Africa’s gaming industry has been nascent for a long time. Even though gaming has always been popular on the continent, the business of making games from Africa has struggled to catch on. There are several reasons for this paradox, but the dearth of funding and talent has always stood out.
However, that narrative is slowly changing. Investors have started showing more confidence in the industry, and startups are raising more money than ever. For instance, Carry1st, a South African gaming startup, recently raised $27 million in a pre-Series B round. That was the single biggest funding for any African gaming startup. The same startup had previously raised Series A rounds of $20 million in January 2022 and $6 million in May 2021.
Notably, Carry1st’s record funding did not come on the back of mere hype. It happened because the startup had a stellar 2022. “The President” — a game loosely based on a fictionalized Donald Trump — became the most downloaded game in the US. The game, developed by Nairobi-based Mekan Games, came from a partnership with Carry1st’s CrazyHubs gaming accelerator. Consequently, the company’s revenue jumped 10x in one year.
Carry1st’s success reflects the underlooked progress happening in Africa’s gaming industry. In January, GBarena, an Egyptian e-sports platform, entered an agreement to acquire Tunisia-based Galactech in a share swap deal valued at $15 million. That was one of the most strategic deals in the North African gaming market. It would help GBarena expand its North African presence while it anticipates closing a Series A funding later in the year with foreign investors from the US, Singapore and the MENA region.
The market for these businesses is also growing. Between 2015 and 2021, the number of mobile gamers in Sub-Saharan Africa more than doubled from 77 million to 186 million people, according to research by NewZoo. And 95 per cent of these gamers played on smartphones. So there’s no doubt that the rise in smartphone adoption across the continent is paving a path for its gaming industry. According to GSMA’s The Mobile Economy sub-Saharan Africa report, the number of internet-connected smartphone users in the region will reach 680 million by 2025. And Statista projects that the number of African mobile game users will skyrocket to over 310 million by 2027, with annual revenue reaching $2.27 billion and a growth rate of 7.15 per cent.
In February 2022, over ten gaming studios teamed up to form the Pan-African Gaming Group (PAGG), hoping to tap into growth opportunities and draw in investor funds. As a result, the industry recorded more investments, albeit small, and some undisclosed. PAGG’s target is to grow the number of mobile gamers to a billion through capacity building and training game developers across the continent. According to their statement, they believe that the growing number of internet-connected smartphone users, a young and growing population, and a rising middle class all point to massive investment opportunities for the gaming industry in Africa.
In the same year, Skrmiish, a South African mobile “play-to-earn” app, raised $2.5 million in seed funding to expand globally. So far, they’ve gained 100,000 players across 100 different countries and are now live in the UK and Europe. Another standout from 2022 was Nigeria-based Metaverse Magna (MVM), a blockchain gaming platform, which raised $3.2 million in September to reach a $30 million valuation.
These feats happened even though the tech industry had a rocky year. So, while there is no certainty about 2023’s outlook, we’re sure that Africa’s gaming industry is swimming well in the tides.