For those who don’t know it yet, China is now the second hottest hub for startups and internet based enterprises in the world ( after Silicon Valley). Investors and entrepreneurs everywhere you think of are cracking their heads to figure out a way to be a part of the world’s biggest market by internet users and most other metrics.
Techcrunch recently extended its legendary TC Disrupt event to Beijing, heralding the first time the event has ever left the US. The middle kingdom as China is also known, has arrived with a bang. Sarah Lacy of Techcrunch is one of a few international tech journalists serious about emerging markets. The following statement in an article by her underscores their entrance into China:
This is not a conference about Silicon Valley coming to China to tell the country how it’s done. China is the only other country in the world where entrepreneurs are already building $1 billion Internet powerhouses. This is a conference that seeks to bridge the gap between the two preeminent tech ecosystems in the world today.
I recently came across an article by TechNode, the premier English tech blog in China. It featured details about how Facebook has set its focus on entering China as a number one priority. With approximately 700 million users around the world, Facebook’s only impediment from total world domination is that China’s 485 million netizens cannot legally access Facebook as it is blocked.
The Chinese government maintains a firm grip on the internet, while local tech entrepreneurs have a ball by basically duplicating Silicon Valley’s finest. This phenomenon is now known as C2C; Copy to China. China’s Facebook; Renren recently listed on the New York Stock Exchange and raised $743 million purely driven by such hype. Investors could not resist dipping their fingers into Facebook’s zhing-zhong (Zimbabwean slang for Made In China) equivalent.
If Hollywood’s usual sensationalism was not too far off in its tale of how Facebook began (through the Social Network movie), I can just imagine the reaction at Facebook about Chinese clones having a party. Mark Zuckerberg and his troops must be freaking out since their stated goal is to “change the world”. In many contexts, the world today can also refer to China. Such is the power it now wields. Every serious brand is positioning itself there in one way or another, being in Facebook’s shoes must be very frustrating.
I could have shed a couple of tears for them if they didn’t have double standards.
You cannot target Zimbabwe as a location for your adverts on Facebook. Facebook just won’t let you, despite the obvious case that Zimbabwe’s internet (and therefore Facebook) population is greater than Malawi and Zambia, both which you can target.
The statistics of Zimbabwe’s Facebook population is also impossible to get from Facebook or Socialbakers!
Yes, we know that there are “issues” influencing this, but what does that have to do with Facebook users or entrepreneurs wishing to grow their businesses through advertising on the platform. Over the past couple of months Techzim has gotten touch with Facebook representatives for Africa, and contacts in Silicon Valley to find out why on earth this is so. Such efforts were either met with very silly reasons like:
Facebook’s population in Zimbabwe is still very small, however once there is growth we’ll have the Zimbabwe section turned on.
When asked what this small population was or why Somalia, DRC, Chad, Iraq, and other “unfavourable” nations could be target with Facebook advertising, guess what happened… absolute silence. After looking into to it we laughed our heads off as Zimbabwe, Burma, North Korea, and Iran appear to be the only countries one can’t target with Facebook ads. I once heard a joke about visitors to North Korea having to leave cellphones at the airport once you arrive… Surely Zimbabwe isn’t even close to that. More so, Zim is actually one of the best places to live provided you have a generator/solar system, borehole and you mind your own business.
The truth is most developing countries don’t even match the holistic standard of everyday living in Zimbabwe. And l’m not being elitist; this statement applies to all classes. Ever heard of what the lower classes of India, Brazil, Russia, China, Nigeria, Kenya, and other “hot markets” have to go through? Even the continent’s powerhouse, South Africa has one of the highest inequality rates in the world, social instability and whole neighbourhoods of shacks.
Besides the crazy political stuff, Zimbabwe is a great place with great people and one of the highest internet populations on the continent. So when publications like the Economist state that Harare is the worst city to live in the world, or Facebook allows locals access to the platform while denying them an ability to grow through it, I get very confused.
It seems the hatred for certain individuals is so strong that it has been extended to the whole country. Well l don’t have a problem with that. It happens. My position is that companies like these should be blocked in the one market that magically erases their morally upright stature; China. After all, this is the China that isn’t in sync with the modern world ‘civilised’ beliefs, right? They broke almost every rule in the book but still conquered the world. They even ban foreign companies from operating in China unless a local partner is chosen.
In Zuckerberg’s numerous forays, there he was reportedly courting Baidu (China’s Google) for a partnership and reports have also surfaced that Sina could be the likely partner. Facebook really is desperate about entering China, good luck to them.
Image via greatwallchina.info