BUSINESS

Africa mobile growth explodes; Nigeria bans SMS lotteries; SBTech inks Betland

TAGs: africa, betland, Mobile, nigeria, sbtech, SMS, sms lottery

africa-nigeria-sms-lotteries-sbtech-betlandWorld Bank statistics on mobile phone growth rates between 2000-2011 have South Asia leading the rest of the world by a significant margin, but it may surprise you to learn that second place on this chart goes to Africa. The continent’s mobile phone subscribers have grown 40-fold over this period to 648.4m – more than the United States or the European Union – and are expected to top 1b by the end of this decade. Spurred by the microfinance revolution, many Africans rely on their mobiles for the majority of their banking transactions, including deposits, withdrawals, transfers and paying bills. In Kenya, transactions through mobile banking service M-PESA account for up to 20% of the nation’s GDP.

The rapid expansion of mobile availability has also prompted the rise of mobile lotteries. In Nigeria, the popularity of some of these SMS lotteries reportedly overwhelmed the mobile networks, resulting in dropped calls and congestion. Things got so bad that last month the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) instituted a ban on such lotteries in a bid to free up precious bandwidth. But while AllAfrica reports that Nigerian mobile users have seen no significant improvement in network quality since the ban was implemented, the NCC insists the ban will remain in effect until the networks demonstrate they can handle the volume of traffic. Meanwhile, the Association of Licensed Telecoms Operators of Nigeria disputes the NCC’s claims, insisting that flooding in the southern part of the country and attacks by Islamist gunmen on telecom facilities in the north were primarily to blame for the drop in network quality. As such, they say operators are being unfairly deprived of revenue while customers are being deprived of their right to a little lotto entertainment.

Because nature abhors a vacuum, turnkey sports betting solutions provider SBTech has just inked an exclusive deal with Nigerian land-based operator Betland. In addition to providing Betland’s over 100 betting shops with a large variety of live betting options, Betland senior director Dotun Ajegbile is counting on SBTech to “enable us to extend our land-based business into the online and mobile mediums.” A cynic would suggest collusion between Betland and the NCC, much as the Black Friday busts were said to be designed to clear the US market of the established online poker operators so that the land-based casinos could fill the void. But since that conspiracy theory has been proven demonstrably false – or perhaps just ineptly executed – we’ll give the Nigerians the benefit of the doubt, just like we trusted that generous Nigerian prince who sent that email promising us a million-dollar payday …

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