Here it is a story:
I worked two game design jobs in the industry. The first one, for a little over a year, was with a Cairo-based studio. It was a nice and cozy environment, but the salary was quite low (200 EUR). Later, they changed their policies and decided to double the salaries while laying off half the team, including me. I was placed on something called a PIP (Performance Improvement Plan) to work on improving vague areas like “critical thinking, initiative, and quality.” However, without clear goal posts, I was laid off after a month. It was a frustrating experience, to be honest.
My current team is a remote group of Egyptians operating from Estonia. The salary is somewhat better (though not as good as 400 EUR), but we don’t have a physical office. It could be a great job with a slightly higher salary, like 600 EUR per month. I’m much happier here, and I’m planning to relocate for game development work. Egypt doesn’t seem to be a favorable place for game developers.
Kamal’s journey in the game industry began while studying computer science in college. The studio evolved from a group of enthusiasts into a professional game development services company. Kamal transitioned from a game programmer to CEO, steering the company toward the ambitious goal of becoming the number one game development services studio in MENA.
The Egyptian Game Development Landscape
Egypt’s game industry is experiencing significant growth, with the market projected to reach a revenue of EGP US$983.80 million in 2023. It is expected to maintain an annual growth rate of 8.85% from 2023 to 2027, reaching a market volume of EGP US$1,381.00 million by 2027. The user penetration rate is also on the rise, projected to increase from 33.8% in 2023 to 38.9% by 2027.
Mobile Games dominate the market, holding the largest share with a market volume of EGP US$665.40 million in 2023. Egypt’s game industry is experiencing rapid growth, driven by a rising middle class and increased access to the internet and mobile technology.
A report by Niko Partners estimated the combined games market across Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Egypt to be worth $1.76 billion in 2021, with Egypt having the highest number of gamers, accounting for 58.7% of the total across these three territories.
Kamal acknowledges the difficulties within the Egyptian game development industry, including economic instability and regional issues. He also highlights that the number of professional studios dedicated to nurturing talent and fostering growth is limited, with Game Hermits being one of the exceptions, recognized by the Institution of Technology and Information in Egypt (ITI).
While investments in Egypt’s game development industry have been on the rise over the past four years, 2023 has introduced new challenges due to regional issues and the devaluation of the Egyptian pound. Securing funding and expanding operations has become increasingly difficult for developers, underlining the impact of external factors on the industry.
However, from an investor perspective, Egypt offers numerous opportunities due to its geographical proximity to Europe and the MENA region.
Talent Market and Salaries
Egypt’s talent market for game developers is vibrant and full of potential, making it a strong candidate to become the hub of game development in the MENA region.
The anonymous story reveals that salaries in Egypt’s game development industry are relatively low compared to neighboring countries. The country boasts competitive market wages, with a relatively low minimum monthly wage of 2,400 EGP, making it attractive for foreign investments. The IT sector in Egypt offers even more competitive salaries, with IT professionals earning an average of 10,000 EGP per month.
Egypt’s labor market is also young and skilled, welcoming over half a million new professionals each year. During the global lockdown, the country’s skilled young workforce smoothly transitioned to remote work, boosting business productivity. Experts in the industry are rare, often opting to stay with their current employers or seek opportunities outside Egypt.
Kamal is describing Egypt as the “Ukraine or Poland of MENA,” mentioning a vast talent pool, cost-effectiveness, and high-quality work. This positioning presents opportunities for both local and international investors to tap into Egypt’s skilled game development workforce.
Infrastructure and Community
Egypt’s strong education system includes over 50 accredited universities and 100 technical institutes, producing 500,000 graduates annually, with a significant number having IT-related skillsets. Government initiatives further support the market, offering grants for technology-related fields and training programs for fresh graduates.
Infrastructure in Egypt is advancing, with upgrades to internet and electricity networks. Internet capacity has been increased to 60 Tbps, and the country is set to operate its first nuclear power plant by 2026. Additionally, Egypt has established 54 fully equipped technology hubs to support startups and provide workspaces and facilities.
Egypt’s games community is thriving, with events like the Arabic Games initiative and the Insomnia Egypt Gaming Festival, which promotes the local gaming scene and brings together developers and gamers from the MENA region and North Africa.
Gender Issues in the Egyptian Games Industry
The Global Gender Gap Report 2022, released by the World Economic Forum, ranks Egypt 129th out of 149 countries assessed in the 2022 index. Notably, Egypt has the highest wage disparity with a ratio of 3.84, signifying that men earn four times more than women relative to GDP per capita. Furthermore, the World Bank has pointed out the significant gender inequality in the labor market, with women comprising just 18% of the total workforce in Egypt in 2022.
Adding to this, the World Bank’s 2021 report highlighted that an increase in female workforce participation could potentially boost Egypt’s GDP by 34%. This underscores the untapped potential of women’s economic contributions. The active involvement of women in the financial sector, especially in executive and board positions, contributes to the country’s resilience and stability. According to the World Bank, achieving the goals outlined in Egypt’s Vision 2030 necessitates addressing the underrepresentation of women, particularly at senior leadership levels.
Kamal proudly shared, “Our team is 54% women.” He went on to explain, “Almost all of our artists are women, and we don’t have a specific policy for hiring women. So, the 54% female representation in our team is because women excel, especially in art and creative fields.”
Kamal is confident that women are paid fairly in well-established companies. He emphasized, “A senior 3D artist, whether male or female, receives the same compensation.”
However, Kamal acknowledged, “One aspect worth mentioning is that not all companies can provide paid maternity leave when a female team member takes time off for childbirth. Nonetheless, due to our flexible work hours policy, women don’t feel pressured to juggle work and family responsibilities. Two of our senior team members are married women, one of whom has a newborn, as I mentioned earlier, and they find it very comfortable working with us.”
The anonymous story of a game developer’s experience in Egypt, alongside Kamal’s insights, highlights both the challenges and potential for growth in the country’s game development industry. Egypt’s talent pool, cost-effectiveness, and the ambitions of industry leaders like Kamal provide a glimpse of the promising future for game development. To fully realize its potential and compete on a global scale, addressing economic challenges and regional issues is crucial. Egypt has the raw ingredients to become a prominent player in the global games market, provided that the necessary steps are taken to overcome the current hurdles.