Facebook to open office in South Africa

Facebook is opening a new office in a suburb of Johannesburg, the largest city of South Africa, in an effort to spur growth on the continent. The sales office will be led by 51-year-old Nunu Ntshingila, chairwoman of WPP’s Ogilvy & Mather agency in South Africa.

There's more than a billion people living on the African continent, and only some 120 million of them are connected to Facebook.

For the largest social media site in the world, this is both a problem and an opportunity for growth. The opportunity part is easy to understand, and Facebook's vice president for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, Nicola Mendelsohn, puts it very simple: “This is one of the places where our next billion users are coming from“, he said.

But the problem part is fairly large: Africa's fixed internet connections are scarce, meaning not a lot of people know about the Facebook’s full website. Mobile internet, on the other hand, is getting stronger by the minute, but that’s not enough.

Smartphones, which are necessary to use the full potential of Facebook, are expensive and rare, with most people using the cheaper and less capable variants. These devices, called feature phones, can’t run Facebook’s full mobile app.

However, Facebook’s been preparing for the Africa entrance for quite some time now, with the introduction of Internet.org, a free internet initiative which would bring Facebook and a couple of other websites, free of charge in the developing world. It’s also developing a mobile app designed for less capable phones.

Ntshingila will take over the new Johannesburg’s office in September. She joined Ogilvy & Mather in 1999 and was the agency’s South Africa chief executive for seven years before becoming chairman in 2012. Her mission is to persuade businesses and advertising agencies to promote themselves through Facebook.