Bharti Airtel ("Airtel"), a leading mobile service provider, and Nokia have joined forces to target the socially active youth market in East Africa by introducing free access to Facebook on the Asha 501 smartphone.

The East African region has witnessed a significant increase in internet access, driven by the widespread use of mobile phones and the intense competition among service providers. The popularity of social media has played a pivotal role in driving the growth of mobile data consumption, particularly among the youth. To stay ahead of the competition, companies are forming strategic partnerships to offer attractive packages and incentives to consumers.

According to the Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK), Kenya alone has over 9.49 million internet subscribers, with mobile access representing 99 percent of the total subscriptions. In the first quarter of this year, the number of internet users in the region grew by 11.6 percent to reach 16.2 million, fueled by the increasing demand for internet and data services, including social media usage, especially among the youth. Competitive tariffs offered by mobile operators have also contributed to this growth.

Capitalizing on these market dynamics, Airtel and Nokia are leveraging the appeal of colorful, affordable, and fun smartphones combined with free access to Facebook to attract the vibrant youth market. These consumers are already active on social media platforms, with Facebook being the most popular in Kenya, boasting over 2.2 million users compared to Twitter's approximately 500,000 users.

Through this partnership, Nokia aims to expand its Asha user base, while Airtel aims to grow its data user base. Customers who purchase the new Nokia Asha 501 smartphone and subscribe to Airtel will enjoy free access to Facebook for a period of three months. The zero-rated Facebook access will be available through the Facebook application on the Nokia Asha 501.

Bruce Howe, Nokia's General Manager for East Africa, emphasized the significance of Facebook's growth in the region, particularly among the youth. He expressed the company's commitment to providing innovative products and added value to the youth market.

The Nokia Asha 501, available in a range of striking colors, features a seamless design comprising a durable, removable shell and a scratch-resistant, tempered glass display. Weighing just 98 grams, the compact and user-friendly Nokia Asha 501 offers unparalleled portability.

Andre Beyers, Chief Marketing Officer of Airtel Africa, commended the partnership, stating that by providing free access to Facebook on the new Nokia Asha 501, they are combining a beautifully designed smartphone with a new user interface and the added value of accessing the most popular social network. This collaboration highlights Airtel and Nokia's commitment to delivering excellent mobile products and services to their valued consumers.