Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Africa's own Social Network ready to Soar

Africa's home-grown social networking site, Yookos, was unveiled in Lagos, yesterday - and it's ready to grab the hearts of Africans in the continent and in diaspora by offering a value-based platform that talks directly to African issues.

Yookos - for You Own Your Cosmos - has been flying under the radar for the past year while it readies itself for launch, and Chief Executive Officer, Tomisin Fashina believes the market is ripe for the new entrant.

"Our early experience suggests there's a huge need for a quintessentially African social network that helps Africans interact, socialise, share information and access entertainment that is relevant to them, whether they're in London, New York or a remote village in Nigeria," said Fashina, a former banker tapped to head up the rapidly-growing operation.

The site, www.yookos.com, already has some 6 million users, and growing by the day. Fashina is aiming for 20 million active users within a year, and believes this target is eminently reachable as the site continues to add content, functionality and additional languages.

Fashina says social media penetration remains low in many African countries precisely because it lacks local relevance - and he believes Yookos has a vital role to play in breaking digital barriers, making the continent social media-savvy and providing social relevance in a networked environment.

"We believe in the continent, and are investing in its future," said Fashina. "For us, Africa's challenges are its opportunities. Our emphasis is on social development. Our biggest challenge in the continent is illiteracy, and we'll be looking to find ways to be part of the solution. We care about Africa and uplifting the people, whether that's through giving students access to educational materials or putting families in contact with their loved ones on the other side of the world

Yookos was born as an online platform for Christ Embassy head Pastor Chris to share prayer points with his followers - but Fashina says they quickly realised the potential of the platform. The result is that Christ Embassy is one user on the burgeoning site, with Yookos forging its own identity across the continent.

"We're proud of our roots, but what Yookos is a social network designed to reach out to all Africans, regardless of religion, politics, gender or where one is. This is a meeting place for all Africans to come and be educated, entertained, and interact," said Fashina. "More than 40 other churches and community organisations are already using Yookos as a platform to reach their communities, and we're hoping to grow that significantly."

Yookos believes its positioning as a values-based platform will also be attractive to many Africans put off by more liberal Western platforms: "We don't want pornography, foul language or violence. This is a place where people are comfortable to come and talk about everything from football to music in a comfortable environment. We want to be about things that add to you and lift you up, not things that pull you down!"

The way of the future is undoubtedly mobile, says Fashina. For millions in Africa, mobile phones are the main and often only connections to the Internet - and a way to put Yookos in every hand. To this end, Yookos has developed a unique yet easy to use mobile app for mobile users to connect their world through Yookos.

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