BlackBerry announced Monday 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, under the name 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 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.