How South Africa is Leading a Global eSports Expansion in Africa

May 27, 20204 min read

This post on eSports in Africa originally appeared on African Business Magazine and was written by William McBain.

Johannesburg resident Sam “Tech Girl” Wright kept her passion for video gaming a secret in high school. “It wasn’t cool, you’d just get mocked, and being a girl playing video games was even worse,” she says. 

Wright now travels the world hosting and commentating on eSports events – organised, often broadcasted, and sometimes lucrative video game competitions – and blogs about her local scene. 

The South African market is part of a global eSports industry which was receiving increased attention from broadcasters, sponsors and advertisers even before the global coronavirus pandemic forced billions of house-bound citizens to seek new forms of entertainment.  

Twitch, a live video streaming service owned by Amazon which is frequented by gamers, has increased its users by over 25% since March, while eSports leagues catering to football, war game and fantasy players enjoy unprecedented growth. Footballers, Formula One drivers and entertainers including Trevor Noah compete in broadcasted e­Sports games during the pandemic, helping fill the void left by the absence of traditional sports and giving multiplayer online video games new global exposure.  

“When you’re playing, everyone’s the same. It doesn’t matter if you’re disabled, or what colour your skin is, it doesn’t matter what gender you are. When you’re in that game, you’re on an equal playing field. And I think that’s what makes it really fun, especially at this time,” says Wright.  

Rapidly growing eSports market

esports gaming at comic con south africa
eSports tournament at Comic Con Africa in 2018

The global eSports market is expanding rapidly. NewZoo, a market intelligence firm, predicts global revenues will grow to $1.1bn this year, with total audiences increasing to 495m, a year-on-year growth of 11.7%. Streaming revenue was forecast to hit $18.2m globally, up 33% from 2019, but could now be significantly higher given the pandemic. 

Growth worldwide is underpinned by the vast, tech-savvy markets of China and India. But Africa’s growing young population and uptake of internet and smartphone technology has led some industry players to cast their eye towards the continent. Futuresource estimates annual audience size in the region will grow from 30m in 2020 to 53m by 2023.  

International esports revenue growth infographic
International esports revenue growth infographic via ePlay Africa

“With a youthful and increasingly urban population in Africa, there’s an opportunity to invest in the dynamic eSports ecosystem, and capitalise on a growing entertainment phenomenon within this emerging market,” says Morris Garrard, an analyst at Futuresource Consulting. 

“As the audience grows, more businesses are expected to invest in African team talent, with South African and Egyptian gamers already starting to feature on international rosters. This opens up sponsorship opportunities for companies investing in these athletes, with advertising targeted to better reach African fans”. 

Read the full article on African Busness Magazine at the link below.


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