Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s visit to Kenya good for American companies willing to invest in Kenya
Mark Zuckerberg at iHub in Nairobi admiring a cooking store system designed by young Kenyan engineers which helps people use mobile payments to buy small amount of cooking gas.
By Benard Ayieko
We know him as the co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Facebook, Mark Elliot Zuckerberg made a surprise visit to Kenyaon 1st of September. The 32-year-old father of one, an internet entrepreneur and philanthropist announced his arrival via his Facebook page that read, “Just landed in Nairobi! I’m here to meet with entrepreneurs and developers, and to learn aboutmobile money -- where Kenya is the world leader”. That post caught most Kenyans on Facebook by surprise with many applauding his kind gesture to visit Kenya. Others took the opportunity to post hilarious comments. For instance, one comment by Alex read “I still don’t understand why Mark Zuckerberg you bought WhatsApp for $3 billion when you could’ve downloaded it at the Play Store for free. Karibu Kenya”. Ken’s comment read “I can’t believe that Mark Zuckerberg went to see wildlife instead of meeting with all facebook admins in Kenya or block all the people who threaten us by posting pictures and caption it “type amen or die” anywhere, hope you enjoyed... Next time inbox me I cook for you mutura or chips mwitu am sure you’ll love it”. Ruth commented positively by saying, “Karibu Kenya Mark. I’m a big beneficiary of Facebook. I run my businesses online and online here I mean facebook 99%. I’ll just mention one business, I have a fashion shop called The Magharibi Fashion House and 99% of my sales are through Facebook. Thank you once again, keep improving Facebook”.
Facebook is a for-profit corporation and online social networking service based in Menlo Park, California, United States. The Facebook website was launched on 4th February, 2004 by Zuckerberg, along with fellow Harvard College students and roommates, Eduardo Saverin, Andrew McCollum, Dustin Moskovitz, and Chris Hughes. The founders had initially limited the website’s membership to Harvard students; however, later they expanded it to higher education institutions in the Boston area, the Ivy League schools, and Stanford University.
Facebook gradually added support for students at various other universities, and eventually to high school students as well. Since 2006, anyone age 13 and older has been allowed to become a registered user of Facebook, though variations exist in the minimum age requirement, depending on applicable local laws. The Facebook name comes from the face book directories often given to United States university students.
Zuckerberg’s trip to Kenya comes a day after he visited Nigeria, his first trip to sub-Saharan Africa. Kenya becomes his second country to visit in sub-Saharan Africa. Coincidentally, in both maiden visits, his first stopover was at tech centres (tech hub in Yaba, Lagos and iHub in Nairobi). According to Forbes 2016, Zuckerberg networth is estimated to be in excess of $54.3 billion which puts him at a pole position to tilt favourably U.S investors’ perspective on the need to invest in Africa particularly in Kenya – the largest economy in East Africa and a regional hub for financial and technological services.
His visit has put Kenya’s tech businesses firmly in the world’s spotlight. Just last year, President Obama became the first sitting U.S president to visit Kenya during the 6th Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES), a gathering of entrepreneurs at all stages of business development bringing together business leaders, innovators, academia, private sector, mentors and highlevel government officials demonstrating U.S Government’s continued commitment to fostering entrepreneurship in Kenya.
Zuckerberg’s visit is seen as a positive outcome of the GES because his focus is to learn about innovations and technological development especially with regard to mobile money transfer that was pioneered by Safaricom, a local Kenyan company. Therefore his visit underscores American companies desire to invest in Kenya and which could go a long way in sending positive signals to other U.S corporations that are toying with the idea of investing in Kenya.
Of particular interest to the government is how Facebook can be used to increase internet access through countrywide installations. To reiterate the need to foster internet access to all Kenyans, he posted that “I had lunch in Nairobi with Joseph Mucheru, the Kenyan Cabinet Secretary of Information and Communications. We talked about internet access and his ambitious plans for connecting everyone in Kenya”. Zuckerberg has also put his weight behind an initiative called “Free Basics,” which provides free Internet access to cellphone users in under-served countries, including Zambia, Tanzania and Kenya.
Through the Ministry of Information, Communications and Technology, the government has embarked on digitizing its operations for the e-Government initiative to facilitate better and efficient delivery of information and services to the citizens, promote productivity among public servants, encourage participation of citizens in Government and to empower all Kenyans. Amcham has been on the fore and aft of advocating for business reforms that fosters conducive environment for doing business that will see more business executives from the U.S actualize their dreams of visiting, investing or expanding their enterprises in Kenya.
The writer - Benard Ayieko is an economist and a member of The Exchange’s advocacy team for Amcham