While Facebook’s original purpose was that of a social network, connecting people digitally with their friends and families, it has increasingly become an important network for businesses, enabling large corporations as well as micro-entrepreneurs to promote their products and services to the burgeoning Facebook community.
Our previous conversations with small business owners in Kenya revealed the integral role Facebook and WhatsApp play in their day-to-day business. To help ease this transition into the digital world, and to enable all sizes of businesses to grow through the platform, Facebook has been investing in digital skills development across Africa.
We spoke to Sherry Dzinoreva, Head of Policy Programs for Africa, about the various initiatives her team runs to help fill digital skills gaps in Africa. She revealed the motivation behind her work:
“We know that Facebook is a platform that can be used as a force for good, whether helping small businesses to grow or bringing communities together. Our digital skills programs are designed to have an impact on how individuals use our platform for both business and personal growth."
Dzinoreva’s team runs a number of programs aimed at supporting small business owners to use digital platforms to grow their businesses. While inevitably there is a focus on the use of Facebook’s platforms in business, conversations also include general advice on how to make the most out of “the power of digital platforms.”
While this isn’t a typical platform-led upskilling story—given that the entrepreneurs Facebook is training are technically customers rather than self-employed platform workers—Facebook’s contribution, in terms of teaching portable skills to entrepreneurs that help fill skills gaps in a workforce, resonates well with our transformational upskilling story.
Below we outline some of the training initiatives Facebook runs, highlighting the role Facebook plays in the broader training and upskilling landscape in various African markets.
Boost with Facebook
Boost with Facebook (previously “Boost your Business”) was launched in Africa two years ago and is currently in operation in Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya, and five francophone African countries (Cameroon, Senegal, Côte d'Ivoire, Benin and DRC). With over 50 trainers across the continent, the initiative has already trained more than 50,000 entrepreneurs through its 3-5 hour, free-of-charge, digital marketing workshops.
During the workshops local trainers guide entrepreneurs through the use of digital platforms to market their brands and businesses. The curriculum includes both non-specific Facebook content—from general digital branding and marketing advice, to digital literacy skills on how to use free apps to create online content—and Facebook-specific content—such as how to create a community in a Facebook group and how to use Messenger as a customer service tool. Training on general digital marketing skills is what we define as transformational upskilling, because these skills are portable and thus useful both on and off Facebook’s platform.
Similar to what we uncovered in our other platform-led upskilling conversations, the Boost with Facebook initiative in Africa has found that offline, face-to-face training provides a very different experience to online learning, delivered through their Facebook Blueprint training material. In fact, they’ve seen significant benefits in using offline workshops as a first point of engagement with entrepreneurs. Not only is engagement higher through offline channels, but Facebook also worries that the cost of data and access to connectivity in sub-Saharan Africa may make it challenging for people to access online content.
In addition to Boost with Facebook, Dzinoreva’s team also runs #SheMeansBusiness in Nigeria and South Africa, a similar program focused on transferring digital skills to female entrepreneurs.
Additionally, the African Policy team also trialed Facebook for Creators in Nigeria last year, and launched DigifyPro programs in Nigeria, South Africa and Kenya giving young people the opportunity to attend a ten-week intensive digital skills bootcamp and job placement program to prepare them for a future career in digital marketing. Over the last year DigifyPro, run in partnership with DigifyAfrica, has run three cohorts and placed around 60 people in digital marketing agency jobs in South Africa and Nigeria.
Impacting lives of Facebook users and the broader economy
While Facebook’s digital marketing training helps drive traffic to Facebook’s platforms, Dzinoreva’s team isn’t focused on sales so much as on closing digital skills gaps and the impact this has on the lives of Facebook users in Africa and the broader economy.
“I strongly believe if people use a platform well for their business, this will have a rippling effect on their business and ultimately the local economy. These trainings are a way to support the countries where we operate, and contribute to the economies in which we serve,” shared Dzinoreva.
Dzinoreva’s team works hard to develop learning materials and identify and work with local partners and facilitators who can make the learning experience an impactful one for every program participant. And, for that reason, Facebook is clearly playing a role worth watching in platform-led upskilling across the continent.