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Facebook in AfricaIn late June, Facebook announced it would be opening its first African sales office in Johannesburg, South Africa. This office will serve to cater Facebook’s services to its growing markets across Africa.

Facebook in Africa will focus on spurring African businesses to advertise on the social media platform. The company hopes to strengthen its connection to the continent through this mission. It will shift applications, metrics and advertising toward African users, who overwhelmingly depend on mobile technology to access Facebook. Nunu Ntshingila, former chairman of Ogilvy South Africa, serves as the new head of Facebook Africa and is leading the sales office.

According to Ari Kesisoglu, Facebook’s regional director for the Middle East and Africa, Facebook is aiming to help businesses expand their reach across Africa to better connect companies to consumers. The social media platform has grown tremendously in the region, with 20% more active users in June 2015 than in September 2015. Over 80% of the current 120 million African Facebook users access the social media platform using mobile technology. Nicola Mendelsohn, Facebook’s vice president for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, stated that with data service costs decreasing and more Africans accessing mobile technology, there is an immense amount of potential for Facebook throughout the continent. With over half of the company’s advertising revenue coming from countries outside of the United States and Canada, she said that the company hopes to increase advertising opportunities for African businesses.

In its initial stages, the office is set to work on establishing partnerships with governments, telecommunications companies and regional organizations. The company hopes that through these partnerships, it can better understand both the advertising challenges and technological barriers faced in the region.

Expansion efforts are primarily focused in Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa. Facebook is also looking to increase usage in Ethiopia, Ghana, the Ivory Coast, Mozambique, Rwanda, Senegal, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.

This expansion is part of a similar initiative to help further expand Facebook’s reach across the continent. The company is striving to strengthen its connection to Africa in order to grant those in remote locations useful communication resources. The company’s partnerships with telecommunication companies allow easier and cheaper Internet access for basic services for those in remote areas. Along with Facebook’s Internet.org project, it has also developed Facebook Lite, which is a simplified version of the actual website that was designed for smart phones still on the 2G network in remote areas.

According to TIME, the company has also launched “missed call ads” to better allow successful advertising in remote areas in Africa and India. When users click links to an ad, the advertiser instead calls the user’s phone and plays an audio ad rather than forcing the user to use up cellular data. The advertiser takes the cost of the call.

In its current stage, the new office is working to develop effective solutions to advertising challenges in ways like these. The office hopes to explore other advertising methods that would be more convenient and useful for African businesses and users.

Arin Kerstein

Sources: BBC, Bloomberg Business, IT News Africa, IT World, TIME
Photo: Tafia Network