A handful of pro-gamers is putting Kenya on the global esports map

A handful of pro-gamers is putting Kenya on the global esports map

"Queen Arrow" is one of Kenya’s top esports gamers and has been signed on to UYU, one of the best esports teams in the fighting game community. Once a fringe sport, organized competitive gaming—known as esports —will this year hit revenues of over $1.1 billion with an audience of 474 million people. It’s even up for debate, whether esports will join the Olympics and if it even needs the Olympics given it has built its own legitimacy.

Africa is a hub of opportunities for esports given the large population of young people who are the major consumers. In Kenya, digital gaming is moving to a higher level of recognition as the industry yields high revenues.

In 2019, Kenya was ranked the eighth most popular gaming hub in Africa with the local market projected to reach $118 million in 2022 up from $63 million in 2017 , according to PwC. The industry is quickly shaking off the narrative that gaming is for kids and idlers.

High internet penetration , a youthful population, fast adoption of technology , and endorsements from deep-pocketed sponsors are among the key reasons for the rise of esports in Kenya. For example, in 2019, Kenya’s leading mobile network operator, Safaricom, in partnership with Pro Series Gaming (PSG) and Standard Group, ran an esports tournament “for youth aged between 18 and 26 who are looking at gaming as a career choice .” The event included at least 700 gamers and finals took place in five regions in Kenya.

Adam Mcloude Wekesa, an esports manager, says that the Kenyan esports community has attracted a huge number of gamers who join in all the way from Uganda and Tanzania in a bid to “get the Kenyan esport experience.”

“The level of esports awareness in Kenya has increased in folds and the results are measurable. Tournaments have increased and this is because more people are getting interested and becoming aware of the esport culture.” How are players picking up esports in Kenya?

Two top esports stars in the country—Sylvia Gathoni, known as “Queen Arrow,” and Brian Diang’a popularly known as “Beast”—got into professional gaming after participating in a Mortal Kombat tournament in 2017 and 2015 respectively.

“In 2015, I found a mortal kombat tournament being advertised and I signed up. It was my first time in a tournament and I finished third. Despite the odds, I was happy with my placement and I […]

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