Kenya, Sports Betting, And The "Get Rich Quick" Paradigm
Sports betting firms have set up camp in Kenya because we seem to embrace schemes that promise quick success.
I am writing this because I believe we are facing a situation that's spiraling out of control. We, Kenyans, have a problem that looms perilously over our heads. One that’s as much a part of human nature as it is Kenyan culture, and that if left unchecked could be catastrophic to our economy. It’s not uncommon for us to seek success and a transition to better lifestyles beyond our immediate circumstances, and that’s okay. The way I see it, the problem is that we’ve made such a big fuss about life and success that everyone is prepared to do whatever it takes to “succeed”, including cutting corners and falling victim to pyramid schemes (remember the quail eggs?). In reality, success is relative; it’s one of those “one man’s trash is another’s treasure” scenarios. But with sports betting firms cropping up all over the country, many Kenyans see betting as their out.
It's a well-known fact that the poverty gap in Kenya is quite significant, which of course can be broken down further by region. This means that many households fall below the poverty line and struggle to make ends meet every day, but that’s merely one way to look at it. Other factors also need be considered, including the high unemployment rate – especially among the youth. However, this is not an economics class, so I’ll only mention certain things in passing.
Moving on; Kenyans have a sickness that has spread across generations like a wildfire, which my former economics Professor wittingly referred to as the “And me too” Syndrome. What that means is that we seemingly love to emulate or imitate others, especially where the aforementioned success is in question a – fact that a majority of Kenyans can attest to. We see it all the time, even among businesses. Case in point, the Uber and SportPesa phenomenons. Now, insert online sports betting firms, with a hunger for quick success. Dangerous concoction, right? I mean, this is something that I am seeing first hand in my own home.
Allow me to digress; according to a report by the Communications Authority of Kenya (CA), there are about 37.8 million active mobile phone users in Kenya, of whom 21.6 million have access to internet and data services. In a country with approximately 43 million people, those are no small figures! Back to the subject matter; this means that there are so many people with internet-enabled devices (even those below the poverty line, including the unemployed youth). Sports betting is no new thing, but times have changed. With Kenya leading the world in mobile money solutions, the bare minimum required to place a bet now is a phone that can connect to the internet and a mobile money account.
I believe that sports betting has now become such a huge problem in Kenya, that many people are engaging themselves in it like they are employed to do place bets. But can you blame them? We’re handing so much money to the sports betting firms that even the GoK proposed to impose a 50% tax on earnings from online betting, and I don't think they should be blamed either.
I guess the message I am try to put through with all my rambling is that nothing worthwhile in life comes easy. You shouldn't be "broke" today and wake up a millionaire tomorrow. The reason is simple; when you do, there's usually no happy ending, especially if your first reaction at the sight of all those zeroes in your bank account is to sweat buckets. You need to appreciate progress and the concept of working your way up the ladder. Allow me to be the bearer of bad news and say there are no shortcuts. You have to work your fingers to the bone to realise lasting success!