The eSports industry is gradually growing and showing glimpses of the bright future that it has in Africa and across the globe. From its financial incentives, to the beautiful and impressive arenas being built, and the promising talents emerging; there is no doubt that the industry will soon enough become one of the prominent sports in the world.
It is thus very refreshing to know that the African continent, through various eSports organizations and teams, is striving to become an eSports powerhouse in the world. In Ghana, for example, eSports groups like Madagastar eSports and eSports Association are preparing for the eSports Master League and working on establishing an eSports academy respectively. Teams such as Bravado Gaming, Damage Control, Aperture Gaming, and Energy eSports are also among some of the groups helping to advance the course of eSports in South Africa.
But in as much as these organizations are helping to grow the industry on the African continent, there is one issue that could be detrimental to the development of the industry and lay waste the brave efforts of the aforementioned organizations. The inability of the African continent to keep its talents has been a bane to the continent. This challenge has haunted the continent for far too long.
The struggle to keep African talents
There is no doubt that the African continent is one of the continents blessed with enormous talents. Specifically, in the field of football, Africa has been blessed with many great players. The tall list would include George Weah, J.J. Okocha, Abedi Pele, Tony Baffoe, Didier Drogba, and many others.
But despite this intriguing and fascinating detail, there is no denying the fact that the continent has, probably, lost more talents to other continents than it can even think of. A classic and perfect case is with France.
According to TheSouthAfrican.com , about 14 of France’s winning squad in the 2018 world Cup have African roots. The list includes: Presnel Kimpembe who has a Senegalese father, Samuel Umtiti who was born in Cameroon, Paul Pogba who was born in France to two Guinean parents and Kylian Mbappé who was born in France to a Cameroonian father and an Algerian mother.
The list also has Ousmane Dembélé who was Born in France to a French mother with Mauritanian roots and Senegalese descent, and also a Malian father. Corentin Tolisso is also reported to have been born in France but has connections to Togo through his parents while N’Golo Kanté was also born in France to Malian parents. Blaise Matuidi, Steven Nzonzi, Steve Mandanda, Adil Rami, Nabil Fekir, Djibril Sidibe and Benjamin Mendy are all part of that list.
The truth is, majority of the aforementioned players declined the opportunity to represent the African continent. Corentin Tolisso declined an invitation by Claude Le Roy to play for the Togolese national team. Ngolo Kante was also approached by Mali ahead of the 2015 African Cup of Nations, but he also declined. Samuel Umtiti also did not change his decision to play for France even though Roger Milla, one of Cameroon’s great, approached him.
But were they wrong to decline the offer? After all, why would they choose to represent a continent that has over the years failed to make the development of talents a priority. The decision of these players is a reflection of the weaknesses that need attending to if stakeholders of eSports in Africa are to protect the sports form suffering a similar fate.
Safeguarding the future of eSports in Africa
1. Strong talent development plan
One of the greatest challenges that the African continent face is its inability to have a healthy talent development plan to develop talents on the continent. Even with our football youth teams, there is, arguably, no solid plan to ensure that a player gains the right basics to get a successful career. In as much as the above claim might appear speculative, it has some basis when taking into consideration a research that was carried out by INSEAD.
Thenerve.com indicates that Sub Saharan Africa has been discovered to have the weakest average performance on the 2019 Global Talent Competitiveness Index. This conclusion was made by INSEAD who annually use the GTCI to measure the ability of countries to compete for talent. It becomes even more hurting to know that the continent suffered the same fate in 2018 per the GTCI report.
The worrying statistics reveal that the continent has done little in developing talents on the continent. This attitude could be carried into the world of eSports if academies are not setup to give young eSports athletes the needed foundational knowledge to become better professionals.
Young eSports athletes or professionals need to be socialized to understand that eSports is not just about sitting behind a screen and practicing. There are other things such as exercising and maintaining a healthy and balanced diet which are crucial to an eSports athletes’ success.
Mat Taylor, manager of Team Envy’s Dallas Fuel Overwatch team, indicates that exercise is a very important activity for eSports players. “Professional players – just like in any other sport – have to practice their craft and keep their minds and bodies well equipped to perform well…,” he said. “Most important is just staying active with a balance of general physical fitness activities: you want to mix in a healthy dose of weightlifting, cardio, etc. to be in good physical shape”.
If our athletes are not given this foundational information as part of the talent development plan, the continent will definitely stand no chance of winning more players when the battle arises between the African continent and other continents.
2. Providing the needed facilities and equipment
While working on creating a robust development plan, stakeholders in the industry should also not underrate the need to provide better facilities and equipment for eSports athletes on the continent. Providing facilities and equipment like the tournament arenas, best gears, controllers and others are very essential because it will equip the athletes to compete effectively on the international stage.
Providing the best gears also has it psychological importance as well. Gladiatorguards.com indicates that “Self-esteem is a major factor when it comes to performance. With beautiful custom team apparel, your players won’t just look like champions, they’ll feel like champions. And feeling like a champion is the first step to actually becoming a champion.
3. Providing better incentives
It should be the greatest responsibility of various teams or eSports organizations to give the best incentives to their eSports athletes on the continent. Incentives will not just help athletes take care of their needs but as Sarah Kayong, country manager of DHL Malawi, notes, “A good benefit package gives employees a sense that the company cares and appreciates their hard work.”
If the continent intends on dealing with a past that has been haunting it for several years, then there is the need to provide the best incentives for eSports athletes on the continent.
The aura among most people involved in the eSports industry in Africa is quite sensational. There is a positive feeling that the African continent could become a powerhouse in the eSports industry. But if care is not taken, the continent’s inability to develop its talent would seriously blight the future of eSports in Africa.
It is high time that the various stakeholders in the eSports industry put in place the necessary measures to create a robust talent development plan, provide the needed facilities and equipment and also offer better incentives for eSports athletes to help safeguard the future of eSports in Africa. Until then, there is every possibility that the continent will continue to lose its best talent to other continents.