Last fall, Facebook announcement he was opening an office in Lagos, Nigeria, which would provide the company with a hub in the region and the first office on the continent with a team of engineers. We’ve now spotted one of the first products to emerge from that office: an education-focused mobile app called Sabee, which means ‘to know’ in Nigerian pidgin. The app aims to connect learners and educators in online communities to make educational opportunities more accessible.
The app was briefly released to Google Play by “NPE Team”, Facebook’s in-house R&D group, which generally focused on new social experiences in areas such as dating, audio, music, video, messaging and more.
While lessons learned from the NPE team’s apps sometimes inform broader Facebook efforts, the group has yet to produce an app that has become a stand-alone Facebook product. Many of its old apps have also been shut down, including (a little sad), the online zine creator, for example, the Hobbi video app, the CatchUp call app, the Bump friend finder, the Venue podcast community app and many more.
Sabee, however, represents a new direction for the NPE team, as it’s not about building another social experience.
Instead, Sabee is linked to Facebook’s broader strategy of focusing more on serving the African continent, starting with Nigeria. This is a strategic decision, informed by The data this indicates that a greater majority of the world’s population will be in urban centers by 2030, and a large portion will be on the African continent and throughout the Middle East. By 2100, Africa’s population is should have tripled, Nigeria becoming the second most populous country in the world, behind China.
To meet the need to connect these regions to the Internet, Facebook has partnered with telecom operators on 2Africa, an undersea cable project that aims to serve more than a billion people still offline in Africa and the Middle East. East. These aren’t altruistic investments, of course – Facebook knows its future growth will come from these demographics.
Facebook confirmed its plans for Sabee to TechCrunch after finding out, noting that it was still a small test for now.
“There are 50 million learners, but only 2 million educators in Nigeria,” said Emeka Okafor, Facebook product manager. “With this little early test, we hope to understand how we can help educators create communities that make education accessible to all. We can’t wait to learn from our first testers and decide what to do from there.
The disparity between learners and educators in Nigeria has a huge impact on women and girls, which is another key focus for Sabee – and the efforts of the NPE team in the region as a whole. The company also wants to explore how to better serve groups that are often left behind by technology. On that front, Sabee is working to create an experience that works with poor connectivity, like 2G.
We understand that the app is currently in early alpha testing with less than 100 testers who are on NDA agreements with Facebook. It is currently not available to anyone other than this group, but the company hopes to take Sabee to the next level before the end of the year.
There is no way to sign up for a Sabee waitlist and the app is no longer public on Google Play. It was available so briefly that it was never ranked in any rankings, app Store intelligence firm Sensor Tower confirmed to us.
It should be noted that “sabee” and “sabi / sabis” have other, less polite meanings in different languages, according to the Urban Dictionary. But the team has no plans to change the name just yet as it makes sense in the Nigerian market where the app is targeted.