By Prince Osuagwu
You may think the Nigerian economy is on its knees, but that may not be the general view, particularly of foreign investors and technology giants around the globe.
A better understanding of the potentials this country holds would be more appreciated when listening to Facebook’s Director of Global product Partnerships, Mr Ime Archibong. He tells you how highly the global social media giant reckons with the country.
Archibong granted Hi-Tech an exclusive interview from his California, USA base, ahead of the ‘Facebook for developers workshop’ for Nigerian engineers, product managers and partners which is holding today. The event would help the engineers build better applications and monetise them more effectively.
Describing why Facebook chose Nigeria, Archibong says that Nigeria is a country every tech company with strong visions should have a footprint in. He emphatically said that Nigeria is on Facebook’s radar and as such, a gateway for accessing emerging markets .
Enjoy the excerpts:
The Nigerian spirit we admire
One of the things I had walked away with having spent time with many Nigerian young entrepreneurs and ecosystem partners I have met over time is the energy in their hustle. It really inspired me. I knew some of them who studied in the United States and decided to come and settle in Nigeria. But they are doing something really interesting in the ecosystem.
I was really blown away by their dedication to transforming Nigeria. Despite the challenges prevalent in the environment here and indeed on the rest of this continent, there is still a lot of creativity coming out from this part of the world.
I sit and scratch my head when I wonder at the geniuses that come out of here despite the conditions and wonder what they can do in better conditions. In a non personal capacity, I also want to learn and understand what is on the ground. It is an opportunity for Facebook to add value to what they are trying to do. More importantly, it is part of a listening and learning process for us to really appreciate what is happening around from fellow tech minds.
Problems Facebook is coming to solve
Facebook is really passionate about finding better ways to connect people so one of the things that are high on my agenda is the connectivity challenge that some of these entrepreneurs s have. if we’re trying to figure out how to bridge that gap for them then it is important that we listen to them. Nigerians in the diaspora will tell you that watching Nollywood movies is a major part of their daily routines. They hold dear their precious DVDs. That is one thing we want to do, help Nollywood move to the next level. This is one particular area the company is very excited about.
What we’ll take away
We are coming to Nigeria to listen and learn first and foremost. This is the second trip I have made to Nigeria on behalf of Facebook. We recently hired a group of people who lived in Lagos for a long time. We do think that there is an opportunity for us to help the ecosystem. It is already thriving. We just need to accelerate what is on ground and take it to the next level.
One of the things we have experienced round the world and here in California is that when we have the opportunity to sit and learn from content creators, tech entrepreneurs, it isn’t just an opportunity to help them with what they need, but to better improve our services as well. There is a lot we’re looking to learn from Nigeria, there are a lot of things we admire about Nigeria. The country is on our radar. There are areas as well that we can help to improve the ecosystem here, so we keen to do that.
Let me talk a little bit about Nollywood. The last time in Africa, I was blown away by how the entrepreneurs I met could read into the detectable shift that is going to happen. It’s not optical technology that will take this to the next level. Connectivity is going to happen and when it does we must make room for Nollywood. When I heard this, I said to myself, there’s something Facebook is doing with video that might be interesting to them that we could work with and learn from them too.
We understand major challenges in Nigeria have to do with power, traffic or connectivity. Obviously there is nothing that Facebook is doing currently to solve electricity concerns. But when it comes to connectivity concerns, we clearly have been working on that for a number of years across the continent. Finding solutions to connectivity challenges is definitely top of the line for me.
One thing I’m really passionate about is how to bridge the connectivity gap. Facebook has really done a good job of that over the years. Our application is being used by over 1.7 bn people in the world.
Messenger and whatsapp are being used by over 1 billion people, instagram by 500 million people. We have distribution in our DNA. When I sit down with creative geniuses, my mind moves to how we can leverage on the distribution channels that we have built to help to share their ideas with the rest of the world;. We have a bunch of different products, services and tools, some paid, some free that they can leverage on and connect with other countries and continents.
Building sustainable IT Infrastructure
One of the things that are important to us in any working condition is to have a family. We definitely don’t want to build anything on a house of cards that will eventually crumble. That is why we want to share Facebook’s ten year vision and roadmap. In fact that’s the focus of our roadmap, at the heart of the ten year time frame is connectivity.
That’s top of line for us globally and in Nigeria. Airtel’s free basic programme for example is live across the world in about forty countries, twenty of them in Africa alone. This is an example of us partnering with the mobile operators who have created this infrastructure over the course of the years and have already invested billions of dollars in connectivity.
We are also investing in Research and Development to provide governments with cheaper ways to create internet access. We launched a satellite over Africa that Nigeria should benefit from. On the side of Government policies, it is not really my foray. My focus really is on entrepreneurs and start ups. I do understand that governments all over the world can either be enablers or pull people down. But it is something to take note of. Perhaps I will discuss with our policy people so that I can get a better sense of opportunity to partner with government to unlock potential.
There are programmes that the government must be doing to boost the ecosystem, so if we can partner with them, why not?