Mark Zuckerberg, internet entrepreneur, computer programmer par excellence, philanthropist, better known the world over as the co-founder, chairman and CEO of the social networking website Facebook, has recently generated a lot of media and public interest over his first ever African trip.
A lot has been written and said about his sub-Saharan sojourn which, if nothing else, has provided the much-needed impetus to Africa’s nascent IT ecosystem.
It is supposed to have been a staged surprise visit and there is a lot of speculation flying around over the surprise element. It was just an unannounced visit thereby generating the surprise talk. However, it is left to the readers’ conjecture as to the importance and purpose of the bolt from the blue.
The logical reason behind the secrecy could be a pleasant surprise to the young engineers, technicians, entrepreneurs, potential entrepreneurs, children who are learning computer programming and many others who were much more than just pleasantly shocked.
What is important to analyze and understand is the multifaceted purpose of the visit and how it is going to benefit Africa as a continent and not just the countries he visited there; what would America get out of this and, last but not the least, how the world would benefit from this.
His African endeavor began with a visit to Lagos, the most populous city, not only in Nigeria but the entire continent and, moreover, the country still remains Facebook’s biggest market. It was the smart entrepreneurial strategy on his part to start his itinerary with a trip to the Co–Creation HUB (Cc HUB) in Yaba, Nigeria’s own Silicon Valley.
Here, he interacted with kids between 5 and 18 in a coding camp, who are completing a “Summer of Code”, learning to program and maybe one day reach the goals they have set out to achieve; met with developers, startup founders and entrepreneurs as he anticipates great potential in the IT community of the country and the continent as a whole. In Zuckerberg’s own words to CNN “There’s so much energy and so much potential here. I just want to walk around and meet folks.”
It is reported that Mark Zuckerberg was particularly impressed with the work of a woman by the name of Temie Giwa-Tubosun who has created LifeBank, a blood tracking system which basically spans from potential donor to recipient. She is confident and claims with conviction that LifeBank would be a faster and cheaper way of blood transfusion.
Zuckerberg had a plethora of questions for her after which he used the term “awesome’ to describe her innovative system. After his visit to CcHub, this is what Zuckerberg had to say on his Facebook Page, which in itself is an authentication of the importance he has attached to this trip:
“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 excited to learn as much as I can.
The first place I got to visit was the Co-creation Hub Nigeria (CcHUB) in Yaba. I got to talk to kids at a summer coding camp and entrepreneurs who come to CcHub to build and launch their apps. I’m looking forward to meeting more people in Nigeria.”
He continued on to visit Andela, a company sponsored by entities including the Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative, GV, Spark Capital, Omidyar Network, Susa Ventures, Steve Case, Founder Collective, Learn Capital and more. Among other things, Seni Suleyman, Director, Andela Lagos had this to say about Mark’s visit:
‘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.”
The visit has definitely generated a lot of interest the world over; a lot of likely positives have emerged from this trip; however, there will always be the odd detractor.
To sum it up, considering the fact that The Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative, created by Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan, arranged a $24 million funding in Andela, is certainly a precursor of good things to come, hopefully, not only for Africa and Facebook but the entire web community.