Nigeria: As Twitter African Head Office Location Debate Rages On

22 April 2021

Emma Okonji writes on the uproar caused by the choice of Ghana in citing Twitter's headquarters for its African operations.

Last week, Nigerians took to social media space to vent their anger against the federal government for her inactions, which they said, led to the choice of Ghana as the headquarters for Twitter's African operations, instead of Nigeria that has far more Twitter followers.

They blamed the federal government for inconsistent policies and for allowing Twitter to be accused of escalating the #EndSARS protest in Nigeria last year, which reached its peak on October 20, 2021, when security forces allegedly opened fire on unarmed protesters at the Lekki toll gate in Lagos.

After the protest, Nigerian politician, Adamu Garba, sued Twitter for supporting the protest, but later withdrew the suit.

Unhappy that Twitter was dragged into the #EndSARS saga, Nigerian youths are insisting that the inability of government to handle the issue coupled with policy inconsistency, must have prompted Twitter to look outside of Nigeria in siting its African headquarters in Ghana.

Telecoms experts however countered such notions, insisting that Nigerians left the possible reasons for the choice of Ghana, and went ahead to attack what could probably not be the real cause.

The agitations

Co-founder and CEO of Twitter, Jack Dorsey, announced Twitter's decision to make Ghana its African headquarters.

The tweet came as a surprise to many Nigerian youths who took to social media space to vent their anger against the federal government, blaming government for bad governance, policy inconsistency and for its inability to handle sensitive issues like the #EndSARS issue that almost rubbished the reputation of Twitter, an International Tech Company.

Chairman, Association of Licensed Telecoms Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), Gbenga Adebayo, who spoke to THISDAY about the issue, said the choice of was Ghana same reason why other technology companies and other businesses prefer to work from outside of Nigeria.

He said: "It is wrong to blame Twitter for its decision to site its African headquarters in Ghana and not Nigeria. Twitter must have looked at the reports coming out of Nigeria, like the security report, the numbers in terms of market population, the social index report, and then they take decisions based on the report they get.

"Nigeria's population is large and bigger than that of Ghana, our market size is bigger, we have more Twitter followers from Nigeria than from Ghana, our geographical location is an advantage, but we have very bad social environment that is discouraging investors from investing in Nigeria.

"Our manufacturing sector is in comatose and the government is not doing anything about it. Many manufacturing companies have gone under while several others have relocated to neighboring countries. Government policy and the business operating environment are not favourable to investors, and these are the real issues that business owners consider before siting business in any location."

On his part, the President, Association of Telecoms Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), Ikechukwu Nnamani, said: "It is wrong to generalise the reason for the choice of Ghana instead of Nigeria in siting Twitter's African headquarters."

According to him, "the real issue is not where the office is located but what the presence of a Twitter office in the sub-region means. None of the statements on Twitter opening an office in Ghana have quoted Twitter directly on why they did it. All are speculations, which are not right."

Highlighting some of the benefits of locating global businesses in various regions, Nnamani said: "There are obvious benefits in having an organisation like Twitter present in any country. One of the benefits is that they will likely create employment by hiring locals.

"They will also invest in the local economy one way or the other even if it is to pay for office space. They may also offer training for the local team. So there are benefits to have an administrative office in country."

He, however, said the biggest benefits are centred around infrastructure development, that would provide all the other benefits listed when there is administrative office located in a particular region.

"Apart from technical skills transfer, more taxes will be paid to in-country. You will have better quality of the service at reduced cost, and opportunities for development of local content.

"Nigerians should be exploring ways for global technology company like Twitter to locate its infrastructure in Nigeria and not be bugged down with issues about location of administrative offices," Nnamani further said.

Adebayo, in his views, said: "As a Nation, Nigeria has issues with her social economic system, which have made our economy less attractive to investors. Nigerians including investors, struggle for everything in Nigeria.

"We struggle for access to good medical care, access to good roads, access to electricity, among others. Those blaming the federal government for Twitter's choice to site its African headquarters in Ghana instead of Nigeria, are only blaming the effect and not the cause.

"Policies are inconsistent and most time anti-business and these have compelled investors to struggle so much to do business in Nigeria."

Ghana's response

Responding to the development, Ghana's President, Nana Akufo-Addo said: "The choice of Ghana as the headquarters for Twitter's Africa operations is excellent news.

"The government and Ghanaians welcome very much this announcement and the confidence reposed in our country. As I indicated in our virtual meeting of April 7, 2021, this is the start of a beautiful partnership between Twitter and Ghana, which is critical for the development of Ghana's hugely important tech sector. These are exciting times to be in, and to do business in Ghana."

About Twitter

Twitter made its debut on March 21, 2006 with Jack Dorsey, Biz Stone, Evan Williams and Noah Glass as co-founders. Dorsey has been its CEO since 2015 and the micro blogging site has grown from few users to about 330 million active users as of 2020. Its net income as at last year was in excess of $1 billion and its total assets are in excess of $13 billion.

Twitter has become the world's most influential and global organic news network. It is as important as Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, Snapchat, YouTube, and WhatsApp.

According to digital consultant, David Sayce, "The ultimate power or preferably the influence of Twitter lies especially in the aggregation and highlighting of heavily referenced item in the news, persons, tech or idea. I believe and know Twitter is at the epicenter of the social media revolution."

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