Blackberry is trying to stay relevant in a rapidly evolving smartphone market by releasing a mobile payments service in two of its biggest markets, Nigeria and South Africa.
The company said this week it is expanding its mobile payment initiatives into Africa, commencing in Nigeria where it has partnered with Interswitch Ltd, Nigeria’s largest payment processor, to enable any Nigerian to transfer money or airtime within BBM, much like the transfer of photos or files.
The African continent is Blackberry’s biggest market, with the company saying it has over 22 million registered users there and 17,000 BBM installations every day.
“Nigeria and South Africa are our two top markets in Africa…and we continue to see strength in our user base across Android, iOS, BlackBerry 10 and BBOS. On iOS and Android, we see over half a million new users install BBM every single month. That growth rate continues to accelerate as network effects take root in several markets across the continent,” said Matthew Talbot, senior vice president, Emerging Solutions at BlackBerry.
Blackberry’s history of mobile payments
The company first became involved with mobile payments last summer when it announced a three-year agreement with EnStream LP, a mobile payments joint venture owned by Canadian wireless carriers Bell, Rogers and TELUS, to provide a secure platform that supports transaction services between leading banks and consumers.
Then in August Blackberry partnered with PayPal on BBM Money, its P2P payment service that allowed BBM users in Canada to instantly send and receive money over the messaging service.
More recently, the smartphone maker expanded its BBM payments service to Indonesia, a country of 250 million people, many of whom remain faithful to the Blackberry brand. As Matthew Talbot said in a company post at the time, “There are more BBM users in the country than there are debit and credit card users combined. For anyone without access to a bank account or payment card, what could be more convenient than a mobile payment service deeply integrated with the mobile messaging service they love so much?”.
However, the truth of the matter is that such examples of loyalty to Blackberry are very rare as most people have long ago switched allegiances to the shiny screens of Apple and Samsung.
Furthermore, even in the markets where Blackberry has had a lot of success, there is a lot of competition not only from much bigger phone makers, but also from other social messaging services.
First, to describe services such as WeChat and Kakao as social messaging services would be a massive understatement. These platforms provide a cornucopia of services including social messaging, payments, taxi bookings, e-commerce etc. Essentially, if WhatsApp also offered its own Uber, Amazon/eBay, Airbnb services – that’s what WeChat and Kakao are like.
And that is what Blackberry is up against. WeChat recently launched in South Africa, whilst Kakao has a presence in Indonesia and certainly the ambition to expand its services in such an exciting emerging market. These are not little startups, but rather behemoths that offer more services in one that Blackberry ever could.
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