Kemi Osukoya
August 30, 2016
Facebook founder and Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg made a surprise visit Tuesday to Nigeria to meet local startups founders in Lagos’s tech hub center.
This is Zuckerberg’s first visit to sub-Saharan Africa.

Zuckerberg surprised a group of software engineers at the Lagos headquarters of Andela, a web development firm based in New York city with offices in Lagos, and Nairobi, when he walked through their office.

After touring the Andela’s office and meeting with the team to see first-hand what they are building, Zuckerberg thanked the team and told them they “are all a part of something that’s really important and I thank you for that- it’s awesome to get a chance to meet you.”

Jeremy Johnson, Andela’s co-founder wrote on the firm’s Facebook page that “Today, Mark Zuckerberg made history (and his first trip to Africa) when he landed in Lagos. An hour later, he walked through the door at Andela Nigeria and surprised a building full of immensely talented developers. Not sure whether I’m more excited that they got to spend time with him, or that he got to see first hand that brilliance is evenly distributed. feel awesome to call mark Zuckerberg a co-investor”
Andela’s software engineers work for technology companies worldwide, developing apps and providing technological assistance.

Zuckerbrug’s first stop in Nigeria was at the Co-Creation Hub Nigeria (CoHub) in Yaba, Lagos, where he spoke with kids at a summer coding camp and entrepreneurs who came to Co-Hub to build and launch their apps.

Photo by Facebook. Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg visits kids and entrepreneurs at Co-Creation Hub Nigeria (CoHub) in Yaba, Lagos.

Photo by Facebook. Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg visits kids and entrepreneurs at Co-Creation Hub Nigeria (CoHub) in Yaba, Lagos.

The social media founder, who previously was on vacation in Rome with his wife, Priscilla Chan, where they visited Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and Pope Francis, announced his arrival in Nigeria on his Facebook page shorting after he arrived in Lagos, and said he’s excited to learn as much as he can from the developers and entrepreneurs he will meet at the startup ecosystem in Nigeria.“This is my first trip to sub-Saharan Africa. I’ll be meeting with developers and entrepreneurs and learning about the startup ecosystem in Nigeria. The energy here is amazing and I’m exited to learn as much as I can,” wrote Zuckerberg.

Many Nigerians and Africans in the Diaspora took to Facebook to share the news and thanked Zuckerberg for his support of African youth and entrepreneurs on the continent.

Marieme Jamme, a Senegalese tech-startup founder and co-founder of Africa Gathering– a tech platform that connects entrepreneurs, wrote on her Facebook page that “who ever [could have]  imagined 10 years ago that this time will come. The African tech ecosystem has come far. Progress.”
A similar sentiment was expressed by several other Africans.

Ms. Jamme, who lives in London, has been a champion and supporter of youth enterneurships and tech startups on the continent, mentoring young Africans, especially young women, from her native country as well as other African countries in STEM education.

Zuckerberg’s visit to Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy, underscored Africa’s rising tech startup boom as the next technology destination for investments. Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa are known as African tech hubs.

In 2014, more than $414 million in Venture Capital funding were funneled into African tech startups and it is estimated that by 2018, the number will increase to more than $600 million.

Seni Sulyman, Director of Andela Lagos said Zuckerberg’s visit to Lagos “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. Andela has created a platform for passionate, driven software developers and engineers to break into the global tech ecosystem, but the barriers to entry are still very high. Mark’s visit demonstrates to all Nigerian developers and entrepreneurs that they’ve caught the attention of the tech world, and they are capable of succeeding on a truly global level.”

In the last decade, Nigeria has become known globally for its booming creative scenes, both in technology startups and film production.

Zuckerburg’s trip to Nigeria came on the heels of the Obama administration’s recent proposal to allow startup entrepreneurs from other countries to come to the U.S. and be granted temporary permission to stay.

Under the proposed rule, international entrepreneurs will be granted a temporary permission to stay, an initial stay of up to two years, in the U.S. so they can start or scale their businesses in the country.
A subsequent request for permission to stay (for up to three additional years) would be considered only if the entrepreneur and the startup entity continue to provide a significant public benefit as evidenced by substantial increases in capital investment, revenue or job creation.

The proposed rule underscored the Obama administration’s efforts to connect American entrepreneurs, investors and innovators with other innovators around the world to expand the U.S.’s technology reach.

Speaking about the proposed rule, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Director León Rodríguez said the proposed rule, when finalized, will help American economy grow by expanding immigration options for foreign entrepreneurs who meet certain criteria for creating jobs, attracting investment and generating revenue in the U.S.

“America’s economy has long benefitted from the contributions of immigrant entrepreneurs, from Main Street to Silicon Valley,” said Rodriguez.

