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BlackBerry announced on Monday 30th of
November that it plans to allow BBM users in
Africa (starting with Nigeria) to send money or
airtime “as simply as they transfer photos or
files.” It’s part of a wider push by BlackBerry to
establish a presence in the mobile payments
space, especially in emerging markets.



In Nigeria and South Africa, the company says it
sees over half a million new users install BBM
per month, which it believes is allowing “a
network effects [to] take root in several markets
across the continent.”


Beyond that, it’s seeing “close to 10 million visits
to the BBM Shop per month, and now over 26
million ad requests per day.”
These strong advertising numbers mean that
South Africa and Nigeria “represent two of our
biggest global opportunities,” BlackBerry said,
adding that while “both are seen as developing
economies, they are some of our top revenue-
generating markets.”

The company already offers mobile payments in
Indonesia, for example, an emerging country of
around 250 million in Southeast Asia that still has
many loyal BlackBerry users. But other popular
messenger apps in these markets also offer
mobile payments/wallets, including Line, WeChat
(which just launched its peer-to-peer mobile
wallet in South Africa), Kakao Talk, and others.

BlackBerry first pushed into mobile payments in
June last year when it signed a three-year deal
with mobile payments firm EnStream, a joint
venture by Canada’s three largest wireless
carriers, to secure and transfer credit card
information between smartphone owners and
banks, as we reported at the time.
Then, in August this year, BlackBerry brought
mobile payments via PayPal to BBM users in
Canada, known as BBM Money.

But the reality is that the remaining BBM
strongholds are fairly few and far between these
days, and it seems unlikely that even
BlackBerry’s attempt to get back into the
smartphone wars in a big way with Android will
help a whole lot on that front — at least not in
the near-term.

“We’re excited to announce we’ll be expanding
our mobile payment initiatives into Africa,
commencing in Nigeria,” Matthew Talbot,
BlackBerry’s senior VP for emerging solutions,
wrote in a blog posting. “BlackBerry has
partnered with Interswitch Ltd, Nigeria’s largest
payment processor, to enable any Nigerian to
transfer money or airtime within BBM, as simply
as they transfer photos or files.”

“Separately, we are also expanding BBM Shop
payment options. We’ll soon include the
Firstmonie mobile wallet, which is provided by
Nigeria’s largest bank, First Bank of Nigeria
Limited. We’re also teaming up with Mobile
Media Info Tech (MMIT), a Nigerian company
working to revolutionize mobile payments, to
bring secure payments to the BBM Shop.”

  • BlackBerry is also seeing over 20 million views
    per month (views, not visits) on its BBM Shop in
    Africa, and says 60 million total stickers have
    been sent and received there. (It offers 25
    sticker packs “tailored to the African market.”)
    While emerging markets are clearly important to
    BlackBerry (they’re important to all players in
    the smartphone game!), it seems that not all are
    created equal: yesterday, the Canadian company
    announced that it is pulling out of Pakistan over
    security concerns. I don’t expect it has any plans
    to pull out of Africa too soon, though.

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