Reece Calderbank: Africa is an evolving opportunity for FSB

As Africa continues to evolve at a fast pace due to the adoption of more efficient technology, the opportunity for growth in the continent is greater than ever.

One supplier that has found sustained success in the region is FSB. Here, we speak to Business Development Manager – Africa, Reece Calderbank about his company’s commitment to the region.

SBC: Hi Reece. In your time at FSB you’ve played a leading role in its continuing success in Africa. How big do you feel the opportunity is in the region?

RC: Africa remains a core, committed region for us at FSB. We’ve been operational in the continent since 2016 powering it with our comprehensive gaming stack whilst harvesting long term partnerships with the likes of multi-brand global enterprise Oxygen8 and BetLion.

The opportunity for me is stark. As smartphone penetration continues to increase in the region we’re seeing the impossible becoming possible when it comes to the reach of technology. The blight of COVID has changed behaviours with more players migrating online and that presents the chance to offer this audience a contemporary product replete with the likes of sportsbook streaming and live dealer casino experiences. Africa is evolving at pace and we have an offering that can match that.

As possibilities widen, so do operator requirements. What we find in the region is that heritage and trust are becoming increasingly important. Operators want to work with credible partners that have expertise and experience flowing through their organisation. This plays into our hands very effectively with our long-standing presence in Africa and renowned knowledge across technology and trading.

SBC: You’ve talked in the past about being product fit for Africa. Please explain?

RC: Ultimately, when you’ve been successfully operating in Africa for over half a decade the market has confidence in your product. The aim from Day 1 was always to build a truly localised highly scalable offer across platform, payments and front end. We’ve achieved that. This is a truly Tier 1 premium omnichannel offering across online and retail that’s comprehensively housed within the convenience of a localised single view back office platform. The proprietary nature of our technology and deep breadth of offering allows us to work with partners to curate the optimal sports betting and iGaming experiences required for their end users and target markets.

With a considerable period of time in the region under our belts, we’ve endeavoured to listen and learn from our multiple partners so our localised product provides the experiences that our operators and their end users require. To give you some examples…building functionality that allows players to place 50+ football selections within a bet slip, enabling operators to use our platform to pivot tax rates across territories and enriching our African product set by building our own lottery and jackpot engines to satisfy the increasing demand for these secondary verticals.

It’s by understanding the needs of the key market stakeholders that we achieve success, trust and a leading position in the region.

SBC: Retail gaming is embedded into the culture in Africa. We heard from your Head Of Retail Russell Colvin in December about his ambitions for FSB in this sector. Do these goals transfer to Africa?

RC: Without doubt. Russell is delivering a genuinely innovative progressive retail offering for FSB that is generating industry buzz as witnessed at ICE in April. In terms of Africa specifically, we’re taking a bold position by being one of the first suppliers to widely target the sector with our SSBT kiosks. 

Backing this up will be a number of ongoing omnichannel friendly developments that include an Africa friendly EPOS solution, multi-language terminals to support the deep cross-continent spread of language, quick bet configuration, short codes and fixture codes. Crucially, we’re also working on repeat bet functionality on our lottery product that should make a significant difference in controlling long queues within retail environments. 

There’s no doubt it’s been a challenging couple of years in retail for Africa, with not only COVID but more recently in South Africa specifically, the recent KwaZulu Natal floods posing significant challenges for the vertical. We have full faith though in the importance of retail from an experience and cultural point of view in the region.

SBC: You’ve made significant global strides in recent months. How do you remain focussed on Africa?

RC: While we’re a global entity, we have regional functions across Europe, North America, Africa and the Rest Of The World. These functions are independent whilst feeding into global strategy and are separately ring-fenced when it comes to development resources. So, to concur, it has been a transformational 12 months for FSB with market entry secured in the US, multiple partnerships signed in Ontario and a major Tier 1 WLA partnership in Europe with the Hungarian Lottery backed SZRT Slovakia, but we remain very committed to the continent and see Africa as a huge part of our growth journey in the months and years ahead.

I also think it’s really important to state that having global stature appeases and reassures operators. This centres on trust. What I’ve found in Africa is that they understand we’re a serious, respected global Tier 1 supplier with partnerships in very challenging, competitive marketplaces. That badge of honour gives them another reason to partner with us. 

SBC: You mentioned South Africa earlier? What are FSB’s ambitions there?

RC: It’s a market we’ve been considering for a long time. We are currently in the process of testing our platform against the SANS1718-4 requirements with GLI. These technical specifications are built within a framework of specific, unique requirements for the South African market and we are working through them at pace which is great credit to the scale and flexibility of our platform.

South Africa is a perfect fit for us in the sense that it blends together elements of a mature Western European market with a more traditional African one. This make-up gives it a real unique flavour that suits our strengths. 

We can support South Africa via our platform, products and people. Our back office proprietary platform allows operators to target VIPs via our manual bet functionality and unique marketing tools. With product, our new comprehensive React supported frontend can be the perfect front-of-house engine for South African operators. Our people are passionate about sport and sports betting and that is crystallised within our trading team, led by Mark Wilson, that offer a level of expertise and knowledge that cuts through in Africa. Specifically in football and horse racing.

SBC: Give us one thing that stands you apart in South Africa?

RC: If I’m limited to one element, I’d offer up our localised horse racing product. This is perfect for the South African market. With our unique UK heritage, our racing offering is generally recognised as industry leading in terms of the choice, control and valued collaboration we can offer our partners. 

An example of this would be our ability to empower our South African partners to self trade their domestic horse racing product while we cover the rest of the long tail content as part of our Managed Trading Service. This hybrid trading functionality supports the knowledge and expertise that South Africans have in their cornerstone sport while allowing us to offer a leading, trading service on the rest of the content. Again, this is all about curating the exact offering required across product choice and platform control for our operator partners.

To summarise, we offer that blend of a Tier 1 global supplier with a sophisticated localised offering. We understand the complexities of South Africa and the African region as a whole but bring with it regional heritage allied with operator choice and control at the heart of what we do. With a Tier 1 operator migrating over to our platform in H2 2022, our African operation scales up further as our localised product continues to be fine-tuned. Make no mistake, the African opportunity is significant.

Reece can be contacted at [email protected] and will be part of the FSB team exhibiting at Betting On Sports Europe next week, Stand A4.

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