Mark Zuckerberg’s visit to Nigeria has been rather eventful and is certainly one of the hallmarks of the year. His visit has put Nigeria’s tech eco-system in high spirits. Techpreneurs and various business owners are all keen on making the best out of the surprise visit. While some are picking up great ideas for growing their businesses, others are looking for an opportunity to pitch their ideas to Mark and some others probably just want to have a selfie, you know, for memory sake.
Some of Nigeria’s finest developers and entrepreneurs were gathered at the Landmark Event center on Wednesday the 31st of August, 2016, for the developer’s conference organized by Facebook. The conference probably didn’t go as planned because Mark turned the meeting into an interactive question and answer session with the developers and entrepreneurs that were present. The event was also broadcast live on Facebook and here are excerpts.
Mark began by appreciating the commitment and entrepreneurial energy that Nigerians demonstrate towards the growth of their businesses and the economy of the country. In his own remarks, he said,
“there’s this energy here, I mean you feel it as soon as you get off the plane. I think the world needs to see that.”
Mark also shared the story of two Nigerians he met the previous day who demonstrated the passion and entrepreneurial energy that he spoke of earlier. One was Blessing Ebowe, a software developer at Andela, and Rosemary Njoku who runs a Facebook Express Wi-Fi center and a retail store. He also mentioned that he came to Nigeria on his first trip to sub-Saharan Africa to interact and learn from the vibrant developer and entrepreneurial ecosystem. He also underscored the need for the on-going tech revolution in Nigeria seeing that the country is shifting from a resource based economy to an entrepreneurial and knowledge-based economy and the tech ecosystem is leading that change.
After that, Mark addressed a question on how Facebook plans to reach the rural areas and other parts of the world where people do not have access to the internet or Facebook. He spoke on the strategy that Facebook has in place to make sure that majority of people in the world have access to affordable internet. The strategy includes:
- Building infrastructure that will provide internet connectivity in rural areas. He announced the Launch of a satellite later this week and use of solar powered drones (Project Aquila) as part of the plan to reach rural places with the internet.
- Making the infrastructure affordable by using cheap infrastructure, and encouraging developers to make use of less data for apps.
- Spreading awareness of the internet to people, letting them understand the benefits of being connected on the internet. He spoke about Free basics, a Facebook programme running in about 22 countries across Africa where people get access to basic services on the internet.
Next up, Mark addressed a question on how he was able to move from being a developer to a CEO. According to him, being a developer and running a huge company aren’t much different as every problem in the world can be addressed as a system whether it is writing code or running a company and secondly, you can break down problems into smaller chunks which you can then solve. So the same way a software project can be broken down into different parts that can be addressed individually, a company is broken down into different teams that can be managed independently.
The next question was centered on how he was able to market Facebook when it was basically still a start-up, and he clearly stated that the best form of marketing is to get the people who enjoy your product and service to evangelize the product to others. This means creating products that are satisfactory and which will make your customers tell others about your product.
In response to some questions concerning the future for WhatsApp and the Facebook Messenger, Mark shared ongoing plans to make WhatsApp not only connect individuals but also connect people to businesses and this plan has led to the recent update of the WhatsApp data use policy which has raised a lot of eyebrows in the tech ecosystem. He also pointed that there is no future plan to combine the WhatsApp platform with Facebook Messenger, but that Facebook seeks to see the two platforms play out individually in their own strengths.
The next question came from Seyi Taylor, Co-founder at Big cabal media, and the question was on the Oculus rift and Facebook’s plans to widen the reach of VR. Mark gave hopes of improved hardware that will be made cheaper so that the Oculus rift VR headset will be more affordable and other future improvements that will be made in the VR ecosystem. He also spoke on the prospects of AR (augmented reality) for a future world where people will be able to provide cheap solutions to problems and create unique products using augmented reality as a tool.
There was also an interesting session on his opinion of the Nigerian Jollof rice and his first experience with our traditional pounded yam and soup meal. Mark also shared his diaper changing skills with the lit audience after a participant posed the question.
In response to other questions posed by the audience, Mark spoke on customizing apps and services to reach more people by tweaking features such as the language the information is presented in and tailoring down the content to meet the people’s taste. He also shared his interest in personalized learning, a method of learning where people learn through whatever media that suits them, and how he invests in different learning platforms in Africa through the Chan-Zuckerberg Foundation.
Mark also shared an inspiring quote that “The best way to predict the future is to create it”, when asked a question on what the future holds for Facebook, by Amaechi Okobi, a group Head of Communications and External Affairs at Access Bank. Mark also went on to explain that Facebook remains committed to connecting people all around the world. Uche Pedro, founder of BellaNaija also posed a question on how Mark has been able to build Facebook into a big business, and Mark clearly stated that learning for him is the groundbreaker for businesses that want to grow and scale globally. He also shared experiences on how Facebook has evolved over the years due to their strong culture of learning.
The final question for the day came from Nkemdilim Begho, who runs FutureSoft, an IT servicing company, and her question was on how Facebook can help draw SMEs to social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram as this would help grow the online business community. Mark explained how pages on Facebook has helped connect about 60 million businesses across the world to their customers and mentioned that a big part of Facebook’s mission includes giving SMEs the same tools that only big companies could afford years ago and this gives small businesses a level playing ground to grow.
In his final words, Mark emphasizes again his convictions about Nigeria’s tech ecosystem and in his own words, ‘there is no way that this place doesn’t end up shaping the way that things get built around the world’.