Last month, Port Harcourt’s tech ecosystem got a major boost with a visit from Facebook’s Head of Platform Partnerships in Middle East and Africa. His name is Chukwuemeka Afigbo and before stopping by Port Harcourt he had also visited Nsukka and Uyo to engage with startup entrepreneurs and business owners about how Facebook can assist in developing the tech ecosystem in their communities.
In Port Harcourt, his first stop was the Ken Saro Wiwa hub where he was welcomed by some startup entrepreneurs. From there he made his way to three other hubs in the city namely; Bubbles, Olotu Square and KoWorkNg. With his tour of Port Harcourt tech hubs complete, he was led to the Genesis Galleria at GRA where he was to be hosted at its prestigious lounge, Skybar PHC. Here he met guests comprised of developers, tech enthusiasts, bloggers and startup entrepreneurs all eager to meet and interact with him about their shared interest in tech, innovation and entrepreneurship.
The meetup was moderated by Uche Aniche. If you don’t know him by now you absolutely should check out his work with the StartUp South events held annually as seen here. He’s also the Founder of Venuehero, a platform for finding the best venues for organizing events in Nigeria. Uche Aniche was instrumental in getting Chukwuemeka Afigbo to come visit Port Harcourt and in ensuring that his visit was productive. Also active in hosting Emeka in Port Harcourt was Bereni Fiberesima who is the convener of Startup Port Harcourt and Startup Sunday.
With introductions made and everyone settled down, Uche began by asking Emeka a question about his job as regards Facebook’s products. Emeka responded by explaining what a product means to Facebook as every functionality that is seen on its platform such as news feed, notifications, pages etc.
He described his job in Platform Partnerships as acting as a mediator between Facebook’s product team and people who have businesses and products that they are building – such as websites and apps – and are trying to integrate with Facebook.
He spoke about two aspects of Facebook’s role in Africa and the Middle East as:
First, providing partnership with regional developers in ensuring that its products work for users in the region. He said Facebook does this by involving software developers from the Midddle East and Africa in beta programs whenever a product or platform is about to launch. They work with Facebook’s engineers to provide feedback, find faults, make suggestions etc. Emeka illustrated the nature of this partnership with the recent F8 (Facebook Developer Conference) launch of products with involvement from developers from across Africa and the Middle East such as Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, Jordan and Lebanon.
Secondly, contributing to the continual growth of the developer ecosystem in the regions.
He went on to talk about his journey into the tech scene beginning from a startup called Socketworks in 2002 as employee number eight, just after graduating from the University of Nsukka with a Bachelor’s degree in Electronic Engineering. Then obtaining an online master’s degree in Technology Innovations Management from Carleton University in Canada.
In 2008, he left Socketworks to join Packway Projects, an e-payment solutions company in Lagos as a Business Development Personnel. During his time there he organized perhaps the first ever Google Development event in Nigeria with the help of a few friends. An opening came for a job with Google in 2011 and he was there for four years before joining Facebook in 2015.
Uche then gave the guests an opportunity to ask him questions. While responding to one of them, Emeka expressed an opinion that
the biggest threat facing the tech ecosystem in Africa and the Middle East right now is that it is very hard to scale your product team…as your startup gains traction.
He noted that this difficulty in finding good developers in Africa is a reason why it can be very expensive hiring them. He urged startups training developers to follow the Andela model by providing a motivating factor or some form of incentive where they could get hired once their training was completed.
Responding to another question from a guest regarding partnerships, he stated that
a key requirement for a global company such as Facebook to partner with businesses is for there to be consistency on the part of those businesses in doing ‘stuff’ in whatever (small) form.
With the Q&A session done, Mr Uche invited the host of the event represented by Mrs Uzoma Chukwuma who is the Strategic Planning Manager of Genesis Group to address and inform the guests about their initiative called Project LEAD (Living Everyday Achieving Dreams) which aims to encourage the Nigerian youth to aspire for greatness.
A vote of thanks was then given and everyone was ushered to the photo stand to take photos with Emeka. Out there I had a privilege of being introduced to him by Bereni and after being told about techativeng he had these words to say to me; ‘’Stay Consistent’’. I haven’t stopped thinking about these words since Friday. This was my key takeaway from the event and every time I think about it I feel inspired to keep pushing on.