Facebook, which made its entrance into the African continent last year with the launched of Free Basics- an app, is set to host its first Facebook Developers Workshop for software engineers, product managers and partners in Lagos on Wednesday to help software engineers build better applications and monetize effectively.

The event, a first for the company on the African continent, aims to connect and collaborate with Facebook partners and tech startup entrepreneurs in Nigeria to help them leverage resources as well as provide ways to build and expand their audience beyond Nigeria.

Emeka Afigbo, Facebook’s Strategic Product Partnerships Manager said the social media giant is “passionate about working with Nigerian developers and entrepreneurs to deliver experiences that meet the needs of their community. This workshop is all about empowering them with the tools and expertise they need to create solutions and services that are powerful, engaging and relevant.”

Facebook joins other U.S.-based global tech companies, including IBM, Microsoft, Google, Amazon, Dell and Uber, who are working across the continent alongside African companies to develop technology need-based innovation and applications applicable to the continent.

Earlier this year, the Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative made it first investment, a $24 million investment in Andela.

Facebook has also partnered with Cool Link to launch Express Wi Fi in Lagos this week, a result of its partnership initiative with French communication satellite company, Eutelsat Communications.

Photo by Facebook. Mark Zuckerberg meets with Rosemary Njoku, who runs one of Facebook Express Wi-Fi stands in Lagos

Photo by Facebook. Mark Zuckerberg meets with Rosemary Njoku, who runs one of Facebook Express Wi-Fi stands in Lagos

The giant social media company announced last October that it was partnering with Eutelsat on a new initiative that will leverage satellite technologies to get more Africans online.

Under a multi-year agreement with Spacecom, the two companies will use the entire broadband payload on the future AMOS-6 satellite to build a dedicated system comprising of satellite capacity, gateways and terminals to accelerate data connectivity reach to majority of sub-Saharan Africa users disadvantaged of the economic and social benefits of the Internet.

This summer, more than 1000  fellows from the Young African Leaders Initiative network from across Africa were in U.S. to participate in a six-week intensive summer educational and mentorship program and internship at some of American top universities and private sector partners.

During his visit to the African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia last year where he addressed African Heads of State and representatives, United States President Barack Obama said in his remarks that the most urgent task facing Africa today and for decades ahead is to create opportunity for the next generation.

The YALI program, which was launched by President Obama in 2010, aims to leverage African talents to spur economic growth and innovation across the continent to address and find solutions to some of African challenges.

The initiative, view as a part of President Obama’s legacy in Africa, has emerged as a major focal point of U.S. relations with African countries in efforts of promoting democracy, peace, prosperity and opportunity on the continent as well as engaging youth in their communities to become vested in the future of their countries.

According to several reports, it is estimated that a large percentage of Africans, 70 percent of Africans, are under the age of 25, which is why empowering young people is at the heart of U.S.-Africa relations.

Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Linda Thomas-Greenfield told the YALI fellows attending the 2016 YALI Summit that took place in Washington D.C. earlier this month that as the U.S. continues to deepen its relations with Africa, “Our mission is to partner with Africa to promote democracy, peace, prosperity, and opportunity. And we believe those goals intertwined in everything we do. As we work toward these goals, I can think of no better partner than all of you – the Mandela Washington Fellows. You have already made a big difference through the work you have done in your home countries – and that’s why you were all chosen for this program. And it is our hope that this program helps you to make an even bigger impact in your country.”

Underscoring U.S.’s interests in empowering young Africans, as well as strengthening relations with Nigeria, Secretary of State John Kerry during his trip last week to Sokoto, a northern state in Nigeria, met with Nigerian YALI fellows from the region, paving ways for private as well as public sector to support economic growth in the northern region of Nigeria.

Facebook also plans to launch a satellite into space this week to enable more entrepreneurs across Africa to access reliable internet, which means more connectivity for people and more opportunity for entrepreneurs to sell Express Wi-Fi, Zuckerberg said.

During his visit in Lagos, Zuckerberg also met with Rosemary Njoku, who runs one of Facebook Express Wi-Fi stands in Lagos. The Facebook Express Wi-Fi, a technology designed by Facebook and powered by local internet providers, empowers entrepreneurs to build a business by providing their community with access to the internet. The Express Wi-Fi is part of the initiative.

“Rosemary already had a business before she also started selling Express Wi-Fi as well, but she told me she now has 3,000 customers and makes much more money from Express Wi-Fi,” writes Zuckerberg in his post. “She’s a great example of how local entrepreneurs spread internet access around the world.”

Zuckerberg will attend the Facebook Developer Workshop on Wednesday.

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