Twitter's partnership with Ghana in its young state now falls into the hands of multi-billionaire businessman Elon Musk who recently purchased the company for $44 billion.
A year ago, the then Jack Dorsey-led communication application Twitter announced its expansion into Africa with new offices in Ghana. With Elon Musk buying the company, a lot of questions have arisen. It's clearer to estimate what this change in ownership means for the West, yet it is a little harder to ascertain for Africa because of how new this project is. However, what does Musk's ascension to the company mean for Africa?
Dorsey's supposed passion for Africa is something he has been vocal about in recent years. In 2019, the CEO visited the continent on a month-long tour of Nigeria, Ghana, Ethiopia, and South Africa. He enjoyed the trip so much that he shared with the Twitterverse that he'd move to Africa for three to six months the following year in a tweet that read, "Sad to be leaving the continent… for now.". But, of course, the arrival of COVID-19 prevented the possibility of that happening.
In April 2021, Twitter announced that the company would make Ghana its new home "to help expand its presence in the growing African tech sector."
"Today, in line with our growth strategy, we're excited to announce that we are now actively building a team in Ghana." Twitter's product lead and product manager shared in a blog post. "To truly serve the public conversation," they added, "we must be more immersed in the rich and vibrant communities that drive the conversations taking place every day across the African continent."
So, why did Twitter choose Ghana? According to the company, it's the mutual advocacy for free speech, online freedom, and the Open Internet. In addition, Ghana's appointment to host The Secretariat of the African Continental Free Trade Area, which aims to "accelerate Africa's trading position in the global market by strengthening Africa's common voice," made the country the perfect candidate. This is a necessary initiative since Africa is one of the continents with the most minor connected citizens globally. Moreover, access to (affordable) internet and electronics is still somewhat of a luxury.
Is Twitter set on helping Africans push free speech? Twitter's history with Africa is told best through some of the most significant hashtags and movements in time. However, there have been occasions when the company has failed Africa. Through a timeline of major events in Africa, like during #EndSARS in Nigeria, Twitter blatantly ignored activists who called for the prohibition of the dissemination of false news about the movement and the scandal involving hired influencers who were purposefully spreading propaganda in Kenya identified by #AnarchistJudges. In these instances, the app was a vehicle for spreading misinformation, which adds an element of mistrust.
Twitter's partnership with Ghana in its young state now falls into the hands of multi-billionaire businessman Elon Musk who recently purchased the company for $44 billion. In a tweet, Musk revealed his plans for the app, "Free speech is the bedrock of a functioning democracy, and Twitter is the digital town square where matters vital to the future of humanity are debated. I also want to make Twitter better than ever by enhancing the product with new features, making the algorithms open source to increase trust, defeating the spam bots, and authenticating all humans."
These goals are merely the tip of the iceberg for the billionaire who everybody suspects will make outlandish changes to the app. He is yet to implement them and iron out any kinks, which begs the question: what will Musk do about Twitter's newly established presence in Africa? Will he maintain this fledgling relationship between Africa and Twitter? Well, that will all depend on whether he finds it necessary to. The situation is touch and goes at this point with the acquisition, and until Musk officially implements changes, the world can only speculate.