Could Africa Be Poised for an ESports Renaissance?
It isn’t news to anyone that ESports is a major business pretty much everywhere in the world. One exception is the African continent, where local efforts to make ESports viable have been stymied by the dearth of game-specific servers and general lack of support from major game publishers.
There are encouraging signs that change is on the horizon, however. Last week, Nigeria’s Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Sunday Dare, announced that his ministry is developing an ESports initiative as part of a wider plan to reactivate the country’s sports sector in a postpandemic world.
“We are working on a plan that would produce for the first time an industry-based sports policy that will turn sports into business,” Dare told a webinar audience. “We are on the verge of launching e-gaming sports in Nigeria. It is the most suitable for the post–COVID-19 era. Globally, it is a $138 billion business.”
(Side note: if that particular figure, which comes from a prediction made by market-research firm Newzoo, seems overblown, consider that it was originally applied to the gaming industry as a whole—including console, mobile, and PC games—not just ESports.)
Vague as Dare’s statement might be, it at least signals a commitment to bringing Nigeria into the ESports sphere, where it will join South Africa and Kenya, among others. Africa’s ESports scene may be in its infancy, but its leaders are already making themselves known. What follows is by no means a comprehensive list, but here are a few organizations to keep an eye on:
Telkom VS Gaming
This South African league focuses primarily on Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, but also runs Dota 2 and League of Legends championships. Telkom VS has partnered with Toyota for the Toyota Esports Challenge, which is taking place as I write this, and will see up to 64 PlayStation 4 players compete in FIFA 20—all playing from home.
Electronic Sports Federation of Africa
Talk about lofty goals. With members from dozens of countries across the continent, the ESFA aims to be the representative body for ESports in Africa. Beyond that, it also intends to use its platform to tackle socioeconomic challenges faced by African youth, and to have ESports officially recognized as a medal event at the Africa Games.
One of South Africa’s oldest gaming organizations, Bravado was formed in 2006 and has racked up an impressive list of corporate sponsors, including Intel and Dell. Bravado competes in CS:GO, Call of Duty, and FIFA tournaments, for the most part.
Mettlestate has organized some of South Africa’s biggest events, including the Samsung Galaxy CS:GO Championship, the Vodacom 4U CS:GO Cup, the WESG International Qualifiers, and the ASUS ROG Invitational. It most recently pitted pro rugby players against each other in a FIFA 20 tournament sponsored by telecom giant Vodacom.
Actually based in India and known for organizing PUBG Mobile events throughout South Asia, NODWIN announced in March that it was starting a Johannesburg branch. “The expansion is a gateway to not just South Africa but the whole of Africa,” CEO Sidharth Kedia said in a news release. “Regarding the development of eSports in the region, the scenario right now looks a lot similar to what India was five years ago. The South African audience is a healthy mix of PC and console players alongside the massive mobile gaming populace.”