By: Houda Naji On: June 25, 2015 In: News Comments: 0

Business insider recently sat down with Facebook’s VP of Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, Nicola Mendelsohn.

During her two years at Facebook, she has spent a lot of time visiting the different regions she is responsible for and discovering how people in the Middle East and Africa in particular are using Facebook in really novel ways.

Here are some of the examples she shared (and some the Business Insider gathered through their own research):

Many people in the Middle East and Africa have skipped desktop altogether

Facebook now has 191 million users in the Middle East and Africa, 85% of who are visiting via mobile.

Mendelsohn described what a difference that makes: “I was in Nairobi, Kenya, earlier this year and their whole payment system there is mobile. M-Pesa is unbelievable. So you can be walking down the streets of a market, and the market will be no different to something that you could have been in a thousand years ago, but everyone is trading by using their mobile phone. And you kind of go, ‘well how come I can go shopping on the streets of London and it’s unfathomable [to be able to do that]?’ So there’s a lot we can learn from being over there.”

A woman in Kenya is growing her fashion business on Instagram

On the Kenya trip, Mendelsohn met a woman called Isabella who runs a fashion business called Fashion254.

She’s using Instagram to actively sell her dresses, even though Instagram advertising hasn’t been brought to the region yet. Isabella’s Instagram bio asks shoppers to call or Whatsapp her to arrange delivery.

Women in Saudi Arabia have used Facebook as a means to export their goods overseas

Facebook/GloworkGlowork is an organization that aims to bring empowerment to women and increase diversity in the Saudi workforce.

Mendelsohn told us she met a number of female entrepreneurs in Saudi Arabia through an organization called Glowork. They’re using Facebook as way to sell their products.

“There are very different rules and laws within that country, and they have found the internet as a way of connecting to the world. They have found Facebook as a way to connect with their friends, families, businesses they are interested in. So what they talked about was that Facebook gave them a gateway to the world that they wouldn’t have had otherwise.” Mendelsohn added that these users are using Facebook to help export their goods overseas.


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