Africa mostly not on Facebook, and not on Zuckerberg’s to do list

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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.

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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?

15 Comments

  1. JamesM says:

    Virtually all of the reasons you mentioned in the article why Facebook doesn’t see Africa as adding to its bottom-line skirt the obvious. BAD POLITICS is the reason why Africa’s macroeconomics don’t spur a digital economy that attracts the likes of Facebook. Our very own Zimbabwe is a case in point. No need to go elsewhere on the continent to see how bad politics ravages the economic landscape and hence the digital economy of a country. A good and visionary political political landscape that nudges the macroeconmics along with the digital economy will see Facebook and company come knocking on Zim doors. Hope we live to see that day though!

    1. A good and visionary political political landscape that nudges the macroeconmics along with the digital economy will see Facebook and company come knocking on Zim doors. Hope we live to see that day though!

      Why do we need to hope that Facebook pays attention to and starts targeting Africa or Zimbabwe? Why can’t we create our own solutions and hope that Americans, Europeans and Asians adopt them?

      1. JamesM says:

        Do we have the macroeconomic fundamentals, a digitally empowered and data consuming population to kick-start, spur and support such entrepreneurship? And not forgetting a political environment that doesn’t get in the way of such industry!

  2. Robasta says:

    “Payments are becoming a larger part of Facebook’s business, with advertising accounting for 82% of business at the”
    If you have tried (just to see how it works) to add a Facebook Advert, you can target a location, so i’m guessing not too many advertisers are targeting Harare, Ouagadougou, Durban, Gaborone etc

  3. Did these findings exclude/consider the millions of African expats particularly Nigerians and Zimbabweans living in europe? i cld ague that “virtually all” of them are facebook users. 

  4. Lancescott Scott says:

    but there already is a local social networking site http://www.sha.co.zw 

  5. Bhinikwa says:

    In China renin.com is Facebook equivalent..its very popular there because govt blocked facebook. So let grap the opportunity to develop our own solutions & grow them not just copy cat facebook & do a poorer version. First we need our own currency, our own vibrant & popular TV stationS, vibrant & popular radio stations, efficient transport systems within state, freer media, better decentralised/devolved/federated provinces to spur development outside Harare, And a govt that knows international best practises..not state experimentors!

  6. Peter says:

    Looks like that you have confused stats of facebook users with internet users?  check again: usershttp://www.internetworldstats.com/stats1.htm

    1. I just check again. I don’t see the mix up. read again: 

      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.

  7. Prosper Chikomo says:

    It all boils down to HOW people connect to Facebook. For many its work computers and iPhones and other smartphones are really not a big hit in Africa. Mpesa is successful and has more users than Facebook because you dont need a high end phone or a computer to use it.

  8. African says:

    Thankfully, Africa has her own Facebook: http://www.afroterminal.com.
    Africans at home (across the continent) and abroad meet and make friends on Afroterminal.com.

  9. African says:

    Thankfully, Africa has her own Facebook: http://www.afroterminal.com

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