On the why of Facebook's Africa obsession

TechCrunch is hearing that Facebook is buying Titan Aerospace, makers of near-orbital, solar-powered drones which can fly for five years without needing to land. According to a source with access to information about the deal, the price for this acquisition is $60 million*.

From our understanding, Facebook is interested in using these high-flying drones to blanket parts of the world without Internet access, beginning with Africa.


Consider Facebook buying thousands of drones to provide Africans internet access, the purchase of WhatsApp, the messaging app of choice in Africa, and the foundation Facebook has already started in Africa with Facebook Zero and might you be inclined to agree with Quartz's Christopher Mims that in Africa, Facebook appears bound and determined to make itself synonymous with the internet.

But why, on a continent where many haven't even made the transition from basic phones to feature phones, let alone smart phones, would Facebook be so resolved in doing such a thing? Because apparently the opportunity in Africa is kind of…big:

More than half of the growth predicted between now and 2050 is expected in Africa, where the number of people is set to more than double, from 1.1 billion to 2.4 billion. Africa's population will continue to rise even if there is a future drop in the average number of children each woman has, says the report, which predicts the number of people living on the continent could reach 4.2 billion (or more than 35% of total global population) by 2100.

Claire Provost | The Guardian