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Exclusive: Innovation & Inclusivity: Navigating SiGMA’s African Expansion, Diversity, and Industry Innovation

“Behind every man’s success, there must be a woman involved”. This adage might be the best recap of SiGMA Group , a global iGaming authority that sheds a 360-degree spotlight on the online and land-based gaming industry. Currently, SiGMA boasts of nurturing gender balance among its employees despite male supremacism in the gaming industry. This year in October, SiGMA appointed Emily Micallef as the Group CEO. iGaming AFRIKA catches up with her as she takes us through her career journey, Women’s leadership in iGaming, SiGMA’s global expansion plans for the future and more.

iGaming AFRIKA: Can you provide a brief overview of your background and experience?

Emily Micallef: Before joining SiGMA I spent 11 years as an event planner, creating custom experiences for top tier clients visiting Malta. In 2019, I joined SiGMA as an Events Director before taking on the role of Events chief operating officer (COO). This October I was delighted to accept the position of Group chief executive officer (CEO).

iGaming AFRIKA: Congratulations on your recent appointment as CEO of SiGMA Group! How have you been adjusting to your new role?

Emily Micallef: Thank you! I’m excited to take on this new opportunity. My priority is to ensure SiGMA continues to maintain its growth trajectory whilst still retaining and improving on the quality we’ve become so well known for. I’m looking forward to being a part of this fast-changing industry and to lead the company from strength to strength. Emily Micallef SiGMA Group

iGaming AFRIKA: As a woman in a predominantly male industry, what do you attribute to your success and ability to thrive?

Emily Micallef: It is always a pleasure to work in an environment that is supportive. SiGMA is built on the efforts of a diverse and talented team. We believe it is important to prioritize the growth and development of our workforce by providing opportunities to upskill and broaden their knowledge base.

iGaming AFRIKA: SiGMA is known for its commitment to diversity and inclusivity. What drives the organization to prioritize these values, particularly when many other companies struggle with this issue?

Emily Micallef: SiGMA’s commitment to diversity and inclusivity is driven by a profound recognition of the intrinsic value that a diverse workforce brings to the organization. Diversity isn’t just a checkbox but a catalyst for innovation, creativity, and overall organizational success – bringing a wealth of perspectives that contribute to a dynamic and thriving workplace.

In an ever-evolving and competitive landscape, having a team that reflects the diversity of its audience positions the company to better understand and meet the needs of a broad range of stakeholders. This commitment not only enhances the organization’s reputation but also contributes to a positive and forward-thinking culture that attracts top talent.

iGaming AFRIKA: Joining SiGMA shortly before the Covid-19 pandemic must have presented unique challenges. What factors do you believe helped the organization weather the storm and emerge stronger?

Emily Micallef:The COVID-19 pandemic helped us realize how important a face-to-face environment really is. We learned a lot from this experience and from it came our first foray into international events – as well as the launch of our business to consumer (B2C) affiliate portal – SiGMA Play.

iGaming AFRIKA: SiGMA has expanded its presence significantly in recent years, including in Africa and South-East Asia. What motivated the organization to target these regions for expansion?

Emily Micallef: Supportive regulatory bodies and a strong legislative framework have laid the groundwork for countries like Manila and South Africa to position themselves as hubs in the region. Tech savvy workforces and early adoption of emerging technologies make them attractive locations for frontier industries to establish entrepreneurial roots. 

Emily Micallef: Supportive regulatory bodies and a strong legislative framework have laid the groundwork for countries like Manila and South Africa to position themselves as hubs in the region. Tech savvy workforces and early adoption of emerging technologies make them attractive locations for frontier industries to establish entrepreneurial roots. Emily Micallef SiGMA Group

Read Also: Upcoming iGaming Events in Africa: Unveiling Topics, Agendas, and Keynote Speakers – Webinar

iGaming AFRIKA: Can you share any details about the upcoming SiGMA Africa event in South Africa? Have you finalized a venue?

Emily Micallef: Yes, we’re excited to announce that the event will take place between the 11th and 13th of March at the Sun Exhibits at GrandWest – an Integrated Resort that is just a stone’s throw away from Cape Town’s city centre. Expect plenty of networking opportunities – from cultural tours and dinners to a glitzy awards night, startup pitch competition, and an expert-led conference agenda. We’ll be releasing more information over the coming months, so keep an eye out for some exciting new updates.

iGaming AFRIKA: Will SiGMA Africa include the introduction of SiGMA Awards for the African market?

Emily Micallef: Yes. Our Gala Awards evening takes place on the 11th of March. Nominations open in 2024. Emily Micallef SiGMA Group

iGaming AFRIKA: 2023 has been quite a booming year for the SiGMA group.Could you highlight some of the successes SiGMA group has achieved in 2023?

Emily Micallef: We revisited and improved upon a lot in 2023 – in addition to launching some new destinations. We were very proud to include Africa, Brazil, Manila, and Curaçao in our calendar of events and look forward to an equally exciting line-up next year.

iGaming AFRIKA: The recent event in Malta garnered considerable attention. Can we expect a similar level of excitement and innovation at SiGMA Africa in 2024 and beyond?

