You have probably heard the news, Twitter officially has an Africa headquarters and it’s based in Ghana. Surprised? Well, a lot of people are and so was I.
However, there’s more than meets the eye. Scrolling through the company’s announcement of the Twitter office in Ghana, you will see a lot of people speculating on reasons why Kenya, Nigeria and even South Africa were skipped as choices for Twitter.
The obvious reason is the ease of doing business. Let’s leave South Africa out and focus on Kenya and Nigeria. It’s clear that these two countries have their own share of troubles, brought about by poor governance and laws that are likely to scare off big corporates like Twitter. Especially the taxes, that’s the major reason that tweeps online are giving as to why Kenya and Nigeria were skipped.
So, Why Not Kenya?
While this is true, Kenya’s tax regime is not friendly at all, this argument overlooks one very important thing, what exactly was Twitter after? Speculation aside and since we are yet to get an official explanation from Twitter (I doubt we ever will), we can use the public information we have access to, to understand Twitter’s move.
So far, the company has announced 12 job openings. From analysts, researchers to curators and a few more. While the company has announced they will be hiring an engineering team, those positions are yet to be made public. Interestingly, all the job openings already announced have one thing in common, they target the West African market, specifically Nigeria.
Take your time, go through the listings and you will be met with descriptions like; “The ideal candidate for this role should have a deep, non-partisan, understanding of Nigerian news and politics,” or “This role is located in Accra, Ghana and focused on Nigeria.” If there’s no mention of Nigeria, there’s a requirement to know the language, specifically, pidgin, “Fluency and ability to read and write in English and Pidgin English,” another role states.
Clearly, Twitter is targeting Nigeria. Twitter wants Nigeria and rightfully so, with close to 40Mn Twitter users, the platform is one to reckon with in the country – remember the #EndSARS campaign that took the world by storm? Even when Jack Dorsey (Twitter’s CEO) came to Africa, he spent some good time in Nigeria. Top this up with the fact that a lot of the useful bots we have on Twitter are actually made in Nigeria – like the quoted RTs bot whose functionality was later merged into the official Twitter app.
So, why didn’t Twitter settle in Nigeria?
Twitter For Nigeria, in Ghana
The truth is, it’s very hard to do business in Nigeria, even tweeps from the country agree with this and are not surprised by it. However, unlike Kenyans, Nigerians are probably right. Twitter skipped Nigeria because it just wasn’t feasible for them to set up there. But as we have seen from the job listings, the company still has a need and yearns to serve Nigeria, so they went for the next best option and that is Ghana.
The citizens of Ghana and Nigeria have always been bitter rivals despite not sharing a border – and it’s not just about Jollof. These two countries are like brothers that went separate ways but have never seen eye to eye. However, thanks to the long list of similarities that they possess and the close proximity Ghana has to Nigeria, it’s probably why this investment-friendly nation was the best choice for Twitter.
The World Bank also ranks Ghana higher than Nigeria when it comes to the ease of doing business. This, coupled with Ghana’s push to become an investment hub in the region made it the perfect candidate.
In its announcement, Twitter notes, “As a champion for democracy, Ghana is a supporter of free speech, online freedom, and the Open Internet, of which Twitter is also an advocate. Furthermore, Ghana’s recent appointment to host The Secretariat of the African Continental Free Trade Area aligns with our overarching goal to establish a presence in the region that will support our efforts to improve and tailor our service across Africa.”
Kenya Still Has A Lot To Work On
As much as my argument stands, Kenya was never on Twitter’s radar because we are not their target market yet, our tax regime and ease of doing business needs to improve. Not only for locals but for international companies that may be looking to set up shop in Kenya.
The likes of Microsoft, Huawei, IBM and Google already operate in the country but if we want to attract even more companies; Apple, Facebook, Spotify and Amazon are already scouting in Africa, a lot of policies need to change. Otherwise, we shall continue to make noise online when the next tech giant announces official entry into Africa.