Africa Gamble: Rising Sports Betting Piggybacks on Mobile Revolution
Tuesday, May 12, 2015
“It costs me almost nothing and I can win a lot!,” Rajab Wesonga, 36, told AFKInsider as he placed his bet for the week on Sportpesa, Kenya’s most popular sports betting mobile website.
Sitting in his grass thatched house in Musango, a remote village in Kakamega county, located in the western region of the east African Nation, Wesonga is able to place bets as small as 100 shillings (about $1) that he says can win him as much as 50,000 shillings ($525) in a week. That’s more than his annual income.
“I won 22,500 shilling after placing one of my bet and that helped me pay school fees for my three children and buy a bicycle,” Wesonga said.
For him and several other young men across the continent, placing their bet on sports betting sites is now an addiction they cannot dispense of. They place their bets every week at the comfort of their homes using mobile phones.
Sportpesa is the biggest sport betting player in East Africa. Its website shows that the company has partnered with regional telcos to link their product with mobile money services such as Airtel Money, Orange Money and M-Pesa.
The use of mobile phones across Africa has helped the region leapfrog the fixed telephone era which most of the developed world went through in the 80’s and early 90’s. It has also fast tracked technological adoptions and financial access for many Africans.
With internet penetration and the use of mobile money growing, other services, such as sports betting, have piggybacked on these to reach a mass market they previously could not access.