Billion dollar losses, product recalls and jobs cuts insured BlackBerry’s last rites were administered long ago in North America and Europe. Yet in Africa BlackBerry is flourishing. The developing continent could very well hold the key to the resurgence of the BlackBerry brand.
The ailing Canadian company has seen its sales plummet and its market share all but wiped out in North America and Europe by iPhone and Samsung as it struggled to keep pace in an ever evolving market place. Yet in Africa, BlackBerry is the dominate Smartphone. It is the phone of choice for Africa’s ever growing middle class and, importantly, it is seen as ‘cool’ by youngsters.
Experts predict the African mobile market is set to grow by 85%, with 900m people entering the market, in the next three years. And with BlackBerry claiming more customers than Android and Apple combined- there may well be life in them yet.
Research In Motion (RIM), the company behind BlackBerry, is focused on developing their brand in Africa’s most populous country- Nigeria. Already 3% of worldwide BlackBerry users are Nigerian and the brand claims half of all Smartphones in the West African state are BlackBerrys.
As Blackberry’s market grows stronger in Nigeria, the Blackberry smartphone has become the best-selling model online, as you can see for example in Nigeria’s local free classifieds. If you take a look on these local markets you can notice that second hand mobiles are sold at really convenient prices respect to other Occidental markets. For example on Tradestable.com.ng you can find a Blackberry Torch 3 9860 on sale for $95 while Ebay sell it for $ 126 .This booming used-phone market offers African buyers an economical entry to the brand.
BlackBerry’s cheap cost of data coupled with its instant messaging (BBM) and network efficiency has helped connect millions of Africans in a way never before seen on the continent. Unlike in North America and Europe, African BlackBerry owners still bask in an aura of success and exclusivity. It is the must have social accessory. Nollywood, Nigeria’s billion dollar film industry, is quick to equip trendy characters with such devices.
Africa has the potential to help resurrect BlackBerry. However, with iOS and Android yet to fully realise their own African potential, BlackBerry may face the same fate as it did in North America and Europe. On top of competition from Apple and Samsung, Blackberry will also have to fend of the advances of Chinese mobile companies such as Huawei, ZTE and Tecno who are all offering cheap data packages.
Only time will tell if BlackBerry will remain Africa’s Smartphone of choice. Or, seemingly like the rest of the world, will the once tech revelation be consigned to the history books?