In Africa it’s called “Chilling Under the Baobab”. Find yourself a shady spot under this beautiful, magical tree and watch life go ambling by. The world, in time, will come to you.
After the recent painful lessons, and burn, of Kenya, it’s a metaphorical lesson well-learned by Pontus Lindwall, CEO of Swedish iGaming leviathan Betsson.
The Stockholm-listed company has just raised its stake in Nigeria’s betBonanza, a premier online sports betting website, to a controlling 60 per cent.
But Betsson is taking it slow, real slow, and not rushing in where even elephants fear to tread.
“I think we learned a few lessons [in Kenya],” said Lindwall, referring to Betsson’s recent Covid-19 affected venture across the continent in East Africa.
Nigeria, with a population of over 200 million, its sophisticated multi-ethnic cultures and vast oil wealth, is the “sleeping giant” of sub-Saharan Africa.
But it also presents its own, unique, marketing and business challenges.
“We have been a minority shareholder in [betBonanza] for quite some time and have closely followed the development of the operation,” continued Lindwall, revealing that the original plan, agreed at the start of last year, was to buy a 25 per cent stake in the Lagos-based operator.
“We thought now was a good time to scale up a bit because we have seen good traction in the numbers.
“[But betBonanza] is still pretty much acting as an independent company. They will run their own operations for the time being.
“These markets are different from other markets. It is not always easy to operate there. If you are going to succeed, you need to show a great deal of patience,” he stressed.
“They have a lower level of people with bank accounts, so you need to allow your customers to be able to deposit through other means.
“You have a different infrastructure, with less good connectivity on the Internet and mobile handsets which are maybe not as modern as you would see in Western Europe.”
Betsson’s first African venture was the launch of its Betsafe sportsbook brand in Kenya at the end of 2020, along with sponsorship of local top-flight football teams.
But Covid, and cultural naiveté, derailed the project.
Today Betsafe remains on hold because of a new round of government licencing in Kenya; so betBonanza in Nigeria is currently Betsson’s only functioning African operation.
“They are on the right track now, but obviously we are quite a big company with some resources. If we can help out in any way, we are happy to do that,” added Lindwall.
Under the Baobab tree it’s early days for Betsson and betBonanza.
But as they also say in Africa: The lion never sleeps.