.

So, when you consider this, it actually makes Africa a great investment. The volatility is so much lower when you have player volumes so large and the bottom line can be huge is you get the volumes.

Languages:

In the main, most African betting sites are run in English and almost all have an English option and is exclusively English in Nigeria and Ghana in West Africa for example.

Many in Kenya and English only with some offering Swahili as a secondary language changed by the flag.  Tanzania is almost exclusively Swahili only many without an English alternative.

Uganda is another English only country, you have Angola and Mozambique in Portuguese, along with the large Franco African countries using French as the base language. DRC, Ivory Coast, Cameroon and others mainly in the Central African region.

But as an investor you can do business and get going in English, supported by local staff and partners in native local languages. I would personally say that Africa is far easier in terms of language than Asia or India, the other main developing continents in Online Gambling.

So, is it really worth it?

In my view yes, it is and here is why.

Africa is a continent with some of the highest growth figures in the world, in terms of business and development.

A big thing for me, in terms of investment in an Online Gambling operation, is that it is almost exclusively mobile. You will be at 90% in some countries in terms of mobile and maybe 1% or 2% of the non-mobile business. if Africa is just mobile only in reality and this will not change any time soon.

This makes it very exciting from an online gambling development perspective. On top of that, the average age in Africa is the youngest on any continent in the world. The median age in Africa is just 18, compared to 42 in Europe. So, you have a growing population, waking up and with access to serious tech for the first time. Data penetration is growing and payment solutions are already there.

There is also a passion for betting, gambling and basically, dreaming! So the lotteries are a real winner too.

Investment and how you operate should be done in a moral way, but punters in Africa need a dream and need hope. This is a moot area especially in Europe but this is a big part of why gambling is part of life in Africa and nobody can hide from that.

All of this means is margins and volume will always be great in Africa for the foreseeable. A dream in terms of investment.

You do have to balance this by the fact your license can be snatched away at an instant, you can be bribed, bullied and have many a sleepless night. All valid, but what business carries no risk?

You have to calculate if the risk worth your reward? For me, I think it is very much worth the risk as long as you do your homework and do things right.

I can put a very big case for almost all African countries that it is, for one product or another. In terms of licensing you can compare it to the USA.

50 states versus 54 countries and about half of them either have or are in the process of creating gambling regulation. You cannot (legally) just “Do Africa” in the same way you cannot just “Do USA”, in terms of an operator site.

Do your homework, chose your country or countries. Do not try and launch in a whole bunch of countries at the same time unless you have a huge infrastructure already in place. Get a solid platform, that specializes in Africa.  Simple, low weight, fast and mobile-first. Make sure you have payments, as these will be different in every single country.

Make sure you have good local partners and support. Get an expert in, either a senior local and or a person with experience in Africa. It is unique, but for me, it is worth it.

Then sit back, enjoy the ride and all of the pleasures that this amazing continent. Africa has stolen my heart, let it steal yours too.