Research in Motion (RIM) has announced that it will be opening its first development centre in Africa, based in Egypt’s Smart Village, just outside of Cairo, local daily Al Ahram reports.

While BlackBerry lags in the smartphone department in the US, it continues to be a popular option in the Middle East and Asia, despite threats from Apple and Android.

In stark contrast with ailing global sales, a $125 million loss in Q4 and a 45% drop in sales in the US, the Middle East saw a 140% increase in BlackBerry subscribers last year.

Recently, RIM’s managing director for the Middle East revealed that the region is the company’s fastest growing market. The company’s second largest market happens to be in Saudi Arabia, with 47 million subscribers and a penetration rate of 173%.

The new development centre in Cairo, which will be hiring a pool of local software engineers, comes despite RIM’s initial doubts and concerns about Egypt’s political and economic stability. RIM did not reveal the size of the investment it will be making in the country.

The January uprising in Egypt has seen life breathed into the technology scene, with the use of mobile and Web apps facilitating the transitional period that the country is currently going through – at least among those who can access them. During parliamentary elections in November, Google launched a suite of tools aiming to help voters make an informed decision at polling stations.

BlackBerry’s development centre will now be competing in this space. It will be home to BlackBerry application development, starting with an app providing local Egyptian users with information about the upcoming presidential elections in the country.

While app developers have shown an obvious preference for iOS and Android, RIM is stepping up its efforts to attract local developers, ensuring that its users enjoy localized and optimized content on their BlackBerry handsets.

The development centre in Africa is not the only news we’ve seen from RIM this week, with the company beginning to sell handsets in Nokia’s homecountry, Finland, for the first time.

The fact, however, remains that RIM is struggling to once again find its footing, and we have yet to see whether or not focusing on markets where it continues to be a popular option, will bring the company back from the edge.