Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, is visiting Nigeria for a few days. Zuckerberg says he’ll be “meeting with developers and entrepreneurs, and learning about the startup ecosystem in Nigeria” during his time in Lagos. In line with this, Zuckerberg’s first notable stop was at Co-Creation Hub (Cc Hub), in Yaba, Lagos’ Silicon Valley-style ground zero for start-ups. Over the years, Cc Hub has served as a start-up incubator and accelerator, housing successful start-ups such as BudgIT, a civic enterprise which focuses on accountability and transparency in government budgets. While at Cc Hub, Zuckerberg also met with young kids attending a summer coding camp.
Zuckerberg may meet with Nigeria’s president Buhari or vice president Osinbajo before he leaves, according to one person familiar with the plans, but the meeting hasn’t been confirmed. The arrangements for Zuckerberg’s visit to Nigeria were successfully kept under wraps till he appeared in Lagos today (Aug. 30) after a visit to Rome with his wife Priscilla Chan, where he is reported to have met the Pope.
Tomorrow, Zuckerberg is expected to host a Q&A session sharing Facebook’s strategic plans in Africa’s largest economy. Though the visit is part of a series of global town hall meetings, Facebook’s strong ties with Nigeria cannot be ignored. With 16 million people visiting the social media platform monthly, Nigeria remains Facebook’s biggest market in Africa. In a bid to further grow that market, Facebook launched its FreeBasics service in Nigeria in May. Targeting a bulk of the population who cannot afford internet access, the service will allow users to access Facebook as well as other listed websites at no cost.
For his part, Zuckerberg has also given several nods to Nigeria over the past year, acknowledging the work of start-ups like BudgIT and job listing service, Jobberman. Most recently, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI), founded by Zuckerberg and his wife, led a $24 million investment round in Andela, a Lagos start-up that trains and outsources local software developers.
The first major investment by the foundation, it was heralded as a big bet on the future of African tech. But just as the news was met with excitement locally, controversy soon followed. Nigerian tech enthusiasts were upset with the description of Andela as a New York company, and Iyin Aboyeji, the Nigerian co-founder of Andela, hardly mentioned in the press coverage that followed the investment. At the time, Aboyeji attempted to stem the criticism via a blog post explaining the company’s origins but two months later, he announced his departure from Andela to start Flutterwave, a new payments company. Zuckerberg visited Andela’s Yaba campus today.
Seni Sulyman, director of Andela Lagos said Zuckerberg’s visit “reinforces not only his support of Andela’s mission, but his belief that indeed the next generation of great technology leaders will come out of Lagos, Nigeria and cities across Africa.”