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NEWS 5 August 2019

Company Focus: Singular's tailor made native app for Nigeria

By Gambling Insider
 If operators and suppliers want to take advantage of the growing online gaming market in Nigeria, they must address the unique characteristics of the market. According to PwC, Nigeria's gross gambling revenues are expected to increase by 16% in the course of the next few years. Although sports betting is very popular in Nigeria with approximately one third of the population betting $4.6M daily, brick and mortar is still dominant. This comes as no surprise when you look at the market’s constraints in terms of connectivity, data cost, mobile device capabilities, and mobile internet usage habits.

However, when one of our clients owned by the Nigerian National Lottery requested for online-only operations, we did not step back from the challenge. We were aware this was a maverick approach for the Nigerian market and required innovative thinking.


Nigeria is a mobile-first country with 84% traffic coming from mobile devices. The Nigerian smartphone market is dominated by cheap, low-powered Android devices with very limited storage. On top of this, MTN Nigeria’s lowest and cheapest data plan costs $0.28 for 50 megabytes of data, while more than 68% of Nigerians live on less than $1.25 a day, according to the World Bank. Only 41% of mobile internet users have access to 3G or 4G connections, but still experience connectivity problems, high latency and never-ending issues and limitations with mobile online payments.

The price sensitivity has led to high popularity of the Opera Mini mobile browser, mostly used in Extreme mode. However, this option was compromising the user experience. Progressive Web Application (PWA) emerged as an option which delivers an app-like experience on an android device but was not feasible on the Nigerian market due to low-powered devices, the dominance of Opera Mini browser, etc.

Despite the identified challenges, we were determined to create a solution that will deliver an unparalleled experience to the customers. It was clear the best approach was creating a native app.


We opted for a hybrid app where almost all networking activities and UI components that were resource-intensive were implemented in native code. The differentiating factor is this is not just a native wrapper, but a fully native app that uses HTML, CSS and JavaScript to render the UI and handle component layout on a page.

Our aim was to minimise data traffic, address high latency issues and provide an offline experience when needed. To achieve this, we used native libraries via HTTP/2 for the network activities which were cached by our intelligent on-device caching engine.

We also minimised data usage for third-party content (slots, table games, etc.) Users connected with cellular data get instant notifications about the number of megabytes needed for loading. They can proceed or wait for an available wi-fi connection. The first time the game is fully loaded, we cache all the games on local storage, thus next time the game is loaded it will not burn mobile data.


Taking into consideration the device’s limited storage, we made sure our app came packaged with all the required native and web libraries and initial content, still keeping the app size below 3.5MB. The small size of the native app increased the download numbers even over mobile internet. When it comes to app updates, using Code Push makes every update just an incremental payload, small in size and downloadable only via Wi-Fi connection.

We replaced all the icons (wherever possible) and images alike with Unicode, which enabled us to shave off almost one megabyte from the app bundle size. We use our own Media Proxy solution, which optimises requested media assets on the fly.


To address payment-related issues, we integrated all major payment solutions which had support for mobile devices from Interswitch payment solutions to USSD payment solutions. Through cooperation with Opera, for the first time in Nigeria, we launched their payment solution ‘OPay’, which is tailored for mobile devices. OPay offers fully mobile-optimised card payments and bank transfers, as well as cash deposits and withdrawals through their agent network (40K active agents and growing).


We built a product that provides an uncompromised native-like experience with biometric login, real-time sync with the website and smooth operation on low-powered devices with slow connection. The app has a built-in data usage meter with detailed analytics for the user. Being transparent about data usage helped the app quickly gain user trust and increased time spent in the app.

Based on telemetry about app usage and user feedback, we are continuously developing new features. One of the upcoming releases is ‘Cache Sharing,’ which allows users to share app cache via Bluetooth (such as pre-cached games). This feature is especially crucial in suburbs where the only internet access is via a cellular network.

This journey confirmed our core belief that a market’s limitations can be a source of opportunity. When implemented correctly, the Singular Native App proves the mobile-only approach is viable in Nigeria for online casinos and sports betting sites.
The role of gambling media (27:11)
What is the role of a Gambling regulator? (29:09)
The Future of Gambling Sponsorship in Sport (30:50)
IN-DEPTH 16 August 2019
Roundtable: David vs Goliath – Can startups really disrupt the industry?

(AL) Alexander Levchenko – CEO, Evoplay Entertainment

Alexander Levchenko is CEO of innovative game development studio Evoplay Entertainment. He has overseen the rapid expansion of the company since it was founded in early 2017 with the vision of revolutionising the player experience.

(RL) Ruben Loeches – CMO, R Franco

Rubén Loeches is CMO at R. Franco Group, Spain’s most established multinational gaming supplier and solutions provider. With over 10 years working in the gambling, betting and online gaming industries, he is skilled in operations management and marketing strategy.

(JB) Julian Buhagiar – Co-Founder, RB Capital:

Julian Buhagiar is an investor, CEO & board director to multiple ventures in gaming, fintech & media markets. He has lead investments, M & As and exits to date in excess of $370m.

