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Esports: let the game begin!

The recent craze for esports in Africa, driven by a number of combined criteria today heralds a strong entry of the continent into the global arena of this sector. 

By Désiré Koussawo*

Today I am inaugurating a new experience: that of media contributor!

Indeed, Africa News Agency, a Pan-African media specialized in monitoring African economies, gives me the opportunity to paint my vision of the development of the African esports ecosystem. The theme of this special issue of Africa News Agency? Cultural and creative industries, commonly known as CCI, and more specifically esports, a particular use of video games, played competitively.

esports, a competitive practice of video games

First, let’s define esports: it is the competitive practice of video games, involving the confrontation of 2 players or 2 groups of players through an electronic platform, such as a computer, a game console, or a smartphone. This excludes de facto the isolated practice of the player facing the digital intelligence of a game designed for a “solo” adventure.

What about this practice in Africa? Today, it is clear that the major esports franchises are not present on the continent. There are no official stages of the famous League of Legends world championship, the most played game in the world. No stage either for the big competitions of the giant ESL, which is present on all the other continents with its flagship titles such as Counter Strike: Global Offensive or Dota 2. We could extend the list of major players without finding a single one deigning to set foot on the continent. This lack of competition can be explained in many ways: the lack of players and high-level teams, the so-called lack of economic potential of the industry on the continent, the lack of technological infrastructure to promote the development of a major competitive ecosystem, etc. …

“A number of criteria are now combined to herald a massive arrival of this continent on the global esports map”

All these reasons cannot however hide the recent explosion of the practice  in Africa! In fact, a number of criteria are now combined to herald a massive arrival of this continent on the global esports map! First of all, the number of players is constantly growing, as shown by the figures of the company Newzoo- specialist of the gaming and esports segments- which estimates the number of players in the Middle East and Africa to 377 million. This is a first potential obviously essential to the development of the ecosystem.

The second indicator of this growth is the number of national and pan-African competitions that now cover the entire continent: ESWC Africa in Morocco, FEJA in Côte d’Ivoire, Rage Expo in South Africa, Africa Esports Championship (AEC), a league of about twenty African countries, Afrika Esports Series (AES) with 15 countries, Orange Esport Experience also with about fifteen countries, not to mention the South African Umzansi which develops its tentacles in half a dozen African countries. Today, Africa has its share of operators able to accompany the development of this practice from North to South and from East to West of the continent.

Another important parameter is the equipment of gaming terminals. Even if access to a computer is still a major challenge for a large part of the population, the practice of gaming on a console has strongly developed in recent years, with communities very present on sports games (FIFA, PES, NBA2K, …) or fighting games (Street Fighter, Tekken..).

“The development of the installed base of smartphones has allowed the explosion of new communities of gamers”

On the other hand, the development of the installed base of smartphones has allowed the explosion of new communities of gamers, with the organization of tournaments on games like Pubg Mobile, Call of Duty Mobile, or Free Fire. This new situation gives a fresh impetus to African esports by offering a playground suited to the profile of consumers on the continent who are well equipped with smartphones. On this point, the development of network infrastructures and 5G should allow an acceleration of opportunities to organize competitions on the continent. It remains to figure out the economic model that will allow the greatest number of people to access these new technologies.

In short, the key elements for the development of the African esports ecosystem are present: active players and communities, tournaments and event organizers all over the continent, and equipment that is more and more affordable and accessible to the gamer population.

Major obstacles still remain “straining” the possibility of a more sustained growth

However, two major obstacles still remain and “strain” the possibility of a more sustained growth:

  • The lack of game servers on the continent deprives African gamers of sufficient comfort to provide optimal conditions for competitive practice, allowing them to progress and reach the highest level.
  • On the other hand, the reluctance of sponsors and financiers deprives event organizers of the means to offer tournaments in sufficient number and with sufficient resources to allow the development of a professional and semi-professional esports scene, which guarantees a financially stable environment for players wishing to pursue a career at the highest level. 

Faced with these challenges, it is safe to bet that only a common and coordinated action of all the African esports actors will help give visibility to the huge potential of this continent today forgotten by the biggest global esports actors. This is the meaning of the dynamic that is currently taking place between all the concerned actors of the continent; a movement to which I bring all my support and my investment in order to make emerge an ecosystem at the height of the ambitions of a whole community. 2022 will be a pivotal year for the emergence of a future world esports champion, and only together will we succeed in converting the try!

*Désiré Koussawo, EMEA esports consultant and expert

desire@dkconsultant.com

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