Alessandro Pizzolotto is the Chief Executive Officer at STM Gaming and Africa’s Certified Partner of BtoBet. In a recent interview with the latter, Pizzolotto references data proving that the growing number of millennials betting by smartphone is on the increase in Sub-Saharan Africa. He goes on to reveal that East Africa is leading the continent in terms of payment gateways, especially mobile money. He also stated that this part of Africa is a world-leader in terms of having the highest per-capita active mobile money accounts and the total volume of mobile money. 

The Popularity of Sports Betting

When asked about why sports betting is so wildly popular in East Africa, Pizzolotto said that he feels its due to the high esteem with which sports are viewed across the continent as a whole. He said that this fact, especially true in Football, has been amplified recently thanks to the success African players have found in the major European leagues. He referenced Kalidou Koulibaly, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, and Sadio Mane specifically. 

Pizzolotto then cited an account published by Research and Report, a firm based in Dublin, Ireland, clearly indicating that Sub-Saharan Africa is seeing a massive increase in the number of millennials using mobile phones to wager. Using Kenya and Uganda as its main examples, the report states that this area of the world is leading the gambling market in Africa. 

The Issue of Substandard Regulations

In response to a question about the weak laws and regulations in the area offering the ideal environment for the growth of gambling, Pizzolotto took issue with how these were described. He stated that he does not feel that this is the case, citing the M-Pesa/SMS payments problem in Kenya in 2019. He said that the way this issue was handled proved that local regulations work just fine and revealed that, when the Kenyan government blocked this method of payment, it cut contact between the country’s biggest operators and their customers. 

Pizzolato states that, although one can argue the merit of rising enforcement measures introduced by the administrative powers in Kenya, this does not mean that the regulatory framework is weak. Nor that it would be of any particular benefit to black or grey markets. 

Do More East Africans Bet?

Pizzolotto states that one of the main reasons that the iGaming industry has enjoyed such strong growth in East Africa is because of the payment gateways and services available there. These are fundamental to the industry, he said, and this part of Africa is way ahead of the pack in this sector. 

He said that, from a point of financial inclusion, most of the continent is lagging behind more established markets like those which Europe boasts. But, in countries like Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda, massive numbers of per-capita users are registered for and active on mobile money accounts. The amount of the latter actually surpasses the number of bank accounts!

The Wonder That Is Mobile Money

The East African mobile money phenomenon began in 2007 when Vodacom launched M-Pesa in Kenya. Thanks to the absence of a robust financial infrastructure in this part of the world, and the cost of smartphones dropping rapidly at this time as well, mobile money enjoyed a rapid spread. The huge discrepancy in Africa’s two leading markets, Kenya and Nigeria, are clear evidence of this. 

56% of the Kenyan population over 15-years old have an active account with a financial institution of some kind, but 73% have a mobile money account. In Nigeria, however, only 39% of the same demographic have an account with a financial institution and just 5.6% have a mobile money account. Naturally, these numbers affect iGaming industry numbers.

But this situation will be undergoing significant changes very soon, thanks to the ongoing expansion of businesses like Airtel Africa and MTN Africa across the continent. This growth will pave the way for a literal pan-African payment gateway able to facilitate money deposits, transfers, and withdrawals within regional iGaming industries. 

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