An African non-government organisation (NGO) is lobbying Malta officials claiming Malta-based gambling operators are targeting and causing harm to young people in Africa.
The group, Young Africans Fighting Online Gambling (YAFOG), claims gambling is a “predatory industry”, preying on “our most vulnerable people”.
“From my research with my countrypeople, I can record to you that our young people are being targeted and groomed into an addictive state of peril. This is evil on your part with high impact,” wrote “Joseph”, who described himself as a 31-year-old journalist writing an open letter to “the people of Malta”.
“Perhaps the good people of Malta are unaware of the harm that is being done in their name?” he said.
Graham House, director of an affiliated group, Hope With Africa, said the group is seeking “meaningful conversation” with Malta officials.
He said the group has written to Malta’s foreign minister, Ian Borg, without response.
House said his group, which is also working on air ambulance and cervical cancer screening projects, is privately funded and is working with the ministries of several countries he would not name.
One UK-based researcher who has studied gambling regulation in sub-Saharan Africa said that he had not noticed any overwhelming prevalence of Malta-based operators in the market, but instead pointed to a “larger story about the vastly increased expansion and visibility of gambling across the continent”.
Researchers have cited a lack of regulatory oversight in Africa, particularly when it comes to advertising.
Darragh McGee of the University of Bath was among researchers examining countries such as Malawi and Ghana, who found a “regulatory void” in a study appearing in Public Health in January.
In Africa, gambling advertising is problematic but very effective, with “industry-friendly” messages that gambling “can be a supplementary form of income, and a viable avenue toward wealth generation”, he said.
Due to high youth unemployment and precariousness of labour, that message is “incredibly seductive” for young people, he said.
Much of the advertising suggests that gambling is a “fun, risk-free leisure form” that can “potentially alter your life”.