It is not uncommon in the innovation space in Zimbabwe to hear about gaming or esports. This is because we have seen a growth spurt in Esports in Zimbabwe. Individuals and groups, like Esports Zimbabwe, have been actively working to not only create awareness but also putting together well publicised gaming events and tournaments. We are beginning to view gaming as a viable career option.
Esports Zimbabwe, founder Thomas Arnold Phiri described it as an “organisation that acts as a bridge between Government, Industry, and Community, coordinating efforts so as to create an environment that encourages amateur and professional Esports in Zimbabwe from grassroots initiatives through to full professional level competitive Esports and related technologies.”
Pro Gaming has been viewed as “unAfrican” because it’s not considered your mainstream career, moreover in Zimbabwe. This could partly explain the low uptake of gaming as a viable means of income. Taking off a gaming career in Zimbabwe really isn’t the easiest thing in Zimbabwe. By engaging with relevant players in the esports ecosystem and drawing the right attention, Esports Zimbabwe has helped to shape the gaming narrative in the country.
The organisation is currently working on gaining membership into the Global Esports Federation (GEF) and the International Esports Federation. Being part of such large international bodies, will open up new and big opportunities for the Zimbabwean gaming space. In March this year, two Zimbabweans were appointed as GEF commissioners. This puts the country at an advantage and creates opportunities to share the Zimbabwean gamers’ story.
Creating international opportunities for Zimbabwean gamers
In 2016, eSports Zim signed on Zibusiso Mangena as its first-ever professional gamer into the league. He was selected to represent the country by competing in regional and international gaming esports tournaments. Professional gamers compete for prizes that range from cash, gear or opportunities to be signed with major gaming leagues. Under the eSports Zim banners, Zibusiso, aka ZeetheJanitor, will be furnished with travel and accommodation when travelling to participate in gaming events.
So what does it take be part of the Esports Zim?
There are a few basic requirements one has to adhere to, in order to be recruited as an Esports Zim Pro Gamer.
- They must be a Zimbabwean citizen with a valid Zimbabwean passport
- Should have access to a gaming PC or console
- They must have access to an easily available and reliable internet connection They must be able to show their ranking and statistics (if they stream their gameplay)
It is popular for gamers to meet and network either in person during tournaments or during online events. These platforms allow gamers to develop their skills through regular gameplay. Despite the restrictions brought by the Covid19 pandemic, Zimbabwean gamers were still able to show off their skills through online gaming events hosted by Esports Zim like the Africa Community Cup, the Queens of Africa series, the Zimbabwe Fortnite National Qualifiers, and many more.
While there has been growth in the Zimbabwean esports space, it is not without its challenges. The unstable Zimbabwean economy plagued by a shortage of foreign currency has left Esports Zimbabwe unable to meet their sponsorship goals and obligations. While they host regular tournaments, shortages in cash mean they struggle to pay cash prizes to winners. Similarly these financial challenges affect gamers as many cannot get access to the necessary gear for them to play professionally.
What’s in store for gamers in Zimbawe?
Esports Zim is currently preparing for the Africa Esports Championships Season 2, which will bring together African gamers. The event which was scheduled to take place in Kenya, has been taken online due to Covid-19 restrictions. Some of the featured games in the championship include PubG Mobile, FIFA20, League of Legends, and Street Fighter. According to Esports Zimbabwe the Championship will commence with a national league and then knock out grand finals.
The global esports industry is worth a whopping $1.1 billion and is projected to reach $3 billion by 2022. With the African youth population set to steadily increase over the decade, it is likely that the African gaming industry will grow. Opportunities for game creators and players will open up new and improved revenue streams for the African continent.