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Facebook has announced that South African advertising veteran Nunu Ntshingila-Njeke will be heading up the Africa office in Johannesburg.
For a social networking tool started by students in a dorm room, Facebook has come a long, long way. These days, Facebook has around 1.44 billion users active on the site monthly. The idea is brilliant, of course, and they’ve made some savvy (and not so savvy) acquisitions and platform revisions that have led them to this point of global domination.
A big part of their success (especially in the commercial and advertising sphere) is thanks to chief operations officer (COO) Sheryl Sandberg, who has the calm collected attitude and business chops that investors didn’t always see in Facebook’s brilliant but maverick CEO, Mark Zuckerberg. In 2015 Forbes named Sandberg the most powerful woman in technology – for the fourth year running. Through her book (Lean In), her TED talk and her actions of course, Sandberg has also become an advocate for women in the (technology) workplace.
Another top woman at Facebook is Nicola Mendelsohn, Vice President for EMEA (Europe Middle East and Africa). She says transforming the workplace remains a challenge, 'I feel fortunate to work at Facebook, and be part of an open, progressive culture that champions talent, irrespective of gender – and this is a responsibility we take very seriously. Despite these efforts, science and technology as a whole remains a male-dominated profession. Rather alarmingly for 2015, women are still under-represented at all levels in STEM subjects, even though this is a space where there are very real opportunities for women at all levels. Girls can (and do!) perform just as well as boys in these subject areas, and it's about time we levelled the playing field to encourage the next generation of women to lean in and take their seats at the table.'
Now, Facebook will add another powerhouse businesswoman to the management team – albeit in a regional capacity. In September, Facebook opens their first office in Africa, and the operations (based in Johannesburg) will be headed by Nunu Ntshingila-Njeke.
Ntshingila-Njeke will be leaving South Africa’s largest agency, Ogilvy & Mather, where she is currently chairperson, and where she started her career, as an account executive. She also worked as the communications director for Nike South Africa, and holds an MBA from Morgan State University in the US. She has received numerous awards over the years, including a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Financial Mail for her work ‘in leading and transforming the advertising business in South Africa’.
Ntshingila-Njeke brings over two decades of business experience, particularly experience of the African markets, to the table. Her career in marketing, advertising and communications will come in handy as this industry is a critical part of what Facebook has to successfully leverage to access more people on the continent.
Although she’s not giving interviews about her forthcoming role until September, she has expressed her excitement in a statement, saying ‘It feels like everything I have done to date has led me here’. She added: ‘With social studies, business and communication all key parts of my background, it seems an ideal blend for the journey we will face together in Africa. I am a great admirer of Facebook and very passionate about the role of technology to foster greater social inclusion for the development of the African continent.’
Africa presents a huge growth opportunity for Facebook. Although there are already 120 million Africans on the network, the population of the continent is around 1 billion people, and Internet penetration and smartphone use are growing exponentially. By adding a significant portion of these people to the network, Facebook’s advertising revenues could take a great leap – especially as they will swiftly reach a natural saturation point in some developed markets in the coming years.