Emily Micallef: We’re looking forward to welcoming 2500 delegates to the SiGMA Africa event. While the market is still a relatively young one compared to Malta, delegates should expect the same high standards and attention to detail. South Africa is certainly an exciting market to explore, with the summit attracting plenty of top tier game changers to its stage and expo floor. Attendees should expect to meet an impressive lineup of policy makers, influencers, and government officials through its many networking activities and opportunities. 

iGaming AFRIKA: How does SiGMA navigate the diverse cultural and regulatory landscapes when organizing events in different regions? How does this impact the content and structure of the conferences?

Emily Micallef: We recognise that each region has its unique cultural nuances, legal frameworks, and industry dynamics. SiGMA’s approach involves a combination of research, partnerships, customisation, compliance, multilingual communication, and cultural sensitivity to successfully navigate the diverse cultural and regulatory landscapes when organizing events in different regions. This ensures that each conference is not only relevant but also respectful of the unique characteristics of the host region.

SiGMA often establishes partnerships with local organizations, industry associations, and regulatory bodies. These collaborations not only provide valuable insights into the regional landscape but also help in navigating regulatory complexities. 

Recognizing that a one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work in diverse regions, SiGMA customizes the content of its conferences to address region-specific challenges, opportunities, and trends. This includes tailoring panel discussions, keynote speeches, and workshops to resonate with the interests and concerns of the local audience.

Given the linguistic diversity in different regions, SiGMA adopts multilingual communication strategies. This includes providing conference materials in local languages, ensuring that speakers are proficient in the local language if necessary, and offering translation services during the event.

iGaming AFRIKA: SiGMA collaborates with various sectors, from healthcare, gaming and blockchain. Can you highlight a particularly successful collaboration that brought unexpected value to SiGMA events and the participants? Do you foresee establishing such collaborations in places like Africa as well?

Emily Micallef: As you’ve seen from 2023 with our partnerships with Brazil iGaming Summit (BIS) and Affiliate World (AW), we’re focusing heavily on strengthening the product we’re providing to the industry. Especially with the introduction of SiGMA Play, where we are providing a one stop platform for all our clients. Emily Micallef SiGMA Group

Affiliate World will join our Dubai and Manila shows in February and June respectively, as well as our SiGMA East Europe event in September – which we’re excited to announce will take place for the first time in Budapest. All operators coming to SiGMA will now have peace of mind knowing that they will be able to connect with another 5000 super affiliates in the same city the event is taking place in.

iGaming AFRIKA: The affiliate marketing sector for iGaming is not as developed in Africa compared to other parts of the world. How do you plan to attract African affiliates to your upcoming event in Africa?

Emily Micallef: Our recent partnership with Affiliate World has made the SiGMA brand stronger than ever before. Africa has proven to be one of the most interesting up-and-coming regions and is definitely on the radar of a lot of our affiliates.

iGaming AFRIKA: What are your future plans for SiGMA Group?

Emily Micallef: The wheels are in motion for SiGMA to become more than just an events company. Our mission is to become a global changemaker – I hope to continue to guide SiGMA down this path as we build on our vision to redefine the gambling space – creating a safe and responsible environment for the gambling industry with a single platform for education, regulation, innovation, and entertainment.

In 2024, we are set to embark on an exciting journey across five continents with six major events. Our first stop will be in Dubai in February, and this time, the UAE welcomes us with the establishment of a new gaming regulatory authority, adding to the thrill of our return.

In March, our destination takes us to Africa, where we will make our mark in Cape Town. Our venue is a fantastic Integrated Resort, providing an ideal setting to engage with South Africa’s well-established gambling industry and strengthen our bonds with our global audience.

April sees us returning to Brazil, where recent regulatory changes and the introduction of new bills create a ripe environment for our event to flourish. The remarkable success of our first visit has generated significant interest, making this a perfect moment for our second venture.

Come June, we venture into Asia, dedicating a substantial portion of our Manila event to land-based partners. Our CIS and Balkans event, which achieved resounding success in Limassol this year, will now take place in the enchanting city of Budapest. Notably, Affiliate World will also join us in Dubai and Manila, adding to the excitement. Emily Micallef SiGMA Group

To conclude the year, we have Malta Week in November, providing a fitting closure to this thrilling global journey. We’re also planning to release an amazing documentary to celebrate our decade in the sector. I don’t want to reveal too much yet, but expect to recognise some rather famous faces! 

iGaming AFRIKA: What lessons have you learned from Eman Pulis, the founder of SiGMA Group, that have helped you navigate the highly competitive events industry?

Emily Micallef: Eman is one of the most energetic and relentlessly driven people I have ever had the good fortune to meet. I have learned and continue to learn a lot from him, including how to continuously improve yourself, to give back to people and, most importantly, how to never give up.

 Key Highlights

  • In an ever-evolving and competitive landscape, having a team that reflects the diversity of its audience positions the company to better understand and meet the needs of a broad range of stakeholders. 
  • Supportive regulatory bodies and a strong legislative framework have laid the groundwork for countries like Manila and South Africa to position themselves as hubs in the region.
  • The COVID-19 pandemic helped us realize how important a face-to-face environment really is.
  • In 2024, we are set to embark on an exciting journey across five continents with six major events.
  • Attendees of our SiGMA Africa event should expect to meet an impressive lineup of policymakers, influencers, and government officials through its many networking activities and opportunities. 
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