Facebook make big gains in Africa on mobile use

Despite its success, the social network still has a long way to go on the continent

 Facebook is riding the wave of mobile adoption in Africa to help meet its goal of connecting businesses with people in emerging markets.

Sixty percent of all Internet users in Africa are now active on Facebook and 80 percent of them access the site on mobile devices, according to statistics shared by the social network this week.

According to the African Union’s first session of the Specialized Technical Committee on Communication and ICT last week, 84 percent of the continent's population is covered by mobile networks.

These figures augur well for Facebook’s investment in the continent. In June Facebook said that the company's active user base in Africa grew by 20 percent to 120 million people from 100 million last September. However, this leaves a wide margin for the social network to cover in a population of over a billion people. It also exposes the business opportunity yet to be explored in the continent.

So far Facebook's African user base is concentrated in three countries – Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa. The company noted that 100 percent of its 15 million Nigerian and 15 million South African active monthly users access the network on mobile devices. Ninety-five percent of Facebook's 4.5 million Kenyan users access the the site via mobile.

Facebook has launched several projects designed to bring its services to users in developing economies. Its Internet.org project, which offers a variety of free services, has been rolled out in several African countries. Facebook Lite, a low-bandwidth app that uses a fraction of the standard application data, has been launched in countries including Nigeria, South Africa, Sudan and Zimbabwe. However, low broadband access is still a major challenge hindering many Africans from accessing the internet.

To reach more users across the continent, Facebook will have to devise more ways or partnerships to address the expensive cost of broadband, which has kept the Internet usage rate in Africa at 20 percent of the population, compared to an average of 80 percent in developed countries.

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Olusegun Abolaji Ogundeji

IDG News Service
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