New partnerships are bringing Facebook’s Free Basics platform to more of Africa


Free Basics is a set of basic websites and services from the big daddy of social media, Facebook, intended to introduce people to the internet and add value to their lives without costing them a cent. It’s also the new name for the company’s initiative that was launched last year in an effort to have certain services on mobile devices provided by mobile operators for free in the interest of getting more people in developing markets online.

Amongst its 60+ services, Free Basics offers health, education and finance-related information to people in developing countries. Mobile operator Bharti Airtel is rolling out Free Basics in the African countries where it operates, including Zambia, Kenya, Malawi, Ghana, Seychelles, Rwanda, DRC, Gabon, Niger and Nigeria. The service is already available in countries like South Africa, Angola, Malawi and Tanzania.

According to Facebook, the platform is available to more than one billion people in 29 countries across Asia, Africa and Latin America.

Closer to home, South Africa’s Praekelt Foundation is launching an Innovation Challenge to encourage developers to create additional services for the Free Basics platform.

Ime Archibong

Ime Archibong

“When people are connected, they can achieve extraordinary things as individuals and as a community. Connectivity brings opportunity for people around the world, and we’ve seen this firsthand here in Africa, where we began this journey,” says Ime Archibong, director of strategic partnerships at Facebook.

“Our mission is to connect the world, and we know when we bring communities together we can have even more impact. That’s why we launched the Free Basics Platform to work with as many developers, non-profits and the social good community, and entrepreneurs as possible to extend the benefits of connectivity to diverse, local communities,” he adds.

If you’re a developer interested in creating a service for the Free Basics Platform, you can find out more here.

The Praekelt Foundation’s initiative sees it working with Torchbox to create an open-source toolkit that will let organisations from anywhere in the world create services for mobile devices or adapt existing ones and distribute them using Facebook’s Free Basics platform.

To drive the initiative, the foundation is creating an incubator programme that will provide support and resources to 100 independently-selected organisations that focus on social change.

Gustav Praekelt

Gustav Praekelt

“Praekelt Foundation believes that access to essential information and basic services is a human right,” says founder and CEO, Gustav Praekelt. “When people have access to the tools and knowledge that the internet and other digital communication technologies provide, they have access to opportunities that will make their lives better.”

You can register your interest in the Praekelt Foundation Incubator for Free Basics here.


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