Facebook, which has been working to build its user base in Africa through programs like Internet.org and lightweight versions of its app, is opening a new business office in Johannesburg, South Africa, the company’s first permanent office on the continent.
The office will serve as a sales hub, helping Facebook learn about and attract small businesses from the region that may want to advertise to Facebook’s audience, which is growing in the region. Facebook has hired Nunu Ntshingila, chairman of Ogilvy South Africa, to run the new office as the company’s Head of Africa, a new position.
International revenue has always been important for Facebook. More than half of the company’s ad revenue comes from outside the United States and Canada, and has for a number of years.
That percentage is slowly eroding, though, from 56 percent in Q1 2013 to 52 percent last quarter. Facebook is relying more and more on high-priced ads in North America versus other parts of the world. A new office like the one in Africa could help expand on that international business.
Facebook is also hoping to learn more about what kinds of advertising actually work in Africa as a way to lure big brands like Coca-Cola and Virgin Mobile that may want to reach the site’s African user base. The company launched a Creative Accelerator program earlier this year to do just that.
Product head Chris Cox also talked at the Cannes Lions advertising festival last week about Facebook’s plans to build ads that work on feature phones for users who don’t have strong wireless connections.
All of this adds up to a pretty healthy interest in Africa, and Facebook hasn’t been shy about its aspirations. Africa is still very much an emerging market; most of the continent is still without Internet access and those who are online are getting there on mobile devices. For Facebook, a service that’s already amassed 1.4 billion users, Africa provides a region where there’s still plenty of room for growth.
Facebook is experiencing some of that growth now. There are now 120 million Africans who visit Facebook each month, up from 100 million back in September. That’s 20 percent growth in nine months, almost three times the growth rate of Facebook’s total user base.
Facebook has made significant efforts in trying to reach this group of Internet newbies. Internet.org is probably the most well known — and most criticized — example. The initiative offers a free slate of Internet services, including Facebook, to some parts of the world where Internet is not widely available.
Of the 14 countries with Internet.org access, six of them are in Africa.
The new office will not include Internet.org employees, though, at least not right now. Facebook plans to hire 25 employees in its South Africa office, all of them on the business and advertising side of the fence. That number will increase throughout the year.
Nunu Ntshingila is one of the highest ranking women in advertising and Chairman of South Africa’s largest agency group. She is widely regarded as a leading light in the industry, having worked her way up the ladder from a position as a trainee account manager.
Over the two decades in which she has consolidated her career in the South African advertising industry, Nunu has received several of the industry’s highest honours. In 2003, she was named a finalist in the Businesswoman of the Year Award, in 2004 she again attained finalist status in the Shoprite Checkers/SABC Woman of the Year award, as well as being named Financial Mail’s Advertising Leader of the Year. In 2005, she won the coveted prize of Business Personality of the Year at the Top Women in Business and Government Awards.
In early 2011, Nunu was appointed to the Ogilvy & Mather Board, where she joins 30 of the world’s top advertising and marketing professionals as the unique representative from Africa. In a note that went out to the worldwide Ogilvy network of 450 offices in 120 countries from Shelly Lazarus, Chairman, and Miles Young, Global CEO of Ogilvy & Mather, Nunu was hailed as an outstanding representative of the opportunities Ogilvy sees in Africa: “Nunu is the fearless and charismatic leader of the South African business and she represents the future of Ogilvy & Mather.”
In her many years at Ogilvy, Nunu has overseen the agency’s evolution into a diversified communications group that continues to deliver integrated, effective and award-winning work for South Africa’s biggest and most well-recognised brands, including DSTV, SABMiller, KFC, Cadbury, BP, Volkswagen and Coca-Cola.
Under her leadership, Ogilvy South Africa has grown from strength to strength, not only in terms of income but also new business. Importantly, her steadfast leadership is also one of the primary reasons that the group enjoys some of the most long-term and successful client partnerships in the industry. In 2011, the agency celebrated 50 years with SAB and 32 with Volkswagen.
Perhaps most importantly, however, Nunu has been instrumental in the creation of a pan-African joint venture with WPP’s Scangroup. This deal, more than anything, represents Ntshingila’s confidence in Africa, and her optimism about the future of the continent and the crucial role that South Africa has to play in its growth and development. In all likelihood, it will become the legacy that she leaves not only to O&M, but to the advertising world at large.
In 2012, Nunu takes on the role as Chairman of the Ogilvy Group in South Africa, succeeded by Abey Mokgwatsane as CEO.
Nunu is widely regarded for her knowledge and experience as well as her level-headed business savvy. She is, however, equally well-renowned for her gentle and compassionate nature, and her natural empathy has won her the hearts and admiration of staff and colleagues alike. It is this rare combination of business understanding and creative innovation that has earned her seats on a variety of company boards, including Transnet.