The Unique Nature of Sports Betting in East Africa has Compounded the Impact of Corona

Lee R. - April 18, 2020

Without anything worth betting on, East Africa punters may survive better—even while the shops disappear.

Corona was bound to hit some betting regions harder than others.

East Africa Market Eviscerated

East Africa may be the extreme model.

Betting markets in the region have virtually disappeared since suspension of the world's leading football leagues.

This hits particularly hard in East Africa because of the lack of online betting per capita among the region's population.

Minimal Online Play

The GAL Sport Betting website's Brand Ambassador Ivan Kalinzi told BBC Sport Africa that his company has about 99% "because most of our people are not too much into online betting.”

Unlike in Kenya or Tanzania, Kalinzi said "we don't have too many...we are more into betting houses."

The Losses

The shutterings earlier this month evaporated an industry that is otherwise worth annual turnover of some $20m in Kenya; $12m in Uganda; and almost $10m in Tanzania.

The Fallout

Kalinzi describes his patron profile as 30% online bettors; with most middle income earners normally punting on large football leagues. In their absence, the market is a “total mess.”

The Corona mess is subsequently changing attitudes towards gambling—for the time being.

Savings for the Better?

One Kenyan cyber cafe owner asserted that the closures have helped him save "because the money you'd have lost remains with you."

The cyber cafe owners estimates he is saving between $10-30 each day by not gambling, but that is small potatoes compared to the reason that many Africans are gambling, for better or worse:

"For us youth - and the majority of Kenyans - there are no jobs so you place your hope in betting that you could win a jackpot and uplift your life. That hope is shattered for now.”

Real Sports Only

East Africans have indicated a reluctance by and large for virtual or simulated event betting—most of all because they know relatively little about the market compared to other more technologically developed markets, which reduces trust in outcomes. Further, the region's lack of personal identification with e-sports competitors takes the air out of sportsbetting as well.


Corona has sacked many organisations and the global economy, so hopefully the savings that East Africans find in their pockets during the closures will prove more essential as on-hand cash than they may yet realize.

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