(DM) Dominic Mansour – CEO, Bragg Gaming Group:

Dominic Mansour has an extensive background of nearly 20 years in the gaming and lottery industry. He has a deep understanding of the lottery secto,r having been CEO at the UK-based Health Lottery, as well as building bingos.com from scratch, which he sold to NetPlay TV plc.

What does it take for a startup to make waves in gaming?

DM: On the one hand, it’s a bit like brand marketing; you build an identity, a reputation and a strategy. When you know what you stand for, you then do your best to get heard. That doesn’t necessarily require a TV commercial but ensuring whatever you do stands out from the crowd. Then you have to get out there and talk to people about it. 

AL: Being better than the competition is no longer enough; if you’re small, new and want to make a difference – you have to turn the industry on its head. Those looking to make waves need to come up with a new concept or a ground-breaking solution. Take Elon Musk, he didn’t found Tesla to improve the existing electric cars on the market, he founded it to create the industry’s first mass-market electric sports car. It’s the same for online gaming; if you want to make waves as a startup, you have to bring something revolutionary to the table.

JB: Unique IP is key, particularly in emerging (non-EU) markets. As does the ability to release products on time, with minimal downtime and/or turnaround time when issues inevitably occur. A good salesforce capable of rapidly striking partnerships with the right players is vital, as is not getting bogged down too early on in legal, operational and admin red tape.

How easy it for startups to bring their ideas to life? How do they attract capital?

AL: It depends on the people and ideas behind the startup. Of course – the wave of ‘unicorns’ is not what it used to be. Some time ago the hype was a lot greater in terms of investing in startups, but that’s changed now. Investors now want more detail – and even more importantly, to evaluate whether the startup has the capacity (as well as the vision) to solve the problem it set out to address. That’s not to say investors are no longer interested in startups – they certainly are – but now more than ever, it’s important for startups to understand their audience as well as dreaming big.

JB: To get to market quickly, you need a great but small, team. If slots or sportsbook, the mathematical engine and UX/UI are crucial. Having a lean, agile dev team that can rapidly turn wire framing and mathematical logic into product is essential. Paying more for the right team is sometimes necessary, especially when good resources are scarce (here’s looking at you, Malta and Gibraltar).

Building capital is a different beast altogether. You won’t be able to secure any funding until you have a working proof of concept and, even then, capital is likely to be drip fed. Be prepared to get a family and friends round early on to deliver a ‘kick-ass’ demo, then start looking at early-stage VCs that specialise in growth-stage assets.

How do you react when you see startups coming in with their plan for disruption?

RL: We welcome the innovation and fresh thinking startups bring. This is particularly the case in Latin America, with a market still in its infancy. One area we’d especially like to see startups making waves is in the slot development sector. Latin America is a young market that needs local innovation suited to its unique conditions – especially in regard to mobile gaming.

Operators eyeing the market have Europe‐focused core products, which creates a struggle to work to the requirements of players and regulators. To succeed there, it has become more important than ever to work with those with a knowhow of the local area to adapt products and games to besuitable from the off; we welcome the chance for local talent to develop and grow.

Do you think it’s easier for established companies to innovate and establish new ideas? 

AL: From a financial perspective, yes. It is without a doubt easier for incumbent companies to establish a pipeline of innovation via their R & D departments, as well as having the tools to hand for data gathering and analysis.

But it stops there. Startups hold court in every other way. Not only are they flexible, they can easily switch from one idea to another, change strategy instantly as the market demands and easily move team members around. Established companies know this – and this is why we’re seeing an emerging trend for established companies to acquire small, innovative online gaming start-ups. They have the right resources and unique ideas, as well as the ability to bring a fresh approach to businesses’ thinking.

RL: For me, it’s always going to be established companies. Only with the resources, industry experience and know‐how can a company apply technology and services that truly make a difference. Of course there are exceptions. But when it comes to providing a platform that can be approved by regulators across multiple markets – as well as suiting an operators’ multiple jurisdictions – it is simply impossible for a couple of young bright minds with a few million behind them to get this done.

DM: I actually think it’s harder for established companies. It’s key to differentiate between having a good idea and executing one. That’s where the big corporates struggle most. They’re full of amazing people with all sorts of great ideas but getting them through systems and processes is nearly impossible.

Is it essential to patent-protect innovative products?

AL: It’s a very interesting subject. If we take IT for example – patents can actually become a block to the evolutionary process within the industry. Of course, getting a patent future proofs yourself from the competition copying your concept but, having said that, if you’re looking to protect yourself from someone more creative, smarter and agile, you’ve probably lost the battle already!

In our industry everything is moving faster and research takes less time than the development itself. No matter how good you are at copy pasting, you can’t copy Google or Netflix. The most important thing is not the tech itself but rather its ‘use-case’ – or in other words, does it solve what it’s meant to solve? Competition is healthy and the key to innovation. If you spend your whole time looking behind you, you’ll never be able move forwards.

JB: Tricky question, and one that depends on what and where you launch this IP. It can be difficult to patent mathematical engines and logic, mostly because they’re re-treading prior art. Branding, artwork and UX is more important and can easily be copied, but the territories you launch will determine how protectable your IP will be once patented. US/EU/Japan is easy but expensive to protect in. But China/South East Asia is a nightmare to cover adequately. Specialised patent lawyers with experience in software, and ideally gaming, can help you better.