Orange is bringing Facebook to a potential African mobile phone audience of 70 million people, even for those sporting only a 2G handset.

Using unstructured supplementary service data (USSD) technology, the move will mean people can access a scaled-down, text version of Facebook even on the dumbest featurephone.

There's no need even to have a data plan in place, the platform is simply activated by typing codes into the handset and a PIN system for security. African Facebookers will be able to search for their buddies; make, allow or deny friend requests, update their status and comment on or like status updates from friends.

 Xavier Perret, Orange VP of Strategic Partnerships, said: "Social networks such as Facebook have completely changed how people stay in contact with their family and friends, and it’s important that our customers - regardless of the phone they have - are able to access and participate in these services.

"We feel that it is our role to help our customers enjoy a digitally rich, connected life and services such as Facebook via USSD make that possible for even more of our customers."

The service will be offered on four pricing options: per session (10 to 20 minutes), daily, weekly, and monthly. The Facebook service is already available in Egypt on the Mobinil network and the Orange service will launch this month in Côte d'Ivoire.

Orange and the Wikimedia Foundation, the non-profit organisation that operates Wikipedia, recently joined forces to offer free learning to mobile browsers in Africa and the Middle East (AMEA).

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