Facebook plans to open its second African office in Lagos, Nigeria which will include its first set of in-house engineers on the continent, the company said in a statement on September 18.
The social media giant already has an office in Johannesburg, South Africa.
A company spokesperson told fDi that Facebook is “committed to Africa, and our work and partnerships across the region.”
“Five years on from opening our first office in Johannesburg, this [Lagos office] is the next natural step as we look to continue supporting the various communities we work with on the continent.”
The planned Lagos office – which will serve the sub-Saharan region and is expected to become operational in the second half of 2021 – follows a number of investments made by the social media giant in Africa’s most populous city.
Its investments include Facebook’s community hub space NG_Hub, which it opened in 2018 in partnership with innovation centre Co-Creation Hub, and its small business group operations centre in partnership with business services giant Teleperformance.
As a precursor to setting up an office, multinational tech firms often provide support and funding to entrepreneurial ecosystems through community hubs and accelerators to gain understanding of local markets and talent before making a long-term investment.
In January 2020, internet giant Google opened a developers’ space in Lagos, Nigeria housing the Google Launchpad Accelerator Africa – providing a space for entrepreneurs, developers, venture capitalists and investors to connect and collaborate with each other.
The launchpad forms part of a programme Google has run since March 2018 in Africa that connects start-ups with Google staff, networks, methodologies and technologies. International investors have also increasingly shown interest in the continent's entrepreneurial ecosystems, with a record $1.4bn invested into African start-ups last year, up from $0.4bn in 2014, according to the African Private Equity and Venture Capital Association.
A GSMA Ecosystem Accelerator study also found that the number of active tech hubs in Africa grew by 40% between 2018 and 2019. Nigeria led in the continent with 85 active tech hubs, followed by South Africa with 80, Egypt with 56 and Kenya with 48.
Ime Archibong, Facebook’s head of new product experimentation, said upon announcing the new Lagos office that “all across Africa we’re seeing immense talent in the tech ecosystem”, adding that he was proud that future products will be built with “Africans at the helm”.
Facebook also announced in May 2020 that it would invest in 2Africa, a 37,000km subsea cable that will connect 23 countries in Africa, the Middle East and Europe, providing essential internet capacity and connectivity to large parts of the continent. The cable will be built by Alcatel Submarine Networks in partnership with several telecoms companies, including China Mobile International, Orange and Vodafone.
Greenfield investment monitor fDi Markets has tracked six greenfield projects announced in Africa by Facebook and its subsidiaries since 2014 – the same number of projects as in the Middle East, but markedly lower than the 36 in Europe and 25 in Asia-Pacific during the same period.
Facebook’s African investments include its first sub-Saharan content review centre in Nairobi, Kenya – which opened in 2019 and aims to regulate fake news and hate spread on its social media platforms. It also partnered with the telecoms providers Airtel and BCS in north-western Uganda to lay 770km of fibre optic broadband network.
Other big tech firms have also been ramping up their African investments. Since 2015, the big five GAFAM technology firms – Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple and Microsoft – have announced 30 greenfield investment projects across Africa, according to fDi Markets.
In 2019, Microsoft showed its confidence in African tech talent by launching its first African development centre, with sites in both Lagos and Nairobi.
In June this year, online retail giant Amazon announced plans to create 3,000 new customer contact roles in South Africa to provide support to its customers in North America and Europe.