Back to the future: Nigeria's sports betting tech paradox

A quick look at the weird and wonderful journey of online sports betting in Nigeria  

Something incredibly interesting is happening in Nigeria:

Having skipped generations of technological development, the country is now experiencing a digital renaissance of sorts. From an injection of existing tech that was developed in other places, a rural blank canvas is being transformed by a sudden influx of IoT devices and a soft blanketing of internet connectivity. In 7 short years, the country’s ICT sector grew from 1% to almost 10% of their total GDP – a staggering upsurge.

Some say that this was due to the invasion of tech startups, while others attribute the rise in numbers to foreign direct investment. Others still believe that prior technological development was halted by historic political troubles. Whatever the reason for this growth - it's fast, unprecedented, and impressive. It’s like going from eggs straight to soufflé; from tricycles straight to cars; from crayons straight to fountain pens. But this phenomenon is nothing new; in fact, it's well-known across the globe. Instead of crawling through each of the slow, painful stages of development and intensive manufacturing phases (I’m looking at you, Apple) countries like these adopt the end product and can even sometimes build on the tech themselves to advance ahead of the country of origin. It’s called “leapfrogging”, and it’s not unique to Africa. The UK did it in the 19th century, the US did it in the 20th century, and India has dabbled in it too.

With the rapid development of the global digital economy and the availability of technology, the next century belongs to Africa.

- Ban Ki-moon, Former UN Secretary-General

Nigeria:

Ah, Nigeria. The vast land of stunning, awe-inspiring beauty. Smooth and tranquil warm springs glittering in the sun, powerful thundering waterfalls crashing into lush tropical jungles, majestic elephants strolling across the golden dry savannah. The 7th most populous country in the world, the largest economy in Africa. And, as any good investor knows, home to two more things that can be found in abundance here: mobile phones, and football.

60 million Nigerians bet $2 billion annually on sports

It doesn’t take a genius to put two-and-two together and recognise the potential for a robust online sports betting market. It does, however, take a genius to implement one. Here’s the thing about leapfrogging: it can take some time to get to the good stuff. Just because Nigeria has bypassed older, vintage technologies does not mean that it has the latest versions of everything accessible to all of its inhabitants. Due to a lack of their own production systems, the prevailing outcome has been the public adoption of low-cost first generation devices. There is indeed an exciting emerging tech sector, but for now it’s confined to small, insulated, Silicon-Valley-type bubbles. The general public, albeit lovers of smartphones, predominantly use low-powered android devices with very limited storage. The cost of data is still high comparative to the average consumer’s disposable income. Connectivity issues abound. Hey, it’s still a leap from no devices at all.

Let’s recap

We’ve gathered that there is immense potential for an online sports betting market in Nigeria, but the tech isn’t quite there yet to ensure a smooth, seamless betting experience. What’s an operator to do? That’s right: they roll up their sleeves and get to work on a solution with the tools available to them. Last year, gaming and fintech market leaders Singular attempted this very feat. They created a Nigeria-specific sports betting app in response to a request from one of their clients owned by the country’s National Lottery - which might go some way to explaining why they chose to take on a challenge of this magnitude…

Spoiler alert! They did it.

Singular analysed this wonderful market and lovingly built an app that is just as unique as the country itself. You line up the issues, Singular will knock them down. The app is miniscule in size, coming in below 3.5MB and fitting snuggle into the memory of the average Nigerian device. Icons and images were replaced by Unicode, while CodePush was utilised for updates. What about the costly data issue? A built-in data usage meter was included, alerting users when they’re using too much of their mobile internet allowance. All available payment methods were integrated. Singular even went so far as to liase with Opera (the country’s most popular web browser) to launch a tailored payment solution called “OPay”. That, friends, is dedication. The result of these efforts is a thing of beauty: a hybrid app that succeeds where hybrids usually fail. Instead of falling into the trap of essentially being a web-based app in the shell of another, this is a fully native app that uses HTML, CSS and JavaScript.

This app stands out as a testament to creativity and tenacity at a time when both are required in spades, in the sports betting industry and beyond. It serves as an inspiration to those charting unfamiliar lands, rising to new challenges, and adapting to new realities. Perhaps next time, we’ll commission Singular to help us develop some of that determination.

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Take the hassle out of running your own business with Singular, an international gaming and FinTech company. These industry-leaders specialise in developing smooth, bespoke solutions for gaming, sports betting, casino and retail operators; and boast 250K peak transactions per second for big-name clients across 10 regulated markets. Ready to be impressed? Pay them a visit over at www.singular.uk

We are thrilled that Singular are Gold sponsors of the #SiGMAvirtualexpo taking place next month! Register free to check out their Virtual Booth and see how they can help your business grow: https://bit.ly/3oyrsVV 

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About SiGMA's revamped website:

SiGMA Group is excited to announce the launch of its newly revamped website. The website is currently available in 5 languages, English, Russian, Mandarin, Portuguese, and Spanish with plans to add another 5 languages over the coming months - namely French, Thai, Korean, Japanese, and Hindi.

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