If you read our blog post on the Latin American and APAC gaming market, you’ll already know that the global gaming market is projected to reach a phenomenal $339.95 billion in 2027. You may also have been impressed with some of the stats provided, for example: 82% of Southeast Asia’s online population are gamers; Brazil’s gaming population has seen a 28% boost; or that within the next two years there will be 690 million unique smartphone users in Latin America! Is there a comparable rate of growth in the Middle Eastern, North African and Sub-Saharan African regions? What are the most notable trends to bear in mind in this part of the world? Read on to find out!
Growth in the Middle East & North Africa (MENA)
The Middle Eastern and North African gaming market is made up of approximately 100 million gamers, and is expected to undergo a 13.88% CAGR boost by 2027. Much of this growth is down to a number of exciting developments in the region.
In the UAE as a whole, gamers spend an average of $115 a year on gaming related products. In the summer of 2020, Dubai Summer Surprises collaborated with OPPO to launch a gaming challenge targeted at young people, held at a new gaming arena at the Mall of the Emirates. Dubai Media City collaborated with ON.DXB to launch GAME_ON, an Instagram Live series featuring career tips and skill-building workshops in 3D modelling, virtual reality, animation, sound engineering, rigging and other important parts of game development. The UAE’s Motivate Media Group, in partnership with South Korea’s International Esports Federation (IESF) have agreed to construct a purpose-built E-sports stadium. These initiatives demonstrate Dubai’s strategic interest in growing its local gaming industry and expanding e-sports throughout the Middle East.
Zain Group, a Kuwaiti telecommunication company with over 50 million customers throughout the MENA region, launched Zain Esports to create local tournaments and strengthen the domestic gaming scene. Zain Esports recently joined forces with PLAYHERA, a middle eastern gaming startup, in a joint venture called PLAYHERA MENA. PLAYHERA MENA will be headquartered in Saudi Arabia’s capital, Riyadh, but will also have offices around Zain’s main customer bases in the MENA region.
In Saudi Arabia alone, there are an estimated 20 million gamers. This is expected to grow given the country’s level of investment in gaming, as well as the fact that 70% of its overall population are aged 30 or under.
Saudi Arabia invested $1.1 billion in Microsoft following its acquisition of Activision Blizzard Inc. Activision has collaborated with Saudi Telecom Company to host dedicated gaming servers for Call of Duty in Riyadh and Jeddah. In a similar vein, Riot Games invested in dedicated MENA servers for Valorant. Most recently, for an overall transaction of $1 billion, a 5% stake of Japan’s Capcom and a 5% stake of South Korea’s Nexon were purchased by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund.
Market Leaders in MENA
Currently, the MENA gaming market is moderately consolidated with some dominant players and moderate competition. Major market leaders in the region are Sony Corporation, followed closely by Microsoft Corporation, Apple Inc, Electronic Arts Inc. and NetEase Inc.
Growth in Sub-Saharan Africa
75% of Sub-Saharan Africa’s population (747 million people) are active mobile users, and gaming on smartphones accounts for 24% of all gaming in Africa. The gaming industry’s expected CAGR rate for 2026 is 12% in Sub-Saharan Africa. This growth is being driven by an uptick in popularity of multi-use gaming consoles. According to estimates, Africa’s youth population is expected to grow by 50% by 2050 people, one of the most significant youth populations globally.
South Africa leads as one of Africa’s largest markets in the gaming industry. In South Africa alone, there will soon be more than 11 million gamers, many of whom will gravitate towards social gaming and free to play games with in-game purchases.
Kenya, Nigeria, and Uganda
These three countries are the top game developers in Sub-Saharan Africa. The gaming industry is increasingly generating millions of dollars in revenue for their respective countries each year.
Carry1st raised $2.5 million in investment, led by CRE Venture capital. This investment supports Africa’s growing in-game publishing sector. Partnered with Mettlestate, Kucheza Gaming are organising School Esports Leagues, in order to support the next generation into stable careers in gaming. A partner project between Kucheza Gaming, Union Bank Edu360, WaterAid, Into Games, and Ukie’s Digital Schoolhouse, Mobo Game Jam encourages young people ages 8-18 to start creating prototypes of mobile games, with awards given for winning ideas.
In further encouraging news, the recently established Esports Federation of Africa (ESFA) was set up by national federations as well as private esports entities; it has also become affiliated by the World Esports Consortium (WESCO). With ESFA’s founding, there is now a vehicle for grassroots, player-focused developments in the region, as well as a platform for African gamers to voice concerns, and advocate for better user experiences.
Market Leaders in Sub-Saharan Africa
The nascent Sub-Saharan African gaming market is still competitive, generally without major dominant players that are monopolising the market. Major leaders currently include Kucheza, Kagiso Interactive, Nyamakop, Celestial Games and Kuluya.
The Wider Story
The total number of internet users has recently increased by 4%, passing 4,950 million active users in January 2022. This growth hasn’t excluded the MENA region and Sub-Saharan Africa.
In terms of global mobile gaming, Android is influential in the market. The mobile gaming market is a fragmented and competitive market without monopolies, though Tencent, Activision Blizzard, Nintendo, Zynga Co Ltd, and GungHo Online Entertainment are the biggest players worldwide. While smartphone gaming is generally leading the pack in mobile gaming, there are some exceptions to the global trend; in-game advertising in Sub-Saharan Africa may benefit from a less smartphone-heavy approach, with adverts optimised for apps on mobile consoles.
While the global average gamer profile is a 34 year old mother and house owner, the MENA and Sub-Saharan African regions’ populations are generally much younger than the UK, European, North American, and some Asian populations. Global research has found that only 3.3% of men pay for in-app mobile gaming content, compared to 4.5% of their women counterparts. This may still prove to be true in MENA and the rest of Africa.