Just to put it into context, if African users on Facebook started their own country, they will be the second most populated country in Africa. Right behind Nigeria’s 181 million strong number of course. But Facebook is not stopping, there are plans to expand further by adding Wi-Fi hotspots and fibre-optic cables, in a bid to capture emerging markets.
This 170 million figure is a 42% growth from when Facebook first opened an office in Africa in 2015, as Vice President of Global Marketing, Carolyn Everson, said so. She also added that this Wi-Fi roll-out will be done via partnerships in Kenya and Nigeria. There are also plans to construct 770km of fibre in Uganda alongside Bharti Airtel in India. This fibre news first broke earlier this year.
On how to put Africa online, she said:
“There is no magic bullet to provide the Internet to people on the continent. We are using everything available to us, including rolling out Express Wi-Fi, building fibre and testing our Aquila project.”
Aquila Project is one of Facebook’s babies where they are experimenting with deploying unmanned solar-powered drones that will provide Internet access.
Africa has less than 10% of Facebook’s 1.9 billion users, and they want more. It is why they are investing huge capital, because of the clear potential this has for them. Most of Africa’s population is young, and they are trying to take advantage of the growing affordability of smartphones.
Facebook believes these investment can help drive data prices down, or even make some features free. Like Facebook’s Free Basics, which allows Airtel users in Nigeria use Facebook for free.
“People are sensitive to data prices on the continent. Infrastructure is expensive and that is why we are looking for partners. We are partnering with telecoms infrastructure projects and as a result bring down the price of data,” she concluded.