Senior SEO Consultant

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It’s no secret that the next billion online users will come from the African continent. What people don’t realize however is just how close the next boom in internet users is, and how they can potentially open up new markets for not just the iGaming industry.

Africa’s most populous country, Nigeria, is just one of the African nations leading a new digital revolution and is actively becoming a larger player in the global digital community.

Because Africa’s digital renaissance is coming now, users are going online and adopting modern technologies as their baseline – leading to a very different kind of user than what other parts of the world have produced. This is partly down to infrastructure and economics, with internet accessibility coming later both in the form of coverage and physical user access and device ownership.

Cultural differences also mean that social media adoption isn’t as deep as other areas, with a recent Hootsuite study reporting that active social media users in Nigeria total roughly 12% of the total population, compared to the 50% internet penetration.

When it comes to the online betting industry, Kenyan outfit SportPesa are probably the most widely known of the African companies – but through their own engineering and not by luck. Breaking out of the Kenyan market with designs on global audiences, and ambitious sponsorship deals with Everton and Hull City means they are more well-known than other leading African companies, such as the Ugandan betPawa.

SportPesa has also demonstrated that there is demand for betting services in Africa, with the SportPesa website reported to be the second most popular website in Kenya.

The SportPesa marketing strategy gives us a lot of insights into how they’ve developed, as well as how they cater for other markets within Africa. Taking these learnings, as well as experience of working in the African markets – the rest of the article focuses on the Nigerian market, and how you can initially plan to make the most of the opportunity that it presents.

The Nigerian iGaming scene

Using Alexa data from January 2019, the second most popular website behind Google in Nigeria is the betting portal bet9ja.com, and the 20th most popular website being livescore.com.

In terms of personal finances, only 40% of adults (aged 15+) have a bank account with a financial institution, with 4.3% owning a credit card. 5.6% do however have a mobile money account, and little over 12% of the population make purchases online – so it’s important that your website or mobile application accommodate different payment and age verification methods. [World Bank Global Financial Inclusion Data]

Looking at the top search queries performed in Google (in Nigeria, according to Google Trends), there is a lot of attention around sport and betting. Examples of these terms in the 20 most searched phrases are:

  • BET9JA
  • LIVESCORE
  • BET9JA MOBILE
  • CHELSEA
  • LIVESCORES
  • ARSENAL
  • GOAL
  • FLASHSCORE
  • COM
  • CHELSEA NEWS

Without surprise, there is a lot of interest in the English Premier League (due to the brands global reach and history of prominent Nigerian players being in the league), and more so that the most popular betting company is being searched for with “mobile” attached as a branded compound – which is an indication of how important mobile is in Nigeria.

The importance of mobile

Like with all markets, it’s important that your services are available via mobile devices. However, in Nigeria, the importance of being mobile-first is more than maintaining the latest best practices.

Current data shows that 69% of internet access in Nigeria is via mobile devices, with 29% from desktop. The remaining 2% coming from tablets. [Statcounter.com]

Mobile phone usage covers 84% of the population (approximately 162 million users), with Statista estimating 23.3 million smartphones in use. [GSMA Intelligence]

In terms of an operating system, 77.75% of smartphone users are said to be using Android, with iOS only holding 4%. 9.5% of smartphones fall into the “unknown”. [Statcounter.com]

Why is this important? Because the user base ultimately needs to lead and inform your investment into your digital offerings. It wouldn’t make sense to invest 80 percent of your resource into your iOS application over your Android version, as you’d only be catering for a small group of your potential user base at a higher level.

Outside of Nigeria, the average mobile penetration rate for Western Africa averages 41%, and Southern Africa 51%, so Nigeria is above average in mobile adoption. For comparison, Western Europe and Northern American (US & Canada) sit at around 95% mobile penetration. [CIA World Factbook]

Given that Nigeria is a mobile-first market, it also means that customer service and support elements need to be accessible via mobile.

Speed isn’t about tool scores

When it comes to site speed, a lot of people focus too much on tools such as Lighthouse and GTMetrix for their site speed scores – and don’t get me wrong, having tools to test and validate easily is important, especially when reporting to the wider business.

The global average for mobile internet speeds is 27.44mbps (down) and 10.62mbps (up), Nigeria averages 14.67mbps (down), and 6.86mbps (up). However, the Ookla Speedtest estimates the average mobile internet speed in Nigeria to be 11.70mbps.

For comparison purposes, the UK averages 30.97mbps (down) and 11.17mbps (up), so half the speed. [Speedtest Global Index]

To put this into perspective, the current English homepage of NordicBet is 1.8mb in size and BetWay 1.3mb.

Given that Nigeria is ranked 110th in mobile internet speeds, and 145th in fixed broadband speeds – optimizing your website, PWA and application for faster user experiences – and this may come at the compromise of brand and some branded assets. [Speedtest Global Index]

User behavior

Another important thing about the Nigerian market is the frequency in which they go online. According to data from the Google Consumer Barometer, 54% of Nigerians go online daily, and 30% weekly.

It’s also important to note that of the mobile users, 96% are on pre-paid connections (according to GSMA intelligence data), so users are less likely to tolerate slow loading, heavy webpages and app data transfers when they’re paying upfront for data-as-a-service. A lot of the mobile users are also urban, given that on the Mobile Connectivity Index, Nigeria scores 35.86 out of 100 for network infrastructure.

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