Facebook increased the number of regular users in its three biggest African markets by 13% in the nine months through March as the US social network intensified growth plans on the continent.
The company added 4 million account holders who use the network at least once a month in South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya, Africa Chief Executive Officer Nunu Ntshingila told reporters in Johannesburg on Thursday.
That increased the total across the three countries to 35.5 million, including 16 million in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country. South Africa now has 14 million users while Kenya has 5.3 million.
The growth has been led by Ntshingila, the former chairman of UK advertiser WPP’s Ogilvy & Mather agency in South Africa, who joined Facebook when the company opened its first African office in Johannesburg a year ago.
To overcome obstacles such as the lack of high-speed connectivity on the continent, the company started products that need less data, including Facebook Lite.
“We bring products that talk to certain of the challenges that we see in Africa,” Ntshingila said. “Facebook Lite does not take the same amount of data as your other products.”The social-networking service has also partnered with telecommunications companies Bharti Airtel of India and South Africa’s Cell C on product offerings, she said.Facebook said last year it had agreed with Paris-based Eutelsat Communications SA to launch a satellite to provide internet to large parts of sub-Saharan Africa. The move will take place before the end of the year, according to Ntshingila.“Facebook will fast forward the rate of people connecting to the internet,” she said.