Trouble in Twitterverse

Elon Musk’s Twitter Staff Cut Has Collapsed The Fledgling African Outpost

By  |  November 4, 2022

Twitter, the social media platform that is arguably the global capital of the most relevant conversations shaping the world, is undergoing a shakeup that will reportedly see around half of its 7,500-strong workforce lose their jobs. And Twitter’s Africa team, which came into existence only 18 months ago after a symbolic launch of the Twitter Africa operations in Ghana, has not been spared.

Although it remains unconfirmed whether the entire Twitter Africa team has been disbanded, WeeTracker can confirm that the layoff has impacted key persons at the fledgling outpost, including Senior Partner Manager, Bernard Kafui Sokpe, and Program Manager, Gabriel Quarshie.

It has also recently emerged that much of the 20-person Twitter Africa team has either been terminated or suspended. A CNN report has it that Twitter, which only officially opened its Ghana offices last Tuesday after having the newly-formed Africa team working remotely since last year, issued termination notices to most of the employees barely three days later.

“The company is reorganizing its operations as a result of a need to reduce costs. It is with regret that we’re writing to inform you that your employment is terminating as a result of this exercise,” the email told Twitter Africa staff who were contacted via their personal emails having been locked out of work tools and were not addressed by name, according to the report.

It was also mentioned that the employees being let go would not be getting a severance package and will only get their salary for November, which appears to deviate from the three-month severance specified in earlier messages from upstairs – although it may have been intended for certain regions, apparently.

The duo, both of whom are Ghanaians who joined the company last September, took to social media to announce their departure amid the ongoing company-wide job cuts.

Other reports cite sources who claim the order from the top also took the axe to the local content moderation unit that was put together following the formal establishment of Twitter’s African presence. It’s also been rumoured that the team is effectively being ripped apart as the Africa project, which is not high on the priority list under the new Elon Musk-led management, will be put on hold indefinitely. Twitter did not respond to a request for comment.

Twitter announced it was building a team and establishing operations in Africa for the first time in April 2021. It chose Ghana as its nest, praising the country as “a supporter of free speech, online freedom, and the Open Internet,” while also acknowledging Ghana’s unique diplomatic position given that the country had been appointed to host the Secretariat of the African Continental Free Trade Area.

In the announcement, Twitter said launching an African presence is an effort to “immerse itself in the rich and vibrant communities that drive the conversations taking place every day across the African continent.”

Twitter counts around 20 million users in Africa and with just over 200 million daily active users worldwide, it is dwarfed by other social platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok in terms of user numbers across Africa, much like elsewhere. However, Twitter is arguably the most influential in terms of spreading information fast, mobilising people, and tapping into social consciousness. It’s also the unofficial outreach podium for governments, companies, and institutions.

Twitter initially advertised 11 open roles across Engineering, Marketing, and Communications for the new operation, inviting applications from Ghana, Nigeria, and other African countries while clarifying that it would be welcoming and onboarding new team members remotely as it explores the opportunity to open an office in the country. There were also talks of setting up a presence in Nigeria as part of the conditions for lifting the 7-month Twitter ban in Nigeria, though the company always maintained a non-commital stance when pressed on the matter.

“As part of our long-term commitment to the region, we’ll continue to explore compelling ways we can use the positive power of Twitter to strengthen our communities through employee engagement, platform activation, and corporate giving,” the company had stated.

All these efforts, which looked to be in a state of flux amid talks of a takeover, now appear to have been halted by the upheaval at the company following the finalisation of the once-uncertain USD 44 B acquisition deal that has now put Twitter under the leadership of Musk, the emblematic tech billionaire with a documented whimsical streak who also runs Tesla, SpaceX, and other ventures.

Twitter notified employees that it will be “reducing our global workforce” on Friday, November 4th, according to an unsigned internal memo seen to be making the rounds across media.

The confirmation comes a week after Elon Musk took charge of Twitter and promptly kicked off a series of moves that would rejig the company’s operations and reform its products. 

The sweeping layoffs are part of Musk’s resolve to cut Twitter’s costs, having reportedly previously told employees that “there would have to be some rationalization of headcount and expenses to have revenue be greater than cost, otherwise, Twitter is simply not viable or can’t grow.”

The company had put a freeze on hiring and laid off around 100 employees when it cut 30 percent of its talent acquisition team back in July, but the latest round of layoffs has been more aggressive.

Article updated at 12:35 WAT on 09/11/2022 with new information in third, fourth, and fifth paragraphs.

Featured Image Credits: Horn Diplomat

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