Partnering with Zuck
Watch out, Silicon Valley. The West-African country of Nigeria has an up-and-coming tech industry, and even Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg has noticed.
Facebook recently partnered with AirTel Africa to provide a service called Internet.org Free Basics. The service will allow millions of Nigerians to access news, health information, and other web-based services on their smartphones, all without paying data charges. Internet.org Free Basics is already live in forty countries, half of which are African nations.
Shouting out to innovators
In his May 10 announcement, Zuckerberg gave a major shout-out to Jobberman, a website founded by three Nigerian students in their dorm room. Opeyemi Awoyemi, Olálekan Olude, and Ayodji Adewunmi founded the site in 2009 to help connect job applicants to hiring companies. Within its first year, Jobberman became one of Nigeria’s most popular sites. Jobberman receives 5,000 applications daily. The company recently moved to Lagos.
Zuckerberg’s post declared that “There’s a lot of innovation across Africa right now, and Nigeria in particular is home to a lot of talented developers.” The post cited Jobberman as an example of such talent and innovation.
“Zuckerberg just made us the poster-children of Nigeria’s burgeoning internet technology space,” said Awoyemi.
Morale boost to Africa tech
Zuckerberg concluded his post, “I’m excited to see what Nigerians build next!” He traveled to Nigeria in August to find out for himself, attending a closed-door meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari and meeting with entrepreneurs and developers in Yaba, a tech hub. “This is my first trip to sub-Saharan Africa. I’ll be…learning about the startup ecosystem in Nigeria. The energy here is amazing and I’m excited to learn as much as I can,” he told the staff of the startup incubator Co-Creation Hub.
These comments provided a morale boost to Nigerian entrepreneurs, who have many infrastructural struggles to overcome (some of which are said to be insurmountable, but only time will tell).
Zuckerberg has also put his money where his mouth is, investing millions of dollars in a Lagos startup called Andela.