Dar es Salaam — Tigo customers can now get free access to Facebook in English and a new Kiswahili version through their mobile handsets.
"This means, Tigo customers can, for first time access Facebook through their handsets without incurring any data charges and connect with the social media network's two million users in Tanzania with 1.2 billion worldwide," Diego Gutierrez, the Tigo General Manager said last week.
Facebook's Director for International Growth and Partnerships, Nicola D' Elia said with this launch Tanzania, a country recognized for being the cradle of Kiswahili language, becomes the first in the region to showcase this language globally.
D' Elia told East African Business Week it is a breakthrough that Tigo, its parent company Millicom and Facebook takes credit for.
"We are excited to be working with Tigo to give more people in Tanzania the ability to share and connect free of data charges Facebook apps and mobile website, and now in the traditional language of Kiswahili," he said.
Facebook which recently announced its first-quarter revenue growth by 72% on rising mobile ads has about 1.2 billion users worldwide said it has decided to partner with Tigo, one of the leading cellular networks in Tanzania so as to link Tanzanians with other Swahili speakers.
Gutierrez said: "It is the first time any major social media company has made a version in Kiswahili, the national language spoken by Tanzanians and majority of the people in East, Central and Southern African region."
Gutierrez told East African Business Week during the launch of the partnership, which is the first in the East African region, Facebook has been a 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 Kiswahili," Gutierrez said.
Referring to the digital lifestyle, he said, "It reinforces our strategy to encourage more Tigo customers to use data as part of their daily communications activity."
The strategic partnership is part of Facebook's recent Internet.org initiative launched by the company's founder, Mark Zuckerberg.
"The new service will open new frontiers to Tanzanians and to other Kiswahili speakers by offering them new business, educational and other socio-economic opportunities across the world," Gutierrez said.
This is the second time that Facebook and Millicom have partnered following the joint launch of free mobile access to Facebook with Tigo Paraguay in December 2013 and the service's launch in the historical native Guarani language there.
Facebook which is a social utility that connects people with friends and others who work, study and live around them has almost tripled its profit after it revealed that nearly half the world's internet population uses the social network.
Founded by Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook also unveiled a 72% surge in revenues in a bumper set of first-quarter results last week that pushed the shares up more than 4% in after-hours trading on Wall Street.
Boosted by an 82% year-on-year rise advertising revenues to $2.27 billion, Facebook said net profits jumped to $642 million, from $219 million in the first three months of 2013.
Its revenues rose to $2.5 billion, easily beating the average analyst estimate of $2.36 billion.