Africa is notoriously difficult for outsiders to crack.
That’s how asset analyst Chris Gilmour in South Africa describes getting a foothold on the continent, according to Bloomberg.
Facebook is one of many major companies trying to gain customers in Africa and it has gone the distance to promote itself there. How far? To infinity and beyond. Well, maybe that’s overstating it but Facebook works through satellites in space beaming the Internet down on sub-Sahara.
What are the issues Facebook is facing in Africa, and how it’s tackling them? Here’s how badly Facebook wants to be in Africa.
Facebook has 1.55 billion active users as of 2015, according to Statista.com, and 120 million are in Africa. Facebook looks to get its next billion users from Africa, Bloomberg.com says.
One of the reasons Facebook has struggled to gain members in Africa is that most individuals access Internet on their mobile phones, and the social media app uses too much data. The second issue is that the continent only has a handful of established Internet companies with dependable towers, as Internetsociety.org reports.
Africa’s dependency on mobile phones poses one more issue for Facebook: most phone companies on the continent do not offer low-cost plans to incentivize users to stay with them, says Bloomberg. In other words, Africans cycle through many phones quickly, making it less likely they’ll keep the Facebook app with each new device.
Facebook is tackling this short-term phone issue by partnering with local phone companies in Africa, enlisting them to offer more long-term, low-cost plans, says Telegraph.co.uk.
Facebook has opened a new sales office in Johannesburg, South Africa. The office is headed by Nunu Ntshingila, former chairwoman of the highly successful ad agency Ogilvy & Mather. Ntshingila hopes to encourage businesses to promote on Facebook.
Another way Facebook will encourage mobile phone users in Africa to get on their site is by offering Facebook Lite, a low-bandwidth app that lets Facebook run on a small amount of data, Bloomberg.com says.
To combat the issue of expensive data on mobile phones, Facebook is offering Internet.org, a system that gives mobile Facebook users free airtime, specifically while on the social media site.
Internet.org works through satellites. Facebook is launching a satellite named Amos-6 that will provide much of sub-Saharan Africa with Internet while it is in orbit, Theguardian.com reports.
Internet.org doesn’t only give users access to Facebook.com. The satellite-based system lets users access BBC News, Facebook Messenger, Google Search, Wikipedia, Facts for Life and UNICEF, says Telegraph.co.uk.
Facebook is researching what sorts of ads appeal to an African audience, since that is how it generates most of its revenue, according to Recode.net.
Facebook is also designing tools that will let it create ads optimized for mobile phones, says Telegraph.co.uk.
Facebook’s efforts have been working. Users in Africa increased by 20 million from 2014 to 2015, according to Telegraph.co.uk.
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