The tech giant seeks widespread adoption of the metaverse, but the cost of its VR headsets is an obstacle.
Since rebranding from Facebook to Meta, Mark Zuckerberg’s company has not experienced smooth sailing. Stocks crashed, and the company is taking heavy losses in the metaverse department. Yet, Mark Zuckerberg remains optimistic about the company’s transition to the metaverse, with Africa believed to have massive metaverse business potential. Forecasts predict that $40 billion will be added to Africa’s GDP by 2031 through the metaverse.
However, Meta’s hopes for its business in Africa depend on adoption and growth similar to what mobile technology has enjoyed. Today, Africa grapples with several challenges threatening its involvement in the metaverse. If these issues are not addressed as soon as possible, they will set the entire continent back by several years.
To ensure the metaverse grows at a similar rate as mobile technology, Meta will offer its metaverse offerings via smartphone applications. The company has already committed over $50 million to educate users in over 16 African countries on virtual, augmented, and extended realities. Although the strategy appears well thought-out, it may not yield the desired results in the short term.
Many African smartphone users do not understand the metaverse nor see the need to use the technology. In contrast, many of the continent’s population do not own smartphones. Mobile internet cost is high in Africa, and internet speeds remain the slowest worldwide. While Meta’s 2Africa submarine internet cable may help reduce mobile internet costs, the project may not be completed anytime soon. Meta’s VR headsets cost at least $400, making them unaffordable for the average African family.
Although metaverse technology has witnessed a lot of hype within the last two years, not much progress has been made, and certain vices threaten existing virtual ecosystems. Fraud, cybersecurity threats, impersonation, and intellectual property infringements are becoming rampant. Coupled with the fact that many believe the metaverse does not precisely solve any existing problems, tech enthusiasts in Africa have developed cold feet concerning the subject.
Meta has attempted to clarify its plan for Africa regarding the metaverse. Speaking to journalists, Derya Matras, Meta’s VP Middle East, Africa, and Turkey, answered several questions that explained the company’s vision and what it meant for the continent of Africa. Derya expressed hope that the metaverse will build upon the success of mobile technology to change the way people work, empower commerce, and create employment for creators and developers.
Derya believes Meta’s metaverse holds several benefits for Africa, with applications in healthcare and education taking centre stage. While the company is building its metaverse offering, it is also encouraging other players to join the fray and develop immersive experiences in gaming, education, entertainment, and lifestyle. Meta also sponsored the Meta #Flexnaija event in Lagos, Nigeria, bringing music, art, comedy, fashion, and content creators into the first-of-its-kind mixed reality event.
Although Meta has lofty goals, Derya admitted that hardware dependencies come at a cost, which raises the entry barrier for many people. While Meta’s VR headsets are deemed affordable, they are far beyond the reach of the average African, which is why the company has offered to build other entry points to the metaverse, like every day smartphone apps.