Lagos, Nigeria, is setting its sights on becoming a major player in the African gaming industry, targeting a 30% share of the continent’s market projected to reach $4.28 billion by 2024. Governor Sanwo-Olu, at the recent Africa Gaming Expo 2024, highlighted plans to make gaming a significant revenue earner and driver of economic regeneration.

Lagos isn’t the only African city with its sights set on gaming glory. The sector has been developing steadily over the years, with cities like Nairobi, Cairo, and Johannesburg embracing the potential of gaming, and competing for a share of the continent’s burgeoning gaming market. Cape Town is home to more than half of South Africa’s game development studios. The city is host to Africa Games Week, making it a leading hub. Nairobi is home to studios like Kukua Games, a developer of mobile games focused on African themes and stories, while Cairo has seen a rise in gaming cafes and esports tournaments. The city hosts Africa Games Week, a premium business event for the video game industry, attracting developers, content creators, and industry leaders from across the continent. The industry’s growth is propelled by increasing internet connectivity, smartphone adoption, and the introduction of high-bandwidth network infrastructure. 

However, here is how Lagos’ intent stacks up. With an estimated population of 16.3 million, and a large portion of the population falling within the prime gaming demographic of 15 to 34 years old, Lagos’ large population offers a significant potential player base for game developers and publishers. Lagos is also the powerhouse of Nigeria. The city has a seeming clout attached to it as seen with Afrobeats, Nollywood, and even tech. This means that achievements here could have a ripple effect on other states and indirectly or directly on the continent. The city’s prominent and zestful tech scene also provides a strong foundation for the gaming industry and gives it an edge in attracting developers and fostering a strong local gaming community. 

However, the challenge for Lagos lies in terms of infrastructure which are backdrop for a good gaming economy. For example, reliable internet is crucial for online gaming. However, according to the Speedtest Global Index, Nigeria has a national average download speed of 22.47 Mbps for mobile and 16.39 Mbps for fixed broadband, compared to the global average download speed for mobile internet is 50 Mbps and fixed broadband of 91.93 Mbps. Recent network outages in Nigeria also highlight the need for infrastructure improvement. E-sports is another vital aspect of the gaming industry that needs attention. This subsector covers console and PC gaming, as well as competitive gaming and organized video game tournaments with professional players and teams. This subsector is one of the most lucrative and fastest-growing segments of the global gaming industry, which is projected to reach a revenue of $321 billion by 2026, with a CAGR of 7.6%. 

Moreover, Nigeria’s economy has been highly volatile.  The official inflation rate is 29.9%, and interest rates recently reached 22.75%. In the last year, the naira had its worst run since it regained democracy. This economic volatility could deter potential investors in the gaming industry. The departure of several multinational companies from Nigeria further raises concerns about investor confidence in the country’s economic climate. Moreover, such an ambitious plan takes years to even cover the basics and may be subject to the priorities of future governments, adding a layer of uncertainty to the industry’s prospects.

Still, established gaming hubs like Seoul and Los Angeles offer valuable lessons for Lagos’ ambitious plans. South Korea’s government actively supports the gaming industry through tax breaks and infrastructure development. The government invested over $800 million in the games industry between 2018 and 2022. Seoul invested in e-sports arenas, like LoL Park, which can seat over 500 spectators, and frequently hosts major e-sports tournaments like the League of Legends World Championship. While Los Angeles leverages its existing entertainment industry expertise. Major Hollywood studios like Sony Pictures and Warner Bros. have established gaming divisions, blurring the lines between film and interactive entertainment. This synergy creates a fertile ground for innovation and collaboration in the gaming industry.

Similar to Los Angeles leveraging its entertainment industry, Lagos has a powerful asset in Nollywood, the world’s second-largest film industry by output. A notable example of this synergy is Play Network’s Aki and PawPaw, game, which not only celebrates a beloved Nollywood franchise but also marks a significant step in merging cinematic narratives with interactive gaming platforms. A more recent example of this potential is the mobile game Iwájú: Rising Chef. Developed by Nigeria-based Maliyo Games, the game ties into the highly anticipated series, Iwajú, created by Pan-African, company Kugali Media. Set in a futuristic Lagos, “Iwajú” highlights the city’s potential as a backdrop for innovative games. This mobile game, similar to popular titles like “Cooking Madness” and “Cooking Fever,” features familiar Nigerian dishes like jollof rice and pepper soup, catering to a local audience.

Lagos has the potential to be a gaming hub. Nigeria is one of the leading markets for iGaming in Africa, with a population of over 200 million people, with more than 60% under the age of 25 passionate about sports and entertainment. The gaming industry also has the potential to be a significant revenue earner and driver of economic regeneration. The market is currently valued at $2.14 billion and is forecasted to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 11.62%. It is among the other high-growth subsectors to watch in Africa’s booming entertainment industry. However, such a 30% stake is a lofty aspiration that requires sustained commitment from the government and private sector to nurture and solidify its place as a priority for future development. Can Lagos rise to the challenge?

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