Is Africa’s Metaverse Commercially Viable?
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Investment - March 16, 2022

Is Africa’s Metaverse Commercially Viable?

Global tech giants are pumping billions of dollars into the Metaverse and interestingly, Africa is also positioning to tap into the commercial opportunities of the Metaverse.

About two weeks ago, MTN, Africa’s largest telecommunications company, announced that it had bought 144 plots of land in South Africa’s first Metaverse, Africacare. The land is situated in Ubuntuland, a virtual land modelled after the African landscape in Africarare. 

MTN’s Group Executive for Marketing, Bernice Samuels, said the metaverse acquisition was part of its Ambition 2025 based on “leveraging trends that amplify consumer’s digital experiences and engagement.”

Using the Metaverse, MTN says it intends to increase its customer attractiveness through a series of experiences merged consumer passion points like gaming and music.

Not a few people felt stupefied by the announcement because the Metaverse is still a relatively new phenomenon worldwide, particularly in Africa. But while the Metaverse might be new, it is growing fast, and experts have predicted that it is the next big thing in tech.

Though Africacare leads Africa’s Metaverse market, the top global players include Roblox, Minecraft and Fortnite. Roblox has about 44 million active users, and it is now valued at more than $45 billion after going public in 2021. 

Microsoft owns Minecraft, which is the digital version of Lego, and boasts more than 140 million active monthly users. During the pandemic, it exploded among kids, which relied on it to connect virtually with friends. 

Experts expect the Metaverse market value to hit $800billion in 2024, but even that is considered too conservative given the rate at which the market is currently growing.

Though MTN did not disclose how much it paid for the piece of real estate on Metaverse, a CNBC report indicates that lands in the virtual world do not come cheap; they sometimes run into millions of dollars.

For example, Toronto based recently paid $2.5million for a patch of land on Metaverse, while Republic Realm churned out $4.3million for another piece of digital real estate.  

Even international celebrities like Snoop Doggy Dog, Paris Hilton and Justin Biber are catching in on the craze. A recent report by Crypto Asset has projected that the digital world may soon hit $1trilion in valuation.

Is Africa’s Metaverse Commercially Viable?

Metaverse is still evolving

But despite the euphoria and buzz already created by existing Metaverse platforms, the market is pretty much in its infancy. 

At best, what we have is an online game universe, which is a glimpse of the ultimate Metaverse that the likes of Meta (former Facebook) and Microsoft have visualised. 

The CEO of Meta (formerly Facebook), Mark Zuckerberg, says it will take another five to 10 years before the key features of the Metaverse will become mainstream, which is why it’s commendable that Africa is early to the Metaverse party. It changes the narrative that Africans adopt an innovation after the rest of the world.

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In line with his Meta’s desire to create the ultimate Metaverse, the company has made a significant investment in virtual reality, including the acquisition of Oculus in 2014.

“The next platform and medium will be even more immersive and embodied internet where you’re in the experience, not just looking at it, and we call this the Metaverse,” Zuckerberg said.

On the other hand, Microsoft acquired Action Blizzard in January in a deal worth almost $70 billion. With this, Microsoft will become the world’s third-largest gaming company by revenue, behind Tencent and Sony. 

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella explained that the deal would “provide building blocks for the Metaverse.”

What is Metaverse?

It is hard to come up with a perfect definition of the Metaverse because the idea is still budding. But based on what many of its advocates have said, Metaverse can be a virtual world where the avatars or online identities of people can interact and carry out social transactions.

This means that instead of just viewing or listening to content on the internet, people can go inside the internet world, creating content in real-time for others while also experiencing the same.

Gaming is a significant component of the Metaverse, but instead of choosing from a set of predefine players, users can create a player who looks like them. They can also team up with players worldwide to play in tournaments.

The Metaverse or Africa’s Metaverse provides opportunities for users to build commercial space shops and malls. They can also do other fun stuff like attending concerts and conferences and going on virtual trips worldwide. 

Like cryptocurrencies, NFTs and DeFis, the Metaverse is enabled by blockchain technology, making real-life transactions possible.

How businesses can take advantage of the Metaverse

As the Metaverse evolves into major convergence points for online users, businesses are paying close attention, intending to leverage the opportunities therein to connect with their target markets, which is what MTN is trying to do with Africa’s Metaverse.

But the question is, how can brands shape the Metaverse to their advantage?

According to a recent report by WPP, “the Metaverse presents a potentially major opportunity for brands, but only if they prioritise consumers and their experiences over everything else.” 

“To succeed authentically in the Metaverse, many brands will have to leave their usual marketing strategies and patterns behind. Brands must forget about intercepting,” the report said.

It is not enough for brands to merely show up or buy plots of lands on Metaverse. They need to do much more by way of creating marketing campaigns that are authentically experiential and immersive. 

Brands must develop a strategy that delivers a real-time presence with meaningful impact where they offer users something of value without interfering with disturbing their fun.

Reports have shown that the Metaverse is mainly dominated by the younger generation, 25 years and below. So this presents an opening for businesses to design advertising and marketing campaigns that target this market category. 

“Brands can execute strategies to not only attract younger audiences’ attention but to change the perception of their brand among this much-valued cohort,” WPP explained.

ALSO READ: 3 African Companies We Already Know will Help Build Facebook’s Metaverse

Building a long-lasting relationship and communities

The younger audience is said to be the most loyal and passionate. According to Mark Perna, a contributor on Forbes, “if companies can inspire their commitment, they will go all the way.” 

So for brands that desire to build a long-lasting relationship with their audience, the Metaverse presents an opportunity. However, such privilege can only be achieved if they bring something meaningful to the table. 

So how can brands achieve this in the Metaverse?

Brands need to take time to study the Metaverse and immerse themselves in the universe, and the approach may vary depending on what they each want to achieve. 

They also need to learn the language and culture therein to begin to provide value and rewards to users.

American sportswear giant, Nike, known for being bullish in its marketing campaigns appears to have led the way in metaverse marketing strategy. 

In November, the company announced a decision to begin the creation of virtual branded sneakers and apparel and build a virtual retail environment on the Metaverse to sell those goods. 

This will allow users the opportunity to interact virtually with Nike products during their time in the Metaverse.

Stella Artois has a different approach. The Belgian brewing brand, one of the major sponsors of premium horse racing tracks such as Ascot, has now moved the same idea to the Metaverse, where it has a deal to sponsor Zed Run, an online horse racing platform. 

The options in Metaverse are endless, and the brands that will get the most reward are those that think and act in the most creative ways.  

Will there be one Metaverse or many? 

Though many people favour a single Metaverse universe, no uniform standard exists for the virtual world for now. Every company involved in it is trying to gain an advantage over the competition. 

There is no collaboration between the companies, which has heightened the concerns that there may be many Metaverse universes instead of just one.

However, Meta has stressed the need for interoperability, adding that it is crucial to the project’s success. 

That means, If you have an avatar on Facebook, you should be able to use it on a Microsoft platform. That suggests a single metaverse.

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