East Africa’s Video Gaming Industry: A Hidden Economic Potential


As you delve into this article, one industry is ascending to new heights – the gaming market. With the recent COVID-19 outbreak, this industry has seen an unprecedented surge. Despite this global trend, the gaming industry in Burundi has faced significant hurdles and remains hidden in the shadows. Nevertheless, the gaming market worldwide is skyrocketing and is predicted to reach a whopping $221.40 billion in 2023, as per Statista.

Numerous studies reveal that the gaming industry has doubled the movie industry which was worth $328 billion in 2021, according to the Motion Pictures Association report. However, we shall leave this debate for another day; since something more remarkable is unfolding in the East African Community.

A new wave of gamers and game developers is emerging, proving that the continent can be a significant player in the gaming market. One may ponder, which countries in the community are leading economic development in this industry? What opportunities have arisen as a result? Can Burundi join the bandwagon?

According to Newzoo, the number of gamers in Africa has doubled in the last five years, making the current valuation of African Gaming estimated at $590 million. In East Africa, several reports suggest that the gaming industry is worth $130 million and projected to reach $180 million by 2025. The major driving forces behind this growth are the availability of smartphones, easier internet access, government initiatives, and investment in technology.

But it’s not just mobile gaming that’s rising in East Africa. A new generation of game developers is also emerging, creating fun games and stories unique to the African experience. Kenya has something to boast about in that matter. Based in Nairobi, the game development startup Weza Interactive Entertainment has already made three games: Mzito, Riziki, Mzito Math. The other one is Nairobi Gaming Development, a community-oriented and co-working space for game developers in Nairobi.

Going South in Tanzania, the video gaming sector is expanding, although still relatively young. By 2023, the market, valued at 16 million dollars in 2018, is forecasted to nearly double by 31 million dollars (Statista). The most significant growth has been seen in mobile gaming. The key reason for this rise has been the escalation in usage of mobile devices and internet connection.

In the North of Tanzania, Uganda has been sustained by a large gaming ecosystem that combines the work of private companies, individuals, and the government. For instance, The Association of Video Gamers & Developers Uganda is Uganda’s leading group of video-gaming professionals, featuring developers, content producers, partners, and professional gamers.

Another one is Arudem, “Uganda’s first professional Gaming and Esports brand focused on portraying the Modern Gaming Lifestyle in East Africa.” Because of this, the Ugandan gaming market is expected to be worth US $48.19 million in 2023. With the revenue foretold to expand at a pace of 8.14% per year, we can predict a market volume of US$65.90 million by 2027. (Statista, 2022)

On the other side of the Kanyaru River, the Gaming industry is also making its mark notorious across Africa. The turning point was triggered by the 2021 Afrika E-sports Series, a continental competition that brought together teams of video gamers from 16 African nations. Country tournaments were handled by the Rwanda E-sports Association and Enter Africa Rwanda, but the matches were held online.

Have you heard of Robert Mugisha? Until today, neither had we! He is the founder of DopeApps, a tech and gaming company in Kigali that teaches and solves problems for Rwandans, Africans, and people around the world. As a result, Rwanda is making the most of this opportunity to generate US $11.62 million in income in 2023. And with a predicted annual growth rate of 7.28%, it may expect a market volume of US$15.39m by 2027.

In light of all of this, where does Burundi fit in? We must first acknowledge that Burundi has also had a long history with gaming. Many of Bujumbura’s well-known quartiers, including Buyenzi, Kanyosha, and Kinama, have been hosting gaming rooms for more than ten years. Most of them had a basic setup—a TV and a gaming console—and welcomed several fervent young customers.

Modernized gaming locations with top-notch gaming equipment and amenities started to appear in the city’s core around 2019 and continued to do so through 2021. Kina Game World, Odyssey Game Zone, and The Game Station are some of the best places for gaming. They have the latest technology such as virtual reality, PlayStation 5s, Xbox X Series, gaming PCs, simulators, and many other devices.

Additionally, we have seen minimalist competitions emerging, either online or offline. Kina Game World and Odyssey Game Zone, both of which aspire to e-sport, have hosted several physical competitions, reuniting a scattered community of Burundian gamers. With the same spirit, PLC Creative Room, a community of mobile game enthusiasts, has held two online Ludo contests, the latest having had about thirty participants.

However, the East African gaming industry is still in its early stages. Amongst many, it faces challenges such as a lack of infrastructure, regulations, poor data internet access, and a dispersed community. Nevertheless, government initiatives in Kenya and Uganda are addressing some issues and attracting more investment in the sector. At this time, financing Burundian gaming initiatives, particularly for its young population, would be an excellent investment opportunity.

Concluding, we can see that the potential for growth and innovation is enormous, and with the right support, East Africa’s gaming industry could become a significant player in the global gaming market. The same case applies for Burundi. With the right cards, played at the right moment, investing in this sector could be a real-game changer and propulsion for aspiring Burundian gamers.

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Iris News is a generalist Burundian media with 6 editorial aggregates that articulate the bulk of its information offer: Entrepreneurship, Ecology, EAC, Youth, Culture and Sport. Iris News, a media from the future defines itself as « The media of possibilities » designed to help young Burundians shape a prosperous and environmentally friendly Burundi.