Facebook to be made free on all mobile networks across East Africa

Tigo has partnered up with Facebook to give East African customers free access to the social networking site across all mobile networks.

“What this partnership means is that Tigo customers can, for the first time, access Facebook through their handsets without incurring any data charges and connect with the social media network’s two millions users in Tanzania and its 1.2 billion users worldwide,” said Diego Gutierrez, general manager of the mobile operator, Tigo, at the launch of the partnership.

The strategic partnership is part of Facebook’s recent Internet.org initiative launched by the company’s founder, Mark Zuckerberg. This is however the second time that Facebook and Millicom, Tigo’s parent company, have partnered up since their launch of Facebook’s free mobile access in Paraguay in December 2003.

One of the main advantages of the initiative is that for the first time, the Facebook platform will be offered in English and Swahili, the national language of Tanzanians and the majority of people in East, Central and Southern Africa.

Tanzania will therefore become the first country to showcase the Swahili language globally.

“The new service will open new frontiers to Tanzanians and to other Swahili speakers by offering them new business, educational and other socio-economic opportunities across the world,” said Gutierrez.

He also added that with this initiative, many East African customers will get their first exposure to the internet and social media in their home language.

“Facebook has been a fantastic driver of data on mobile networks. With this unique partnership, we are making Tigo stand out from the crowd and giving many customers their first taste of the internet and social media, including in Swahili. That’s what creating the digital lifestyle is all about, and it reinforces our strategy to encourage more Tigo customers to use data as part of their daily communications activity,” he explained.

Nicola D’ Elia, Facebook’s director for international growth and partnerships expressed the social media company’s excitement about their second partnership with Tigo.

“We’re excited to be working with Tigo again to give more people in Tanzania the ability to share and connect free of data charges across Facebook apps and mobile website, and now in the traditional language of Swahili,” he said.

Farhaanah Mahomed, online contributor for ABN Digital. Published 25 April 2014. Click here to view the article on the CNBC Africa website.