From mid-2015 to the first quarter of 2017, Facebook's monthly active user (MAU) numbers in Afrika grew by 42% to over 170 million monthly active users. It is tempting to frown or be indifferent to these numbers considering what percentage of total MAUs Facebook has in total (i.e. 1,86 billion MAUs as of 31 December 2016).
It is only when compared to the number of Internet users in Afrika that you start to realise how significant Facebook's MAU number is.
September 2015 is also the same year that Facebook appointed Nunu Ntshingila as their Regional Director for Africa, fresh from being Chairperson at Ogilvy&Mather South Africa.
Given this growth, which is linked to the Facebook Africa team moving to bigger offices in Johannesburg, South Africa I decided to catch up with Ntshingila and firstly hear how the transition has been from the advertising world.
"I grew up in branding,” said Ntshingila, adding, "Part of what I do involves working with clients and finding solutions for them. This I understand well and at Facebook, I am continuing to do this – working closely with clients and their brands to help them achieve their business goals.”
"I grew up in branding", 22 year old Ntshingila two days after starting at Ogilvy & Mather South Africa as a trainee. | Nunu Ntshingila on Facebook
With Ntshingila, Facebook has found someone who will help the company grow its advertising revenues across the continent.
"Facebook is a technology company", she adds, "and we think that technology, and we believe that technology, can enable better creativity, and therefore better marketing. By partnering with brands and the agency ecosystem we can help advertisers make the most of the mobile ecosystem."
Facebook's strategy, from observation, appears twofold: onboarding new users through various services including Free Basics and growing advertising revenues. Ntshingila, given her expertise, experience and knowledge, fulfils the latter.
As Ntshingila explains, the social network has selected three key countries on the continent from where they will focus on Sub-Saharan Africa, namely Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa.
"The primary areas we are focusing on are Kenya (East), Nigeria (West) and South Africa (Southern), predominantly based upon economic and industry factors but we work with other countries in the region. Chris Cox´s recent trip is proof of Facebook's commitment to other countries in the continent," she explained.
Facebook's work with other countries can be seen with projects such as the laying fiber-optic cable in Uganda in partnership with Airtel and BCS, which Ntshingila notes, will "catalyze investment in, and roll out of infrastructure on the continent". The project will see more than 770 kilometres of fibre rolled out in under-serviced areas of Northern Uganda.
The recent SMB roundtable that Facebook hosted in Ghana for Chief Product Officer Chris Cox's visit in West Africa is another indicator of where the social network is aiming its sights - local partnerships - where eleven local businesses were invited for a day of discussion, insight and education.
"We have kicked off a series of 'Boost Your Business' trainings, which will be facilitated by local training partners in Nigeria and South Africa over the next few months, with Kenya to come in the second half of the year", Ntshingila elaborated. "In South Africa, our partner Livity Africa hosted a full-day training session for a range of SMBs this year. We are also supporting a six-week entrepreneurship boot camp for twenty young South African small business owners (between the ages of 20-30) to help them to take their businesses to the next level."
Given all this growth in user numbers, has Facebook also experienced a similar growth in revenues from Afrika? Ntshingila was understandably coy in answering the question stating, "We do not break out our Africa-specific revenues, they are accounted (for) in our quarterly financial reports."
However, she noted that Facebook works closely with all types of advertisers in the region to help them achieve their business goals through our advertising solutions.
Facebook 2016 Revenue
Facebook has worked directly with some big brands to use the social network for marketing.
"We have examples of brands who have had fantastic results by using our platform", she explains. "As an example, Coca-Cola South Africa used Facebook marketing solutions to extend its #EnjoytheFeeling global brand positioning campaign in South Africa. This campaign was an enormous success with audiences and generated superb results in reach, ad spend and brand impact. The campaign reached millions of people across all types of mobile devices, achieving a 42% increase in individual reach."
It is not only big brands that they lend a helping hand. In Kenya, Facebook has worked with a variety of small businesses people, including entrepreneur Ciiru Waweru-Waithaka who founded the brand Funkidz in 2010 after seeing the need for a children’s brand from Africa.
"We keep learning from this continent", Ntshingila says in conclusion. "We have seen the importance of working with local partners across the region. By partnering with local brands, we can help businesses grow and find new customers on our platform."