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Why Africa's Game Developers Need Their Own App Store

11.08.2022 05:48 AM
Why Africa's Game Developers Need Their Own App Store
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Why Africa's Game Developers Need Their Own App Store

With the aim of expanding the electronic games market in the African continent, efforts to create an app store for Africa have increased, especially since other app stores do not suit the needs of African game developers. What are the attempts and obstacles in this area?

Teddy Kosoko, a solutions engineer from the Central African Republic, founded Masika Game Studio with the goal of developing video games on the African continent.

Electronic payment systems on major stores were the main obstacle for Kosoko in his efforts to introduce African-made games into the global electronic games market, going back to 2018, when he launched the studio by placing it on the Google Play store.

The studio was able to attract nearly 10,000 users, but it had trouble making money from its active users as the main user base is in sub-Saharan Africa, but unfortunately many of them did not have credit cards to make purchases on the Google Play Store. .

In response, Kosoko decided to create an app called "Gara Store" designed to facilitate the payments African developers need to earn money for selling their entertainment products.


'Not suitable for Africa'

It is worth noting that only 3% of the population of Sub-Saharan Africa uses credit cards for payment, while the proportion of debit card holders is an estimated 18% of the population of the region who rely on cash or semi-instant payment services using mobile phones.

Initially, Kosoko knocked on the tech giant Google's doors to integrate cash or mobile payments into the app it created on the Google Play Store.

In an interview with DW, Kosoko said, "I went to Google and told company officials that I could build a system for Africans to buy games using mobile payments, but Google rejected the offer and was told that if I put this up through the store it would be taken down."

Google's Developer Distribution Agreement prohibits developers from promoting "third party" payment technologies on game platforms that can be downloaded from the Google Play Store.

The company had previously taken measures against violating these rules, as it removed the famous “Fortnite” game from the “Google Play Store” in 2020 after the company, “Epic Games”, which produced the game bypassing the store’s payment systems.

In this regard, Kosoko said that creators trying to circumvent this problem risk losing time and money, which led him to develop the "Gara Store" to ensure the survival of his company.

How was the idea implemented?

Kosoko and his team chose to develop the application via the Android system because it is the most prevalent in Africa, where it is used by about 80% of the population of the continent. "We cannot put our platform on the Apple Store because it is a closed system, but it can be done with Android."

It took four years to develop the "Gara Store" and cost more than $1.02 million, with many doubting Kosoku's ability to create a standalone Android app.

"I have been told that the best developers who can do this job are in the United States or Asia," he said. Indeed, Kosoko hired a developer from the United States, but decided to work alongside him with developers from Senegal, Côte d'Ivoire, Benin and Cameroon to gain experience from him.

Help from amazon

Masika Game Studio received additional support from Amazon, but the company did not provide the funds directly but rather provided the resources needed to enhance the store's capacity, including reaching investors and building the data storage infrastructure.

These efforts have paid off, as the store was tested, especially its ability to facilitate payments made via mobile phones, while the store was officially launched on the first of last April.

Despite the successful launch of the store, the "Masika Electronic Games Studio" is still experiencing problems with the generation of all the revenue generated by the "Gara Store".


Profitable industry

The studio provides a revenue-sharing model for creators who develop and sell mobile apps within the Gara Store, where the company gives 80% of game sales revenue to content creators, while the studio takes 20% and deducts 5-10% of the profits to pay taxes and operating fees. This means that the store's share of total revenue is 10 percent.

For his part, Kosoko stressed that this percentage is not enough, but he is willing to cut wages, adding, "We realize that we need to give content makers first an ecosystem for game development and we can make a lot of money after this system becomes strong."

It is worth noting that the mobile gaming market is profitable in Africa, with total revenue in the five largest countries in Sub-Saharan Africa reaching $590 million in 2021.

However, this market faces technical problems that hinder the entry of more competitors, and the tax burden on digital services is another problem.

China and mobile phones in Africa?

It is noteworthy that Chinese mobile phone manufacturers have flooded African markets, as the proportion of these companies is 34.2% in the mobile phone market in the continent, while each Chinese company has its own store to download applications.

Kosoko believes that Chinese companies can boost competition in the gaming market, but cautions that his company cannot compete with Chinese companies in terms of spending. He added, "If Huawei allocates an amount estimated to be twice the money it allocates to cover the market by a hundred thousand times, then in this case we cannot compete in the market."

Regarding the high taxes that African governments impose on digital services, Kosoko called for African developers to be allowed to make money initially to create jobs.

He warned that if the current situation persists, "this will prompt people who want to think about starting a new business to stop, because they have to think about taxes before developing solutions."


The future of "Gara Store"

Despite many obstacles, Kosoko is confident in the long-term viability of Gara Store and in the potential of his company to provide an opportunity to showcase African culture and heritage in the global market.

As evidence of this, the company has developed a game called "The Legend of Molo," where the game relies on completing the tasks of a young girl named "Molo" to find stolen African artifacts while meeting the Maasai tribes in Kenya during the journey.

The game is rich with graphics and music that reflect the heritage and history of the African continent, while Kosoko says that the game helps users learn about the history of Africa, which indicates that the African continent "has a lot to share with the world."

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