The MENA region – the last bastion of hope for Esports?

The panel discussion at SiGMA Eurasia 2024, moderated by Arshiya “Xarshyy” Faraghat, shed light on the unique opportunities and challenges within the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region’s Esports industry. With panelists Aravind Swaminathan, Benedikt Becker, and Paul Dawalibi, the conversation explored the potential of MENA as a burgeoning hub for Esports.

Embracing opportunities in the MENA Esports landscape

Paul Dawalibi, CEO of Holodeck Ventures, emphasized the MENA region as the “last bastion of hope” for the Esports industry, highlighting substantial governmental investments prioritizing growth over immediate profitability. Dawalibi underscored the industry’s dependence on such investments for survival, signaling a significant shift in the global Esports landscape.

Aravind Swaminathan, co-founder & business development director at Calyx, echoed Dawalibi’s sentiments, acknowledging the influx of capital into MENA Esports. Xarshyy emphasized the importance of raising awareness about Esports in the region, recognizing its current growth phase.

Benedikt Becker, Marketing Director at Shikenso Analytics, identified reaching the Gen Z audience as a prominent opportunity within the MENA market. This focus on younger demographics signifies a potential avenue for exponential growth and engagement in the region.

Addressing challenges and paving the way forward

Alongside these opportunities, the panelists also addressed the challenges hindering the full realization of MENA’s Esports potential. Xarshyy highlighted cultural perceptions and societal norms as significant barriers, drawing from her personal experience of familial disapproval when pursuing a career in Esports over dentistry.

Aravind Swaminathan pinpointed the lack of understanding among sponsors regarding Esports, emphasizing the need for educational initiatives to bridge this knowledge gap. Paul Dawalibi raised concerns about the long-term sustainability of the industry, particularly in the face of fragmented investments and the balancing act between attracting tourists and catering to the local population, as seen in Saudi Arabia.

Benedikt Becker articulated his hope for MENA to pioneer a new era of Esports, stressing the importance of analytics in justifying investments and understanding audience engagement. He emphasized the need for governments to invest in grassroots Esports initiatives and startup support to foster a thriving ecosystem.

In conclusion, Xarshyy posed a forward-looking question to the panelists: where do they envision MENA Esports in a decade? While Dawalibi remained skeptical, Swaminathan anticipated major sponsorships flooding the region, while Becker highlighted cloud gaming as a potential game-changer. Their insights underscored both the potential and the challenges facing MENA Esports, painting a complex yet promising picture of its future.

SiGMA Africa – only 2 weeks away!

With two weeks until the highly anticipated SiGMA Africa event kicks off in Cape Town, South Africa on the 11th of March, the gaming industry is abuzz with excitement. SiGMA Group recognizes the need to foster collaboration and innovation within the industry. By bringing together leading stakeholders and visionaries in gaming, SiGMA aims to catalyse progress and propel Africa and Eurasia towards a new era of prosperity and opportunity. As the countdown to the events begin, anticipation mounts for what promises to be two landmark gatherings of and trailblazers.