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Is Facebook good for African development?

Africa is a continent of diverse social and natural capital, as well as impressive economic growth and social progress. However, three core opportunities have yet to be fully realised in all African markets:

  1. Leveraging Africa’s competitive advantage of an extremely young population;
  2. Bringing more women into formal economic activity; and
  3. Diversifying and expanding intra-African trade.

We worked with Facebook London to understand how the digital economy and social media contribute towards realising these three economic development opportunities in Africa. With small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) contributing 95% of total employment on the continent, we identified SMBs as the vehicles for achieving the three opportunities. If the SMB is the vehicle, then the rocket fuel is digital inclusion.

The study focused on the impact of the Facebook apps, namely Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram and Facebook Messenger, on SMBs in eight African countries (South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana, Mauritius, Senegal, Cote d’Ivoire and the DRC).

We surveyed 4,020 SMBs, conducted focus-group discussions and triangulated development research to show how social-media platforms accelerate business growth by lowering start-up costs, and helping businesses to access new customers and build brand equity.

The report found that on average, surveyed SMBs that use the Facebook apps are more youth- and female-friendly, are concentrated in non-traditional, service-oriented sectors, and are more optimistic about their growth prospects, as shown below.


However, evidence from surveyed SMBs also indicated that high costs of internet access and data, and low levels of trust in data privacy on social media are common barriers to greater uptake of social media.

The report calls on governments and private companies to implement national policies that will reduce the costs of connectivity and mobile-device use, to invest in digital literacy programmes, and to ensure that digital platforms are transparent about data collection and use.

*Small- and medium-sized businesses are defined as businesses with fewer than 250 employees.

Download the reports here:

How social media is powering small business in Africa (English reports)

Les médias sociaux au service des petites entreprises en Afrique (French reports)

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