Connecting the continent
The ad industry veteran has a new goal: to grow the use of Facebook among small and medium-sized businesses in Africa
Facebook first took Africa seriously two years ago, when it appointed its first head of Africa, Nunu Ntshingila, and opened shop in Melrose Arch, Johannesburg. Now, the social network giant has found a more permanent home in the affluent suburb of Bryanston, where it unveiled its swanky
1,542 m² office last month.
Ntshingila says the company is “deeply committed” to the continent. It recently announced that the number of active monthly users in Africa has increased 42% since 2015 to more than 170m, of which 15m are South African. A whopping 94% of these access the platform from mobile devices.
Now Facebook Africa has broadened its strategy: it wants to attract small and medium-sized businesses.
“We believe that technology is giving people new opportunities to become entrepreneurs and build products that can help engage and empower people,” says Ntshingila.
Facebook hopes to get more small businesses to advertise on its site. They may find value in the platform’s localised ads, which target a particular audience.
A veteran in the advertising industry, Ntshingila obtained her MBA from Morgan State University in the US and spent more than 15 years at Ogilvy & Mather, where she first joined the company as MD in 1999. She took on the role of CEO in 2005, going on to become its chair in 2012, after stepping down as CEO.
Ntshingila has overseen awardwinning campaigns for some of SA’S most-recognised brands, including Cadbury, BP, Dstv, Cocacola and VW. In 2016, she became the first woman to be inducted into the Loeries Hall of Fame. She has also served as a director on the boards of Old Mutual, Transnet and the V&A Waterfront, and she previously worked as communications director for Nike SA. Ntshingila also previously received an Adfocus lifetime achievement award from the Financial Mail.
It’s quite an impressive CV by anyone’s standards.
Ntshingila isn’t intimidated by Facebook’s 2bn-plus users. The company still has more room to grow its user numbers in Africa than in other continents.
Facebook’s top management is also serious about Africa: CEO Mark Zuckerberg and business development vice-president Chris Daniels have both visited the continent in the past six months, noting the creativity and entrepreneurial spirit of its people.
It doesn’t bother Ntshingila that Africa still uses older technology.
“We launched Facebook Lite as a standalone, native app designed for lower-end Android devices on spotty network connections to give people a reliable Facebook experience when bandwidth is low,” she says.
“To better understand the needs and experiences [of African consumers], our engineers have ‘2G Tuesday’, a day [on which] they use only 2G connectivity to help them best address issues and pain points.”
This helps guide future appbuilding decisions, she says.
“As we advance towards 2020 — the year that, for the first time in history, more people in the world will be connected to the Internet than not — the majority of these newly connected people will be from emerging markets.”