Times have been rough for BlackBerry-maker Research In Motion Ltd. (RIM). In fact, according to market researcher NPD Group, RIM's U.S. share of the smart phone market dropped drastically from 44 percent in 2009 to 10 percent in 2011. Despite this plunge, the company still has 78 million active subscribers worldwide.
Now the troubled RIM is looking to Africa as its next major market. During a recent press conference, BlackBerry’s Robert Bose, regional managing director middle east and Africa, spoke about the company’s plans. RIM already has a hold in Nigeria and South Africa, where it dominates the market. RIM also announced the opening of an office in Nigeria. "This is one of the fastest growing mobile markets in the world," said Bose, as reported by the Associated Press.
Why such a focus on South Africa and Nigeria? RIM wants to continue its growth in these countries. According to forecasts by Informa Telecoms & Media, the number of Nigeria smart phone users is expected to grow from 4 million at the end of 2011 to 25 million at the end of 2016.
“This seems to be a shrewd move for RIM, especially considering how many users (25 million) are expected in Africa by the year 2016. It is highly unlikely that BlackBerry will ever recover its market share in the U.S., so if it expects to survive long-term, it must look elsewhere,” says Andrew Schrage, co-owner of Money Crashers, an online guide to money management and global finance.
Why the Nigerian taste for BlackBerry? “According to one source, the BlackBerry was originally more attractive than the iPhone in Nigeria for many reasons. When Nigerians travel to America, the BlackBerry can be used with almost any U.S. carrier. BlackBerry is generally more affordable than the iPhone, and it is available in a wide variety of shapes and models, from no-keyboard to a large keyboard,” explains Schrage. “It also features an expandable memory function and encryption, and since many Nigerians use their BlackBerries for financial transactions, encryption is an especially attractive option. Furthermore, some have accused the government of wanting access to various smart phones to monitor users--and due to the protection offered by encryption, BlackBerry users do not have to worry about this.”