The last two years have not been kind to South Africa’s original mobile instant messaging service, Mxit. Not only has its active user numbers plumetted, but the company has announced that it’s closing down and will now focus on its social good arm.

According to Mxit, it went from having 7.5 million active monthly users in 2013 to just 1.2 million by July this year. This is a stark contrast to the 17 million user number recorded in 2012.

The majority of Mxit’s staff will now work on The Reach Trust charity organisation, while CEO Francois Swart has stepped down from his position after three years of being at the helm.

The trust is behind projects such as the Ukufunda online classroom.

The company also said in a statement that it’s international operations in Nigeria and India would also be coming to a close. At its peak, Mxit was available in 120 countries, accumulatively racking up 50 million active monthly users from all of them including South Africa.

“We were incredibly passionate about what we were doing and what Mxit meant to millions of South Africans over the years. It’s hard not to see the final shut down as a personal failure and I know many of my former colleagues feel the same way,” David Luis, former Mxit head of internal communications, said to Fin24.

Though you cannot point to exactly one cause for Mxit’s decline in popularity, but, as has been mentioned over and over again, the arrival of competitors WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and WeChat certainly played a huge role in it.

The latest stats from World Wide Worx reveal that WhatsApp has over 10 million active users in South Africa. In 2014, South Africa had the highest WhatsApp adoption rate among 32 countries surveyed by Statista.

Luis also pointed toward the introduction and growing popularity and accessibility of smartphones in the country as one factor that Mxit hadn’t counted as a major threat.

“We were never unaware of the threat of smartphones, but I personally believe that we were totally unprepared for how soon a cheap smartphone like the (MTN) Steppa would arrive, and the degree to which it would take over the feature phone market,” he said.

“The success of those cheap smartphones I believe put Mxit – sitting without a decent version for smartphones – on a downward spiral that was impossible to come back from, despite the massive effort of the team.”

The Mxit app is still available for download from the mobisite and app stores, but we’re not sure whether or not it will be removed anytime soon.

Have you ever used it and eventually stopped? Why? Tell us on Twitter or in the comments section.

[Via – Fin24]