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Facebook to open Nigerian hub next year in African tech drive

Comments (0) Actualites, Africa, Technology

LAGOS (Reuters) – Facebook will open a “community hub space” in Nigeria next year to encourage software developers and technology entrepreneurs and become the latest technology giant to pursue a training programme in fast-growing Africa.

The U.S. social media company said the centre would host an “incubator programme” to help develop technology start-ups, while it will also train 50,000 Nigerians in digital skills.

Africa’s rapid population growth, falling data costs and heavy adoption of mobile phones rather than PCs is attracting technology companies looking to attract more users.

Facebook did not provide details of the period over which its planned training would take place in Nigeria, which is Africa’s most populous country with 180 million inhabitants.

“We understand the important role Facebook plays here in Nigeria with developers and start-ups and are invested in helping these communities,” Emeka Afigbo, its regional head of platform partnership, said in a statement on Wednesday.

Facebook said the training – aimed at software developers, entrepreneurs and students – would be offered in cities including the capital, Abuja, Port Harcourt in the south, Calabar in the southeast and Kaduna in the north.

Last year Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg visited technology companies in Lagos and his charitable foundation provided $24 million to Andela, which trains developers.

Google’s chief executive in a July visit to Lagos said the company aimed to train 10 million people across the continent in online skills over the next five years. He also said it hoped to train 100,000 software developers in Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa. [L5N1KH9WQ]

Although Africa may not offer as much opportunity to add consumers as China or India, because large wealth gaps mean that many people in places like Nigeria have little disposable income, Facebook said more than 22 million people already use its social media website every month in Nigeria.

Widespread poverty means mobile adoption tends to favour basic phone models. That, combined with poor telecommunications infrastructure, can mean slow internet speeds and less internet surfing, which tech firms rely on to make money.


(Writing by Alexis Akwagyiram; editing by Alexander Smith)

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Tech Titans: The Battle for Africa

Comments (0) Africa, Business, Featured

Microsoft 4afrika initiative

The tech giants are busy building in Africa as the continent represents a golden opportunity to reach new customers while transforming African society.

We all know the names Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and IBM. These are the tech titans who have forged the modern world we inhabit and hardly entities that the general public associates with Africa. However, foresight and innovation enabled these behemoths to propel the developed world to a new future. Now, the tech giants have foreseen that Africa’s future is one of abundant potential.

The reasons behind this trend are actually rather simple. Africa possesses 7 of the world’s 10 fastest growing economies. As a whole, Africa is the fastest growing region on earth. For tech companies this has created two general fronts on which to engage the continent. Firstly, this growth has led to the emergence of the African middle class. Tech companies suddenly have a new market in which consumers are hungry for their products. Secondly, this new market has enormous potential to grow. With limited tech infrastructure, such as internet access and mobile networks, the adoption of new technologies is still very much in its infancy across huge parts of the region. If top companies generate the conditions for mass tech usage, they stand to gain an enormous new customer base while improving the lives of millions; a veritable win-win situation.

Africa, a new frontier for Google, Facebook, Microsoft, IBM

Microsoft was arguably the first global tech company to take a major active interest in Africa. Three years ago, the company started its 4Afrika initiative. The $75m program was designed to train thousands of Africans either for their own businesses or for the company’s 22 African offices. Simultaneously the program focused on getting affordable smart devices into the hands of millions of new customers. Amrote Abdella, the regional director of the 4Afrika project said, “In order to drive the knowledge economy, we need to drive connectivity so Africans can create and access content.”

As a result the company is experiencing strong growth in the region. However, rather than resting on their laurels, Abdella went on to explain why Microsoft intends to build on its successes: “Three years down the road one of the things that we have learnt is that the need and the demand on Africa is about doubling down on investments we are making around connectivity and smart services.”

Digify, Project Loon, Link… Ambitious plans for Africa

Project Loon

Project Loon

The connectivity race is on in earnest. Google first tested the African waters back in 2012, with an SMS based version of its Gmail service. Today, their efforts have intensified while becoming more imaginative. Google intends to utilize its cheekily named “Project Loon” in the region. Loon is a network of communications balloons positioned high in the stratosphere that can be strategically maneuvered to provide connectivity in remote areas where coverage is lacking. Data is then passed through the balloon network before being transferred down to the global internet.

Google has two other notable initiatives in the region, Link and Digify. Link has seen the installation of metro fiber optic Wi-Fi networks across Uganda and Kampala, with a further roll-out underway in Ghana. Digify is a major commitment to train 1 million Africans in digital skills. Google spokeswoman Michelle Atagana explained the strategy behind the project: “The idea is to improve people’s skills so that they can increase their chances of becoming employed or start their own businesses.”

Not to be bested, Facebook is focused on waging ambitious campaigns in the booming new market. In 2015, the social media giant opened its first African office in Johannesburg. Additionally, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg highlighted plans to provide satellite internet to rural areas of sub-Saharan Africa. He explained why he felt the move was key by saying, “To connect people living in remote regions, traditional connectivity infrastructure is often difficult and inefficient, so we need to invent new technologies.”

Investing to impact

IBM has also been incredibly busy in Africa in recent years. The company has opened new research centers, invested in local businesses, funded a $60m computer skills program, and created new initiatives designed to drive the usage of big data, analytics and cloud computing. Dr. Kamal Bhattacharya, the director of IBM Research explained why the company is taking such a significant interest: “As scientists we believe that science and technology is an enabler to express your needs, it is an enabler to shape your own future. And this is why IBM is making this very significant investment into Africa.”

