Home Tech How the British gambling sector is influencing Kenya’s fledgling market

How the British gambling sector is influencing Kenya’s fledgling market

by James Musoba
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Kenya and the UK have a long history, with the former achieving its independence in 1963. Despite this, ties remain strong, and this can be seen through trade between the two countries which reaches over a billion pounds every year. But what about the two countries’ technology sectors and a shared penchant for online gambling?

Kenya is, without a doubt, the leading hub of Africa for technology, and according to government statistics, IT is set to contribute 7% of the country’s GDP,  driving economic growth. Additionally, the state invested some $210 million into the 2021/2022 budget, giving much-needed cash injections into various initiatives, including developing the first smart city, Konza Technopolis, revamping the national fiber infrastructure, and improving connectivity and adaptability.

For now, most of the private investment in the country comes from outsiders who operate start-ups and bring them funds from abroad. At the end of 2020, the total amount of foreign direct investment in the country is believed to have reached some 70,000.00 KES Million, a large slice of which was destined for the tech sector. But which are the tech areas of interest? Online gambling and fintech remain head and shoulders above the rest, and almost a billion pounds every year is invested from the UK into this industry.

As for the UK, the fintech sector is worth a staggering $13.4 billion and provides some 76,000 jobs across the country. Within this, the online gambling sector is going from strength to strength, and it is worth in the region of GBP 6.85 billion- growing every year.

Online gambling

Due to the rise of smartphones, online gambling has surged in Kenya and across the continent. In addition, mobile money platforms and high-speed internet have made it much easier for people across the country, including in far-flung villages, to bet. For example, betting on the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations is growing by 50% each year it is held, but Kenya is leading the way.

A survey by US firm GeoPoll found that some 84% of young Kenyans had tried online betting and gambling at least once, while around 33% bet or gamble daily. Online bingo is an increasingly popular draw for many online gamblers. Well-known sites like Paddy Power are to thank for this surge. Bingo at Paddy’s appeals to visitors looking for group and solo games at their own leisure. Internet access has opened up a wealth of choices for Kenyan bettors, including bingo, casino, and sports wagering. Companies working in the field, including operators, game developers, platform providers, and more, can benefit from this sector’s quick and impressive growth.

UK influence

The first online gambling sites appeared in the mid-90s, and the UK was among some of the first jurisdictions to license companies, realising it was better to monitor and supervise than to prohibit completely. Over the years, the sector has continued to evolve, and there are now some 600 online operators holding a UK online gambling license.

As for its popularity, according to Finder, almost 50% of Brits gamble in some way at least once a month, and there are almost a billion pounds held in online betting accounts at any one time. The most popular kind of betting is sports betting, similar to in Kenya, and in particular football. Bingo and lotto, scratchers, and then casino games are some of the other popular forms in the country.

But what kind of influence is UK gambling having on its African counterpart? The first influence of note is that of a shared love of sports betting. Football, in particular, the British football leagues and the World Cup are extremely lucrative times for Kenyan sports betting platforms. Similarities can also be seen in a shared love of bingo, scratchers, and lotto- and not so much appreciation for casino games as other nations. Furthermore, when it comes to gambling companies, British brands have a firm foothold in the country, much more so than local names or those from other countries, like, for example, Sweden.

This is due to the aforementioned historic ties, but also a shared language and some other cultural similarities. 

Overall, the growth of the British tech sector, and in particular online gambling, will continue to have a spillover effect on Kenya. As the country finds its feet in a more digital world, it will continue to look to the UK for continued FDI, inspiration, and influence, and the introduction of established brands locally to help boost uptake. So, as the UK’s sector continues to be shaped by emerging technologies, you can be sure that Kenya will not be far behind.

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