So my feeds are a buzz about the fact that Mark Zuckerberg is/was in Africa, more specifically Nigeria. The concept initially seemed so foreign to me, I assumed it was some kind of click-bait but further investigation shows that no, he’s really there. Even going for a jog across Lekki bridge sans security [insert curious emoji here].
News of Zuckerberg conjures up all kinds of feels. Excitement. Hope. Optimism. Pride. Many of us Nigerians believe in the country’s potential and Zuckerbergs visit to various organizations, companies and with President Buhari felt like some kind of validation. According to sources, Zuckerberg was in the West African nation for a few Facebook-related initiatives:
Free Basics: formerly known as Internet.org, Free Basics is an effort by Facebook and a host of other partners to deliver zero-rated internet services to the more than 4 billion people who are still offline. Though seemingly well-intentioned, the rebranded company has received flack from some, arguing that the content & services available is limited (before prompting for payment) and prevents websites or businesses that are not on the app from getting traffic - how can start ups not on the app compete? The debate begs the question: should internet be considered a fundamental human right with zero limitations on browsing?
Andela: Created two years ago by Iyin Aboyeji & Jeremy Johnson, Andela is a talent accelerator to give access to coding skills by paying, yes PAYING, some of Africa’s smartest minds to learn to code. The usual business model caught the attention of GV (formerly Google Ventures) and no other than the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. Their attention was something to the tune of 24 million.
Express Wifi: Another initiative by Facebook and local internet service providers to give internet service via hot spots across cities, specifically in more rural areas. Express Wifi has a similar mission as Free Basics but is not necessarily free, and is more democratic in the fact that you can peruse whatever websites or apps you want. Not just the ones Zuckerberg & Facebook allows you to.
Even though some are questioning Mark's true motivations for visiting the nation (just look at some of the comments here), I must say a focus on providing internet to the world can be seen in no other way than a benefit. The internet is an integral and fundamental part in everything that we do from connecting with friends and family to sparking creativity and supporting businesses. Kudos Zuckerberg. I hope we continue to see Mark in Naija. I mean, if nothing else, the photo ops have generated press for Nigeria and all press is good press, amiright?