A few days ago, I spent the day at a client’s office. The office was manned by four young people, three ladies, and one guy, who seemed to have graduated from college within a period of one to five years.
I noticed that they spent about two hours going through the sports section of the daily newspapers while doing some writing on their notebooks, as well as checking some websites while taking notes.
At that time, It had not occurred to me that they were looking for betting tips, checking for betting odds and placing their bets online. Let me re-iterate, four employees spent two hours each trying to place bets for that evening’s sports games at the expense of their employer’s time, resources and space!
Welcome to Kenya, the betting nation.
Online betting craze in Kenya
The young people bet. I have seen a 70-year-old betting, and old women in rural villages bet. Graduates bet, and, in my opinion, uneducated people bet even more.
Research by Geopoll showed that Kenya leads the rest of Africa when it comes to betting, in terms of the number of people betting and the amount of money they place on bets. It is no wonder that 20% of adults in Kenya consider betting to be a reliable source of income.
When I tried to analyze Google Trends for the keywords "betting tips", the results were amazing, almost shocking. The leading countries in the world are Kenya at 100%, Uganda at 53%, and Zimbabwe at 24%. What I considered traditional gambling nations like the UK do not feature.
Growth of SportPesa
The growth of betting in Kenya is best highlighted by the growth of Kenyan betting companies. SportPesa, a Kenyan betting company, has already taken the world by storm.
SportPesa is the main sponsor of the Kenyan Premier League, as well as numerous other sports in Kenya such as rugby and boxing. Its impact is not just felt in Kenya.
Among some of the world-famous sports teams that it sponsors is the English Premier League's Everton FC, and Hull City. It also has a partnership with Arsenal, as well as Torino in Italy's Serie A. The moneyed betting firm recently joined Formula One and is the sponsor of SportPesa Racing Point F1 Team. No other Kenyan startup has made it this big, in such a relatively short time.
But why all this betting craze?
Kenya's unemployed youth
Like many countries in Africa, Kenya has a youthful population with a median age of about 19 years. Unemployment is high, and the number of people who live in extreme poverty stands at 29%.
"Let me re-iterate, four employees spent two hours each trying to place bets for that evening’s sports games at the expense of their employer’s time, resources and space!"
Advertisements by betting companies wax lyrical about stories of going from rags to riches and end up enticing many to bet. With these conditions, betting is considered by many as a reasonable chance of escaping poverty.
Even rich people bet.
In the same way that the trend of the prosperity gospel in Africa is enticing people to give money with the promise of more reward, betting also seems to sell hope in the same way.
Other factors have also made betting easy and attractive. These include a high penetration of mobile money which allows almost anybody to do transactions online and make payments. Online lending apps also come in handy with reports saying that many people will quickly borrow money in order to bet.
It is hard to quantify the impact of betting on Kenya's society. By September 2016, 400,000 Kenyans were already blacklisted with Credit Reference Bureaus for mobile loans of less than KES 200 (USD 2)!
Most of this borrowing is attributed to betting. Many employers have also lost money in terms of wasted productivity as employees spend time analyzing bets and fantasizing on winning big. Gambling addiction has been said to cause problems such as family breakdowns, violence and crime, debts and emotional instability.
One wonders what will be the impact on Kenya in the next 15 years.
In an attempt to slow down the scourge of online betting in Kenya, the government recently announced a ban on advertising of gambling between 6 am and 10 pm. It also banned endorsement of gambling by celebrities.
The sports betting ban will take effect from 30 May 2019. However, it remains to be seen if they will reduce betting activity in Kenya.
Cover image credit: iAfrikan.com