Global tech corporations hold a series of conferences across the globe, and they target a broad scope of their customers and consumers. However, those meets do not often make their way here, choosing to run in other markets instead. In fact, even when they are staged in continental Africa, the tech summits, understandably, are run in crucial technology hubs found in Nigeria, South Africa or Egypt, and in some instances, Kenya.
This characterization, however, changed when Facebook brought its iD8 developer conference in Nairobi this past week. It is worth noting that the social media giant has never conducted the summit in Africa before. The conference has also been running for quite some time now and has visited many parts of the United States, Latin America, Europe, and Asia. To this end, we were quite happy when the corporation announced its plan to meet the Kenyan developer and business circles, and for the most part, the meet was successful – having answered a series of Kenya-based queries, although not all of them, or as comprehensively as many of us expected.
Disclosure: Facebook did not pay me (us) for attending the conference, although it staged the event at Trademark Hotel, which was very pretty. The social media company further took us out to a nice lunch, although we could have loved an equally welcoming dinner. Nevertheless, there was an open bar in the evening, with really, really tasty chocolate oatcakes. Lucky folks got to enjoy some solid guacamole. I tried to identify local developers on the floor. I lost. Repeatedly.
For context, iD8 is Facebook’s platform where it shares new technologies and products for the target audience (developers and businesses affiliated to the social network) to build and toy around with for expanded applications, as well as programs to help them at any stage of their development or business journey. The meeting, as promised, was marked by hands-on demonstrations where executives heading a variety of Facebook products such as Developer Programs directed by Emeka Afigbo presided over discussion with other experts.
The Kenya angle and Facebook Developer Circle
More than 400 startups and developers attended the conference, including teams from South Africa and Nigeria, as well as several local developer teams and individuals. Kenya was primarily represented by Fatma Ali, a Facebook Developer Circle Lead based in Eldoret. According to Fatma, she got an opportunity to interact with interesting people associated with the social media network and look forward to using the connections she made to build her career while improving her leadership skills to work with the developer community.
“Through my Facebook Developer Circle, I have gotten exposure and recognition in the Developer ecosystem. The experience has been enlightening, and I am confident that I will have a successful career in technology,” said Fatma Ali.
Back to Emeka Afigbo. The Developer Programs Lead reiterated Facebook’s role in the Developer Circle communities. The groups are run in partnership in Andela (find more about Andela here, including its recent move that dropped upcoming local developers for experienced ones in a move that was prompted by ‘market demands’).
So far, the Circles are still in their pilot phase in Kenya (including the aforementioned one at Eldoret) and Nigeria.
“We want to train about 2500 developers – that is both developers and people who want to be developers so that they can pursue careers in software development,” said Emeka Afigbo.
The program received more than 5000 applications for interested people, but only half of them were selected to join the Circle. The members have been receiving training for three months now through online content and in-person meetups.
So far, more than 2000 certificates have been issued to successful members.
Facebook also reports it started a career fair in Nairobi. A similar platform will also be launched in Lagos, Nigeria, in the next couple of days.
The fair serves one main goal: companies that want to hire talent from the Developer Circles can get to meet these people and gauge their expertise for possible job openings.
Furthermore, Emeka Afigbo revealed that Facebook has been engaging local startups in terms of partnerships, including Ongair that has been offering customer service and support to a series of clients (that use Facebook products such as the platform itself and its complementary apps such as Instagram and Messenger). By the way, Ongair was represented in the summit and had its founder and CEO Trevor Kimenye as one of the panelists in one of the afternoon sessions.
Ongair is one of the three Messenger development partners that exist in Sub-Saharan Africa.
These are some of the activities that Facebook hopes to explore, and we hope they will open more developer Circles in the country to tap into reputable talent that exists in the country.
Facebook does not release country-specific numbers for WhatsApp. The platform, which has 1.5 billion monthly active users globally, is one of the most popular apps in the country (Twitter does not even come close), and we would have been happier if the company released those numbers to us. For the moment, we are in the dark, but we will apprise you in case new information streams in from the company.
The app has also been equipped with business tools, and the company has been attempting to use the platform as a financial product (WhatsApp Pay) in some countries, and we are skeptical it can ever make its way here because the Kenyan market has already been disrupted by the market leader, M-PESA.
iD8 was well attended, and for a first attempt in the continent, it did well. We hope they pass through other African technology hubs because the region is interesting and is marked by talented people who continue to make the technology more accessible and generally better.
The goal to indulge many African developers may be achieved because, according to Emeka Afigbo, they plan to reconnect the ecosystem to share the latest technology, program, and updates with the industry.