Face­book gears up for Africa’s 1 bil­lion users

CityPress - - Business - – Bloomberg

The US has a pop­u­la­tion of ap­prox­i­mately 322 mil­lion, about two-fifths of whom use Face­book.

In Africa, with more than 1 bil­lion peo­ple, just 120 mil­lion use the so­cial net­work.

That’s an op­por­tu­nity Face­book can’t ig­nore, although the re­gion poses chal­lenges un­like those the com­pany has faced in more de­vel­oped mar­kets.

To spur growth on the con­ti­nent, Face­book is open­ing an of­fice in an af­flu­ent sub­urb of Johannesburg next month. The sales of­fice will be headed by Nunu Nt­shingila (51) chair of WPP’s Ogilvy & Mather advertising agency in South Africa.

The com­pany will find that win­ning cus­tomers in Nige­ria or Kenya is tougher than in Ne­braska or Kansas.

Africa has few fixed in­ter­net con­nec­tions, so Face­book’s orig­i­nal web­site isn’t well-known. And while mo­bile in­ter­net is boom­ing, data is ex­pen­sive and smart­phones are rare, with most peo­ple us­ing cheaper – and less-ca­pa­ble – de­vices called fea­ture phones, which can’t run Face­book’s full mo­bile ap­pli­ca­tion.

“This is one of the places where our next bil­lion users are com­ing from,” said Ni­cola Men­del­sohn, Face­book’s vice-pres­i­dent for Europe, the Mid­dle East and Africa.

“It would be a mas­sive missed op­por­tu­nity. Africa mat­ters.”

To win over con­sumers con­cerned about the cost of data or who live in ar­eas with weak sig­nals, Face­book is part­ner­ing with cell­phone com­pa­nies to of­fer what it calls in­ter­net.org, which gives peo­ple free air­time when they ac­cess Face­book and a few dozen other se­lected web­sites.

And it will soon in­tro­duce Face­book Lite, a low­band­width app that uses just a frac­tion of the data the stan­dard ap­pli­ca­tion uses.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.