Kenya has the third highest internet penetration of any country in Africa. Of an estimated 48 million people, 31 million Kenyans are estimated to have access to the internet but how does that tie into Kenya’s gambling problem?
The country which contributes 9.5% of Africa’s total internet usage, surpassed only by Egypt and Nigeria is also home to the third-largest gambling market in Africa.
Whereas, smartphones and internet capabilities are revolutionising African businesses and making room for innovation on the continent, one of the drawbacks of the two can be clearly spotted in Kenya’s gambling problem.
Although the gambling markets in South Africa and Nigeria surpass that of Kenya, Digital Skills Observatory (a research group funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and run by Mozilla), showed that smartphone usage in Kenya seems to increase the amount of time people spend gambling.
Data gathered by the group showed that one third of respondents in seven regions of Kenya reported using their phones for “betting.” It was also found that one of the primary reasons for getting a phone in Kenya was being enabled to use gambling apps and sites.
The use of smartphones for gambling in Kenya is in addition to the flourishing cyber cafes, online betting platforms, makeshift casinos, and imported inexpensive slot machines all also utilized for gambling.
Kenya’s gambling problem is undeniable when one considers that Kenya’s betting revenues are expected to reach 5.1 billion Kenyan shillings by 2020, a 142% rise from 2014.
Kenya’s gambling problem is akin to trends in other African countries where increasing unemployment is driving large swaths of youths into gambling, especially, sport betting. In Uganda, for instance, attempts are being made by local communities to ban it.
In the Digital Skills Observatory’s survey, SportPesa, a Kenyan online sports betting platform, was the second most-visited website by smartphone users polled in the project.
It was surpassed only by Google and surpassed even Facebook. Three other gambling sites were among the 20 most visited URLs by smartphone users.
The respondents claimed that they channelled their winnings towards doing up their homes and buying new electronics. The survey, however, showed that half of the respondents spent more on gambling than they earned.