PARIS/BEIJING: Baidu, China's biggest online search engine, and France Telecom have struck a partnership deal that could greatly expand mobile web use in Africa.
The agreement will see France Telecom pre-install Baidu's mobile browser on Android phones for its customers in Africa and the Middle East. The company said demand for such devices in the region had doubled in the second half of 2012.
Mobile penetration rates across Africa vary hugely, from 17% per cent in the Democratic Republic of Congo to 102% in Tunisia. Consequently, there is potential customer growth in many markets.
The move marks a major step overseas for Baidu, which said in a statement that it sees the Middle East and north Africa region as "particularly important" and this deal as of "particular significance".
The new pre-installed browser is specifically designed to compress data and give users easy bookmarks to Web services like Wikipedia, Facebook and Twitter.
"This partnership it is a pragmatic one; we develop customer stickiness and usage," he added. "For Baidu it is a way to get more knowledge of the market and enlarge their audience."
Data sourced from FT/AllThingsD/Wall Street Journal; additional content by Warc staff