Facebook to open 1st Africa office in Johannesburg. Ex-Ogilvy South Africa Chairman to head operations

Mark Zuckerberg, Founder & CEO, Facebook

Facebook will be opening its first headquarters in Africa next month as the company looks to acquire its next billion users.

“This is one of the places where our next billion users are coming from,” Facebook’s Vice President for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa Nicola Mendelsohn said.

The new office will be based in an affluent suburb of Johannesburg, South Africa. The office will be led by Nunu Ntshingila, 51, Chairman of Ogilvy & Mather South Africa. Ntshingila will take over the Johannesburg office in September and will drive Facebook’s growth in the Africa region. She joined Ogilvy & Mather in 1999 and was the agency’s South Africa CEO for seven years before becoming Chairman in 2012.

The Johannesburg office will focus on sales and improving Facebook’s ability to attract local businesses to advertise on the social network. Facebook plans to hire 25 employees for the Johannesburg office.

“Increasingly marketers are focused on what is the next frontier,” said Carolyn Everson, Facebook’s Vice President of Global Marketing. “There’s going to be an incredible opportunity to develop a consumer base in Africa.”

Facebook is looking to initially focus on growing markets in Kenya, Nigeria, and South Africa. In the longer term, Facebook will look to boost its user base in Senegal, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda, Zambia, Mozambique, and Ethiopia.

For the world’s largest social network, Africa holds vast potential. Facebook will be looking to ride on the surge in the number of internet connections in Africa, particularly mobile connections. Here are a few quick statistics about mobile phone use in Africa:

  • About 4 in 5 Facebook users in Africa accesses the site by mobile phone. Africa is a “mobile-first” continent, with most people accessing the internet using mobile phones.
  • By 2020, Sub-Saharan Africa will have overtaken Europe to become the 2nd largest mobile market, only after Asia-Pacific.
  • Sub-Saharan Africa will have half a billion mobile subscribers by 2020.
  • The mobile penetration rate in Africa’s largest economy, Nigeria, of 94% is over ten times the penetration rate of PC access, which stands at 9.1%.

Facebook’s Vice President for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, Nicola Mendelsohn, said in the release: “We are inspired by the incredible ways people and businesses in Africa use Facebook to connect. This momentum in Africa comes on top of strong advertiser partnerships and excellent adoption of our products across all regions. In the first quarter of 2015, 52 percent of our total ad revenue came from outside of the U.S. and Canada. But we’re just getting started. Mobile is not a trend; it’s the fastest development in communications we’ve ever seen. This couldn’t be more true in Africa, where so many people are mobile-only.

This new office is a significant milestone for Facebook, and our teams want to partner with businesses across the continent. Africa is important to Facebook, and this office is a key part of our strategy to expand our investment and presence across EMEA. Facebook is already a central part of people’s lives in Africa, and with more than 1 billion people in Africa, we want to do more to help people and businesses connect.”

Facebook’s Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa, Ari Kesisoglu, added: “Our new African office will support our customers across the continent. We know that a one-size-fits-all approach won’t work when it comes to building products and solutions that address diverse needs on the continent, which is why we are committed to creating solutions tailored to people, businesses, and specifically for African markets.

Our priority for the next few months is to continue the work we are already doing with some clients in this region. We will work more closely with businesses and agencies to understand the challenges so that we can build solutions that help grow their business. People increasingly want to be connected to the world around them and desire information about new services and products to better their lives. At the same time, businesses need stronger, more flexible, and less fragmented ways of reaching people in Sub Saharan Africa. Our mission will be to connect brands and consumers in Africa, creating value for all parties in the process.”