Last week, one of the leading global media houses published a story about young Rwandans finding themselves at the crossroads due to a betting addiction that is driving youths to the lowest echelons of life.
Like any gambling business, betting thrives on sheer luck, and some will go to the extent of staking their life savings, rent or school fees, with the hope of getting rich quick from their predictions.
Often, they will end up frustrated while some will go on the verge of committing suicide after incurring serious losses that put their lives at stake.
Such was the case of Emery Munyabugingo, a university student who at one time staked his tuition on football games only for him to lose it all in two attempts.
“I was tempted to stake half of my tuition on several games in September last year with the hope of recouping it. One of the four games did not go as planned,”
“I lost the bet. I again put the remaining amount hoping to recover what I had already lost and that is how I lost it all. I could not tell my parents but eventually I became confident in them,” says Munyabungingo.
Betting or gambling addictions are a real threat and what is even worse, many quietly suffer, fearing to expose themselves, as the addiction gets worse by the day.
It is for that reason that Adam Bradford, a 30-year-old British businessman set out to start an initiative to help tackle gambling addiction -something that many do not realise how serious it is.
At the age of 21, Bradford took it upon himself to settle his father’s £500,000 secret gambling debts and later came up with a betting safety app named “BetProtect” to help people suffering from betting or gambling addiction just like his father.
Having learned from his personal experience, Bradford, who was recognised among the Queen’s Young Leaders, set out to create more awareness on gambling addiction, which is how he ended up in Rwanda.
At a tender age, Bradford learnt of his dad’s addiction when he was going to prison after he was found guilty of stealing £50,000 from his bosses to feed his gambling addiction.
The then-21-year-old made it his mission to pay back every penny owed before creating a betting safety app called “BetProtect” to help prevent others enduring similar pain and suffering.
He later sold the app to international gambling body, Crucial Compliance, and used the proceeds to embark on his global mission to save young people from the betting addiction, currently sweeping across the African continent.
Crucial Compliance is one of the biggest gaming consultancies in the world, working with the big gambling operators across the globe.
The social entrepreneur also helps young people overcoming the gambling addiction to turn into entrepreneurs with a purpose as one of the sustainable ways to help them recover fully.
Starting off in Rwanda
Bradford hopes that rolling out BetProtect in Rwanda will be a timely intervention, especially in rural parts of Rwanda, where betting has become a sort of way of life for the youth who spend every penny they get on betting.
“We are looking to roll it out as a therapy tool that will provide digital counselling to people who might have a problem. We are also running hackathons with industry companies to help them understand gambling addiction,” Bradford says.
He pointed out that in the next few months they will be rolling out the support services in communities where they have noticed challenges, especially among young people in rural communities.
How does the app work?
According to Bradford, the app now operated by Crucial Compliance, uses artificial intelligence and algorithms to observe one’s playing patterns, including the time you play, the frequency and spending.
When it notices that your gambling ways are getting out of hand, it warns you and the companies you are playing with, to keep you in check.
“It’s all about preventing the addiction from taking over somebody in that state of mind,” Bradford says in a recent interview.
Diagnosed with autism at the age of 11, Bradford has made it his mission to make the world a better place, through social activities and philanthropic work that focuses on empowering the less privileged.
As a Queen’s Young Leaders Award winner, recognised by the Commonwealth, among young people exhibiting extraordinary leadership in their communities, Bradford believes a lot more can be done to rein in gambling addictions.
Bradford, who first came to Rwanda for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting last year, hooked up with an old friend, Emmanuel Nshimiyimana, from Rwanda Opportunities Organization, with whom they teamed up to work on different initiatives empowering young people.
Together they empower rural communities through literacy, reading and writing skills, while at the same time equipping them with entrepreneurial and ICT skills.
In his own words, Bradford says he was impressed by what Rwanda was doing and he wanted to be part of the dream.
“I was just fascinated by what the country’s doing, because we’ve always had an eye for giving opportunities, supporting the next generation, wanting to mentor and give back – and then something just struck a chord – I’d made my decision within 48 hours,” he told a UK newspaper recently.
Bradford believes that the perception of what Rwanda is for outsiders is mostly misconstrued but the country has a bright future in many sectors including ICT and agriculture, among other areas.
“I think the people are some of the friendliest people in the whole world, and I’ve travelled a lot – they are very kind, they’re friendly, they would do anything for you,” he said in the interview.
The Sheffield-born entrepreneur dispels rumours spread about Rwanda, regarding the country and its people, most of which are biased and meant to paint a wrong image of the country he has since fallen in love with.