Facebook aims to srengthen link to mobile-first Africa with new office

Facebook is establishing stronger ties to Africa, opening its first office on the continent in order to tailor applications, metrics and ad formats to the needs of customers and advertisers on a continent in which many users only use mobile devices to connect to the Internet.

Based in Johannesburg, South Africa, the office will focus on working out partnerships with governments, telecom companies and other major players initially in anchor countries in the major regions of sub-Saharan Africa: Kenya (East Africa), Nigeria (West Africa), and South Africa (Southern Africa). Other countries to be supported include Senegal, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda, Zambia, Mozambique and Ethiopia.

The company wants to deliver localized solutions to advertisers and its active user population in Africa, which according to Facebook, has grown by 20 percent to 120 million users today from 100 million last September. More than 80 percent of users in Africa access Facebook from their mobile phones.

Developing user communities outside the U.S. is important for Facebook. In the first quarter this year, 52 percent of total ad revenue came from outside the U.S. and Canada, said Nicola Mendelsohn, Facebook’s vice president of EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa), in a press release. With more than a billion people, Africa is an important market for Facebook, Mendelsohn noted.

Last year Facebook started rolling out Internet.org in Africa. As part of the initiative, Facebook works with telecom partners to provide free access to basic Internet services so people can browse useful health, finance, educational, employment, communication and local information and services.

Launched as a way to connect the estimated two-thirds of the world’s population who do not have Internet access, Internet.org was first introduced in Africa in Zambia last July. Other African countries that have been hooked up to the platform include Tanzania, Kenya, Senegal, Ghana, Malawi and South Africa.

Also, Facebook Lite—a simplified version of the company’s mobile website designed and aimed specifically at Android users on 2G devices—has been rolled out in Nigeria, South Africa, Sudan, and Zimbabwe.

Facebook wants to work with companies that need stronger, more flexible and less fragmented ways of reaching people in Africa, said Facebook’s Regional Director for MEA (Middle East and Africa), Ari Kesisoglu, in a press release.

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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