My apologies. I meant Nigeria. But the trends are the same.
Originally Posted by Whitecaps
Where the BlackBerry still reigns supreme
Where the BlackBerry still reigns supreme - The Globe and Mail
The challenges of the market don’t end with economic and religious conflict. Like many poor countries, Nigeria has an immense informal economy–street vendors and unlicensed businesses–that is estimated at roughly two-thirds the size of the formal economy. Handset vendors like RIM must contend with a vast “grey market,” somewhere between legit and illegal, that includes second-hand BlackBerrys imported from the United Kingdom and “refurbs” banged back into working order. Needless to say, phones sold this way–60 per cent of the market by one knowledgeable estimate–aren’t exactly helping sales targets back in Waterloo, even if they might count toward RIM’s global subscriber count. Of course, since RIM runs a proprietary global messaging network that requires a “service access fee,” even second-hand BlackBerrys, once registered on a network, will kick something into the company’s coffers. But many people simply treat the BlackBerry like the Nokias they traded up from: as simple cellphones. (An executive at a wireless carrier in another African country reports that of 40,000 BlackBerrys on the network, only about 6,000 are activated for e-mail.) If customers aren’t paying full freight and the only upgrade they value is in cachet, how on earth are emerging markets like these going to save RIM?
When I bring up the grey market with Robert Bose, RIM’s Paris-based managing director for the Middle East and Africa, he talks about campaigns to emphasize official devices, and then shows me a BlackBerry with an “Original BlackBerry smartphone” picture set as the home display screen. This is apparently a safeguard against Nigeria’s desperate entrepreneurs.
Told it won’t take long for that symbol to be itself knocked off, Bose looks stunned for a moment, like a kid wearing a cape who has been told it won’t allow him to fly. Then he begins to laugh; knocked off his talking points, he talks frankly about the airport strikes that have left shipments of marooned BlackBerrys exposed to the elements on the tarmac, the barriers that the Arab world’s revolutions have posed for moving product around the region, and the riots that leave mobile phone shops destroyed.