Free instant messaging and calling service, WeChat might be on the verge of exiting the Nigerian market, according to information reaching us.
Rumour has it that majority of the in-house staff (mostly developers) have been laid off, and according to our source, this is towards a gradual termination of the company's physical presence in Nigeria.
"There is no truth to the rumour that WeChat is exiting Nigeria", Idemudia Dima-Okojie told Techpoint, "Nigeria remains one of our focal growth areas in Africa. We’ve been in Nigeria for a few years now and this year, we’ve decided we need to streamline our operations on the ground in order to achieve optimum strategic objectives."
Idemudia Dima-Okojie, Country Manager for WeChat Nigeria joined the company about a year ago initially as the Regional Manager for West Africa.
While Idemudia refused to comment further, we can deduce from his comment that there is at least some half truth in the rumours; WeChat Nigeria appears to be downsizing its workforce. Downsizing is a normal activity in the lifespan of every growing company. The local ecosystem has seen its fair share of downsizing in recent times -- from DealDey laying of 60% of its workforce to iROKO letting go of 300 staffers -- but we are yet to see it being used as an exit strategy.
The question now is where the rumours of WeChat's potential exit emanated from. Over the past 2 years, WeChat has run some of the most aggressive brand awareness and user acquisition campaigns involving massive cash giveaways, celebrity endorsements and startup competitions. They all seemed to pay off as WeChat claimed to acquire millions of users in Nigeria last year. We can't say for sure if that number has since grown or shrunk -- Idemudia refused to comment -- but if it is the latter, it could be a plausible reason for WeChat to stage a Nigerian exit. But until we have further details, we are going to stick with Idemudia's comment about achieving "optimum strategic objectives".
This is a developing story.