Where the tech giants go, immense progress and social transformation follows. Economically, Africa will benefit immeasurably as the continent gains skills and business is increasingly done in today’s tech space. Socially, Africans will be able to access a global treasure trove of information, use life changing services and communicate in a way never before possible.

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The Middle East connects on social media

Comments (1) Business, Featured, Middle East

Facebook and WhatsApp are the most popular social platforms. But more people in the region are using new tools for sharing photos and videos.

On the 27th day of Ramadan last year, millions of people around the world were able to see photos and videos taken by pilgrims in Mecca during a social media campaign that gave non-Muslims a rare glimpse of worshippers in the holy city.

The #Mecca_live campaign, in which 300,000 people used Snapchat and Twitter to capture or distribute images, was emblematic of the growing use of social media in the Middle East and North Africa.

Facebook and WhatsApp dominate social media in the Arab world. But there is growing use of new tools for capturing sharing photos and videos, content that can cross boundaries of cultures and language in the diverse region.


Social platforms enable consumer outreach

Several studies have documented to rise in social media in the Middle East and North Africa. Information about usage is important for businesses and institutions that want to reach users at a time when digital and social media are changing practices and attitudes in the region, especially among young people.

Businesses, news organizations, and other institutions that want to understand and connect with the region’s growing market and figure out how to direct their efforts need to understand social media usage, said Damian Radcliffe, a University of Oregon journalism professor who compiled the most recent report.

While Facebook is the dominant social platform in a number of countries, WhatsApp, Instagram and Snapchat have pockets of popularity, Radcliffe writes in his fourth annual report, “Social Media in the Middle East: The Story of 2015,” Radcliffe looks at data from a variety of sources to outline social media usage in the region.

Facebook has 80 million users in region

Facebook has about 80 million users in the region, which has a total population of more than 350 million, and is adding more than one million new users a month. By comparison, the United States has 195 million Facebook users.

Egypt has the most Facebook users – 27 million – or about a third of the nation’s population.

At the same time, the United Arab Emirates has the most active Facebook user base. On average users spend an hour a day on Facebook, compared to 40 minutes globally, according to Facebook. With a population of nearly 10 million, the UAE has nearly four million Facebook users, or about 40 percent of the total population.

Other nations with large Facebook user bases are Saudi Arabia, with 12 million users, about 40 percent of the population, and Iraq, with 11 million users or about a third of the country’s residents.

Facebook widely popular

A 2015 study found that Facebook is also the most popular social platform in the Kuwait, Oman, Iraq, Palestine, Jordan and Tunisia in addition to Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

WhatsApp, a messaging service acquired by Facebook in 2014 for $19 billion, is the leading platform in Lebanon, Sudan and Algeria, the study said.

The two platforms are equally popular in Qatar, Bahrain, Yemen, Lebanon, Syria, Egypt and Libya.

Radcliffe noted that WhatsApp is being used for more than text messaging. He said it is increasingly used to discuss different interests from religion to cooking to news and is becoming a platform for e-commerce.



Photo-sharing popular

Instagram, a photo-sharing platform that Facebook bought in 2012 for $1 billion, has 25 million users in the Middle East and North Africa.

One marketing expert attributed Instagram’s growing popularity to the fact that visuals cross language and cultural boundaries.

“No one country behaves and speaks with the same language or dialect and they certainly don’t have the same dynamics in terms of economy, language, lifestyle, religion, and ethnicity,” Ema Linaker said.

Saudi Arabia has 10.7 million Instagram users, while there are 3.2 million in Egypt and 2.2 million in the United Arab Emirates.

Video viewing on the increase

Videos are also becoming a staple of social media.

The region is the fastest growing consumer of videos on Facebook with consumption is twice the global average.

Periscope, a live-streaming application launched last year by Twitter, is popular in Turkey. Turkey has the highest use of Periscope of any country in the world after the United States. Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir are among the top 10 cities for Periscope use.

Periscope has a strong connection to Turkey. Its inventor created the application after a he visited then country when civil unrest erupted in 2013. Unable to get a street-eye view of Istanbul protests on traditional media, he came up with the idea of creating an easy-to-use live-streaming application.

According to Google data, video viewing on YouTube is also increasing. The amount of time spent watching videos on YouTube increased by 80 percent and the region is second only to the United States in online video viewership

Twitter less popular

Twitter, meanwhile, has very mixed adoption. On the high end, more than half of all social media users in Saudi Arabia and UAE have Twitter accounts although actual daily usage is quite low in Saudi Arabia.

Jordan, Palestine, Syria and Libya have low Twitter penetration but their users are very active.

Twitter users are mostly young, with people aged 18-24 accounting to 45 percent of users in the region.

Among young, digital access change attitudes

Digital and social media are having a profound impact on young people around the globe and no less in the Arab world.

Born between 1977 and 1997, they are tech savvy and account for 40 percent of the population of the region.

Access to information and debate on digital and social platforms is propelling them away from the traditional perspectives of their elders, according to Booz & Company, a strategy consulting firm that has surveyed thousands of young people in the region.

“These young people are far more active as consumers and as critics. They are involved more directly than their parents in the media they consume and purchase, and they are more outspoken about society, economics, and politics.”

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