Facebook debuts in Africa

The world’s biggest social network, Facebook, revealed on Monday that it has opened its first African office in Johannesburg, South Africa. It’s primary aim will be to help grow African businesses by improving their connectivity.

“This office will support the significant growth in businesses and people using Facebook,” read a statement from the social networking firm. The office will be managed by Nunu Ntshingila, a former executive at Ogilvy, an advertising agency.

Facebook has over 1.4 billion active users, 120 million of whom are from Africa. Despite the continent contributing only 8 percent of its total users, Facebook has been fascinated by the innovative ways Africans have utilized its platform to grow their businesses and improve social interactions. “We are inspired by the incredible ways people and businesses in Africa use Facebook to connect,” said Nicola Mendelsohn, regional vice president for Facebook.

The mobile factor 

Africa’s population is north of a billion people, 800 million of whom have a mobile phone. Facebook is one of the many multinationals that have benefit from this sporadic growth in mobile usage (Africa remains the fastest growing region in the world). “Mobile is not a trend; it’s the fastest development in communications we’ve ever seen,” Mendelsohn said. “This couldn’t be more true in Africa where so many people are mobile-only.”

Mobile has been Africa’s tool to stay in touch with a highly digitalized global village. With Broadband data mostly unaffordable, Africans have turned to mobile for solutions in retail and finance. The successes of mobile money and e-commerce confirms how useful mobile has been towards Africa’s recent emergence in the global economic play.

Facebook intends to exploit the continent’s affinity for mobile to deepen its reach in key markets including Nigeria, Kenya, and South Africa. It’ll also offer support to emerging economies like Senegal, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda, Zambia, Mozambique and Ethiopia. “Facebook will partner with governments, telecom operators, agencies and other stakeholders to deliver localized solutions to advertisers and users continent-wide,” the statement said.

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