Yesterday, Facebook filed a fourth amendment of its U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) registration statement. SEC filing is basically a way for a company going public to provide information that would-be investors need to consider to invest in the company at its IPO. In the amendment Facebook released more stats of the usage of the social network to show just how much growth has been registered since the last time this information was made public.
In this latest filing, Facebook provides the map above which shows the density of Facebook users in different locations on the global map and what looks like strands of friendship the 901 million users have with each other.
Observing the map, it’s not hard to see just how unlit Africa is in terms of membership and activity on the social network. Of all the continents, Africa clearly has the least Facebook population. You can see the few African Facebook users are in South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria, Ghana, Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco. The rest of Africa is just sparse dots and strands connecting them.
It’s tempting to think that Facebook is not popular on the continent because of the relatively low internet penetration, as compared for example to Asia and Latina America, but that may not be so. Oceania, which has a far less internet population than Africa clearly has more Facebook activity as shown in the map above. Oceania, according to the Internet World Stats for December 2011, has only 23.9 million internet users. Africa had 139.9 million.
Another interesting piece of information to note from the map is that most regions in Africa are almost as untouched by Facebook as China is. Now the reason for the China not having that many Facebook users is that access to Facebook is restricted. This is not the case in Africa where restrictions to the social network are minimal, temporary and usually triggered by short term political instability as was the case in North Africa last year.
So why then are Africans not on Facebook? And should they be?
This could be a clear opportunity for African mobile and web startups to provide a social engagement solution targeted at the Africa internet user. Facebook itself in its global expansion strategy (page 4 in this latest amendment) doesn’t even mention Africa, saying instead that it’s focusing on Brazil, Germany, India, Japan, Russia, and South Korea. Is it that Africa is not commercially active on the internet and therefore doesn’t matter much in the ad revenue scheme of things? Or are African populations too fragmented to approach efficiently as a market? Is Zuckerberg missing an entire continent of more than 1 billion people whose access to the internet is clearly on a sharp rise?