I started drafting this post on May 21st 2011 and my thoughts apparently got lost in the bytes only to be revived today and changing the title from Why Facebook Could Be An African Entrepreneurs Biggest Asset simply because Facebook is more than entrepreneurial advantage for Africa and Africans it is a social change agent. The question is will it solidify on this advantage?
The growth of Facebook has been mirrored with the emergence of broadband in Africa. Pockets of development and information consumption have been witnessed across the continent from the North all the way down to the South of the continent. Traditionally the Northern and Southern tips of the African continent have generally been more progressive and affluent either due to geographic importance or political structures. However this time around the emergence of the bandwidth has had a major impact on Sub-Saharan Africa with significant growth and the emergence of a new informed elite on major centres along the East and West coasts of the continent.
From a numbers perspective, Africa occupies a pin drop in the Facebook users’ ocean. Nonetheless look at the growth rates, quite promising indeed. Exponential growth in post-revolution Egypt and strong double-digit growth rates in most of Africa. Facebook seems to be the fabric that connects people across social classes and circles in super urban Africa. I remember a BBC documentary that captured a Kibera (largest slum in Africa) youngster narrating how he communicates with his mum over Facebook simply because its much cheaper and much more efficient/dynamic than other means such as SMS.
Well as much as Facebook is not perfect, it does solve a lot of problems for Africa. It certainly makes the transfer of information much more faster be it passive, active, useful or useless…. That would be another discussion altogether but it is clear that it is a powerful platform with little or no alternatives.
Picture this, if there was an extension to Facebook that would cater for M-PESA (Kenya’s leading mobile transaction service) transactions on Facebook Pages, this would solve a tangible problem for many small-mid sized entrepreneurs and expand their markets drastically and contribute to efficiencies in the market or even purchasing Facebook Ads credit via M-PESA to increase the exposure of their businesses. This is just one example, I’m sure there are many more that will impact social and organisational domains as well. Furthermore the role of Facebook and related social media in the so-called ‘Arab Spring’ cannot be discounted. As much as they did not cause revolutions, they certainly catalyse them.
Certainly Africa is unique in its own right. The challenges in operating in Africa would lead to tweaking of operational models. Nonetheless the minituarisation and ‘bottom of the pyramid’ business strategies have borne immense fruits for forward thinking firms that understand Africa. Yes Facebook have started by recruiting an Africa based African growth manager but my question remains does Facebook realise that it can positively reinvent the African story?
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