How local partners play an integral role in supporting projects of large tech companies like Facebook

by | Oct 12, 2020

Last month, US-based tech giant, Facebook, announced plans to open a second African office in Lagos, Nigeria.

This signalled a landmark achievement for the whole continent. It has become more evident that with more than a billion people, Africa holds enormous potential for Facebook.

Internet penetration in sub-Saharan Africa has increased from 16% to 33.2% in the last five years. And Facebook expects this growth to continue as the cost of data services decreases, and more people upgrade from feature phones to smartphones.

But unlike the first office in Johannesburg, the Lagos office will house several teams across engineering, sales, partnership, policy, and communication.

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“We’re delighted to be announcing our new office in Nigeria. Five years on from opening our first office on the continent in Johannesburg, South Africa, we’re continuing to invest in and support local talent, as well as the various communities that use our platforms.

The office in Lagos will also be key in helping to expand how we service our clients across the continent,” Nunu Ntshingila-Njeke, Regional Director, Facebook Africa said during the announcement.

Going by its timeline, the sub-Saharan Africa operations will commence in the second half of next year. Possibly in the months ahead, the company will open up its hiring desk for as many people into roles it looks to fill.

One subtle factor that will influence the productivity of Facebook’s employees will be its office design. And these days, providing a mix of work and leisure spaces is necessary to attract and retain top talent.

Companies in Silicon Valley like Facebook are big on office branding. Geared towards employee productivity, creativity, and collaboration, they are known to be pioneers of making cool and colourful office spaces.

Design at the forefront of an international office

When fellow Internet giant, Google, was preparing for its Google for Nigeria event in Lagos, Spacefinish, a Nigerian-based design and innovation company, was assigned to design the 2,000+ capacity space.

Then in January this year, Google launched its first-ever Developer Space in Africa. Situated in Lagos, Nigeria, the GDSpace is a hub for African developers, entrepreneurs, and startups from 17 African countries including Kenya, Egypt, and South Africa. Again, Spacefinish was assigned the design of the 120-seating capacity hall.

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One of Google’s spaces with Spacefinish. Source: Spacefinish’s website.

As a design company, Spacefinish has an impressive foreign-based clientele like Google, PwC, and DHL. So with Facebook’s announcement, one would have tipped Spacefinish to be in contention for designing the soon-to-be office.

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Further research on the design company’s website would reveal that it was indeed going to design the Lagos office.

In the past, international companies looking to set up shop in local markets have found it challenging to find partners that meet global standards and requirements.

But with the Spacefinish reference, it’s clear indigenous companies are now beginning to understand the needs of global corporations to the point of contextually being relevant within the African continent.

Why these partnerships are necessary

Spacefinish isn’t the only company to have worked on Facebook’s projects.

Recently, the Internet giant partnered with engineering talent network, Andela, to up-skill developers across all countries in Africa through its #BuildforSDG Challenge.

Facebook Developer Circles states that the overall goal of the six-week programme is to train more than 7,000 developers who would work as full-stack developers in executing high-impact projects.

The six-year-old company is known for solving some of Africa’s technical talent shortage by building distributed engineering teams. And as a company that caters to these needs, Facebook saw Andela as an excellent fit to bring more developers into its Developer Circles community.

Zuckerberg walking with Seni and Nad

Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, during his visit to Andela HQ in 2016

Similarly, in 2018, Facebook began a project to connect more than one million people in Edo and Ogun states in Nigeria to the Internet.

In partnership with MainOne, a broadband infrastructure company in Nigeria, 750km of terrestrial fibre infrastructure will be laid across the two states.

To consolidate its position in Africa’s Internet market, this partnership was a no-brainer. With MainOne’s strength as a wholesale telecoms service provider, Facebook hopes to deepen and accelerate broadband penetration in Nigeria and gain more users in the process.

This shows the importance of international companies consulting local players because they bring local context to whatever global companies have in mind.

For Andela, it is the opportunity to add these developers to their pipeline and provide international support communities to them.

In MainOne’s case, it is to share the knowledge of the local environment with international operators so they can access its common infrastructure.

And for Spacefinish, it is being able to navigate the complexities of the African design and construction market while understanding international business needs.

Like Bosun Tijani, CEO of CcHub once puts it,

“It’s vital that Africa takes an open approach to collaboration. Together, we will be stronger and international companies who are looking to enter into the African market, know that they have a trusted partner, with a pan-African network, to collaborate with.”


Featured image source: iAfrikan.

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Endlessly amused by technology. @ulonnaya

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