Georges Boukazi: Moja Group - "Digital” will become the main way of doing things in Africa.
Gaming Eminence sits down with Georges Boukazi Managing Director of Moja Group Inc. to discuss the continent. We dive into continued infrastructure development, the adoption and impact of crypto, marketing to a vast audience in the different regions, illegal gambling, and the potential upside in horse betting.
GE) A known hurdle within the African market is slow connectivity and network issues. In what way has the infrastructure developed across different regions/countries on the continent and how do you see this continuing/developing?
GB) Despite Africa having the lowest metrics in terms of connectivity and network, the continent has witnessed major growth over the past five years. Digital transformation has been moving at a very fast pace as authorities and telco companies have been setting up infrastructure to connect the continent with a 4G broadband network and reduce the coverage gap, which decreased from 51% in Sub-Saharan Africa in 2014 to 19% in 2020.
Despite the digital divide and disparities in connections across regions and countries (East & West Africa), the entire continent is moving forward towards enhancing its network infrastructure through investments by governments, key industry players, and international agencies such as the International Finance Corporation and World Bank.
The overall connectivity outlook for the continent is highly positive and all indicators show that “digital” will become the main way of doing things in Africa.
GE) How necessary is an omni-channel platform for Operators looking to be effective in the African market? In your opinion, would the structure and set up of this require a different approach that typically applied in other countries, if yes what would that look like?
GB) The way African consumers interact and connect is different from consumers in other corners of the world. While mobile penetration in Africa is around 45%, internet penetration remains as low as 30% overall on average. Furthermore, disparities in wealth and connectivity across the continent imply that operators cannot solely rely on Web and Apps to reach the entire African consumer base equally, where non-connected feature phones still dominate the mobile landscape. USSD technology that relies on the GSM network has been and still is the disruptive key to drive digital inclusion in Africa, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa that remains mostly unconnected to the internet. While USSD is outdated in many parts of the world, it still is the basic tech that has the highest impact across Africa.
Operators looking to gain market share need to think of the past, present and future. Retail which dominated the market for the past 50 years is losing share and giving way to more convenient and user-friendly technologies via USSD and Web / Mobile App. Having a platform which caters to all segments of the population is the best way to gain a competitive edge in the market.
Such has been the case for Moja Group, as we were able to leverage our partner’s European expertise in USSD technology to offer a unique customer journey to our customers.
GE) Where and why are you seeing Cryptocurrencies being leveraged in the African market? How critical would you say it is for an Operator to gain market share on the continent to have digital assets as an option for payments?
GB) When talking about Crypto in Africa you must first understand that the majority of the African population is underserved and excluded from traditional financial systems, where almost 60% do not have a traditional bank account. Cryptocurrencies bypass these systems and promote financial inclusion by introducing decentralised payment and lending services. In fact, between July 2020 and June 2021, Africans received $105.6Bn worth of cryptocurrency payments, which represents an increase of 1200% year-on-year.
Such facilitation brought along by crypto or the tokenisation of financial flows, is making some African countries warm up to the idea of crypto. The Central African Republic has already adopted Bitcoin as an official currency, while the Bank of Uganda is looking into whether a central bank digital currency should be explored. On another hand, Nigeria banned banks from dealing with cryptos yet went on to launch its own digital currency.
Although several hurdles still exist for crypto to really take off across Africa, many experts forecast that the continent will become one of the fastest growing crypto markets in the world. Digital assets will undoubtedly become a major option for payments in the coming three to five years and operators looking to benefit from the rapidly evolving digital world need to start working on incorporating crypto into their payment structures.
GE) What regulation technology issues do Operators need to be conscious of with regards to the legal and non legal markets on the continent? How would you advise an Operator to understand the difference with legal, grey and black markets within the continent?
GB) The legal and regulatory framework for gaming in Africa has taken great strides over the past 10 years as more countries understand the massive potential of the industry and what it can yield in tax revenue for the government. That being said, it is estimated that currently more than 80% of African countries have set in place some laws and legislation to regulate gaming activity. Such is manifested in the different gaming boards, ministries and authorities which have cracked down on illegal gambling and reduced this activity drastically across the continent.
Operators looking to set up shop in Africa must really understand the local governing laws before taking a decision of whether they enter the market or not. From licensing requirements, game restrictions and taxation, most countries have put in place very clear frameworks for operators to abide by. In addition, several countries are deploying Central Monitoring Systems which integrate with the operator to monitor gaming activity and ensure proper tax declarations. This has further deterred illegal operators and resulted in a more competitive landscape.
As the industry continues to grow exponentially, local regulation is expected to evolve with it and make it even harder for illegal or grey operators to operate in local markets.
GE) At this point in time what type of products currently being delivered are you seeing the most success and why? As the market continues to develop, what types of gambling products do you predict will own the most market share by 2026?
GB) Driven by Africa’s large segment of mid-to-low-income individuals with an eye on a quick-win or golden ticket into financial wellbeing, one focus since Moja Group’s inception has been to bring innovative lottery products with attractive prizes to the continent. Lottery and games of chance are now hugely popular across large parts of Africa thanks to their greater availability and engaging format. Millions of players now subscribe to these game verticals and this can be accelerated through mutually beneficial partnerships and collaborations with the continent’s leading national lotteries and regulators to offer customised digital lottery products to their audiences.
Moving forward, investment in sports betting will gather pace as more companies look to dominate the domain. This is largely driven by the wagering dynamics and consumer gaming habits exhibited across the continent. Combine a young population with a fascination for sports, specifically football, a high mobile and mobile money penetration, and you get a very lucrative market for sports betting.
In addition, noting the massive size of horse wagers in West and French Africa, East Africa emerges as a largely unexplored area when it comes to horse betting. This is another market that has huge upside for those who have the right digital technology, network and partnerships in place.
Sports betting will undoubtedly continue to grow and have a substantial market share in the African market over the next five years. Lotteries will continue to perform solidly and grow exponentially in those untapped markets. Other products such as online casinos and virtual games will also grow in popularity as gaming awareness increases and players become more connected.
About our contributor
Georges Boukazi has over 24 years’ experience in corporate governance, strategic risk management, internal audit and fraud investigation. He has a wealth of experience and understanding of visionary leadership, effective management, building, motivating and mentoring teams, assessing changes in business environment, business processes, communication and negotiation.
Georges assumed the MD role for Moja Group in August 2018. In addition, he serves as board member and director of several successful new ventures covering a wide range of industries including retail, insurance, tech and gaming covering France, Africa and the Middle East. Prior to joining Moja Group, Georges headed the Internal Audit department in one of the biggest insurance companies in the MENA region.
He is certified in Fraud Examination (CFE), Internal Audit (CIA), Risk Management Assurance (CRMA) and Control Self-Assessment (CCSA). Georges is an active member in the Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA-USA), Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE-USA), and Vice President in the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners. Visit: https://www.moja.co/