With over 200 million mobile subscriptions and more than 91.5 million active mobile app users, Nigeria is finely poised as a hotbed for mobile gaming.
SolveEducation, through its Dawn of Civilisation (DoC) gaming app, is working to boost learning among young people in Nigeria and Africa at large through games.
Founded by Oladimeji Ojo in 2019, the Ibadan-based startup has adopted the unconventional but result-oriented method of leveraging games to educate students.
In a chat with Technext, Ojo spoke about mobile gaming adoption in Nigeria, its viability as a business and dealing with the challenges faced by his gaming startup.
On Mobile Gaming Adoption in Nigeria
Mobile gaming is essentially a fun activity which is expected to appeal to a significant percentage of young people in the country. 17% of the over 200 million people in Nigeria are youths.
Ojo says Nigeria’s youthful population makes it a suitable market for gaming startups like SolveEducation.
The average age of the Nigerian populace is 18 years. If you consider the growing youth population and smartphone penetration in the country, you will agree with me that Nigeria should be among the top destinations for game developers to launch.Ojo Oladimeji, CEO SolveEducation
“We are experiencing steady growth at SolveEducation. Our game’s monthly retention numbers look promising at 38 per cent, which tells us that users kept coming back for more,” he added.
Ojo noted that gamers are more likely to play games with a monetary reward as an incentive. This has been proven by the success of games such as Carry1st Trivia across Africa.
“Moreover, we have ignited people’s passion for learning the seemingly difficult content at the speed of light through our Chatbot, ED THE BOT. We currently reward our users with cash prizes that would help them enhance learning and their lifestyle,” he said.
Mobile gaming is still evolving in Nigeria, and this, therefore, begs the question of how viable it is as a business in the country. With more startups venturing into the gaming space, what are their chances of being successful?
Ojo believes that the revenue potential of Nigeria’s gaming industry is well worth the risk of launching into the rapidly developing sector.
“The African video game industry will be worth $642 million by 2021, according to PwC, and the mobile gaming market in Nigeria could be worth $123 million by 2023, according to Statista. The gaming market has increased by 404 percent since 2017 – this shows enough potential for an experiment.”
He explained that conducting a critical market analysis to learn about the market’s behaviour is necessary before launching any mobile game, stating that this is what SolveEducation has done.
According to the CEO, the viability of mobile gaming will hinge on the operational model adopted.
“Whether mobile gaming is a viable business or not is dependent on the business model employed,” he said.
Operating in a relatively new space linking gaming to education, SolveEducation employs a B2B model that is community focused. The game is free for individual players but schools and non-profit organisations pay a fee to host their students on the platform.
This is a different model to that of other gaming startups such as ChopUp, which runs an Esports model whereby players have to purchase credits to compete and stand a chance of winning cash prizes.
Ojo highlights that the continuing existence and growth of startups like ChopUp as well as online betting companies including Betnaija and NairaBET prove that mobile gaming is viable in Nigeria.
Dealing with Challenges
While betting companies are mandated to obtain operating licences from Nigeria’s National Lottery Regulatory Commission, there is yet to be any regulatory policy on mobile gaming in the country.
In the absence of such regulation which would have presented a financial burden in terms of licence costs and renewal fees, Ojo pinpoints stereotypes and the inability of targeted gamers to afford high-storage smartphones as major challenges.
There is this stereotype within the Nigerian community that gamers are unserious. When we said we would educate people using games, a typical Nigerian mother was surprised and asked how that would be possible.
He says people started welcoming the DoC game after the startup had experimented with some students learning English through the app and others through the traditional reading method. The assessment cards after a month showed that students who learnt via gaming performed better.
SolveEducation had first opened its game up to 14-17 year olds but had to review the target age group to 18 years and above. This became necessary as many of the students below 18 used phones with less than 2gb RAM – the minimum specification for the DoC game.
In order to still cater to the 14-17 age group, Ojo disclosed that the startup deployed its game on Telegram such that students with phone storage capacities of at least 500MB could still learn by sending “Hi” to the Ed Chatbot on the messaging app.
“Solve Education has built two games so far: Dawn of Civilization city building game and Ed the bot, a gaming chatbot deployed on Telegram. Ed the bot can be accessed on telegram @ed_the_bot,” he said.
On funding, he explained that having been bootstrapped so far, SolveEducation is currently focused on realising internally generated revenue and gaining more traction before seeking external financing to scale.
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