The Popularity of Social Media in Africa – From Free Speech to Saving the Economy

The Popularity of Social Media in Africa – From Free Speech to Saving the Economy

Did you know that in 2016 the number of active social media users in Africa rose to 129 million? That’s a 25 % increase in comparison to 2015. News on the increasing popularity of social media in Africa reached world newspaper headlines in 2014 with Facebook gaining 100 million monthly users on the continent. As various social media keep on targeting Africans to join their communities and business on the Hot Continent turn away from traditional ways of advertising, it’s clear that the trend of growth will continue.

Bellow you will find a short overview of Africa’s social media users in 2016 created by We Are Social:

Specializing in International SEO, at GFluence we are interested in social and cultural factors behind the data. So, we pulled up our sleeves and did some proper SEO research to help you understand the above described phenomenon. We prepared a list of three major factors influencing the fast rise of social media in Africa.

1. Africa’s Developing Economy

The equation is simple – better the internet and mobile data connection, greater the smartphone penetration rate and the more users join social media. Apart from Latin America, Africa represents on of the main world regions for telecommunication investments. Digital giants such as China have long spotted the potential of Africa as the emerging smartphone and social media market, investing billions to various African countries.

In comparison to the Western world Africa is far away from having fertility rate issues. The continent has 200 million people aged from 15 – 25 years old, making it the youngest continent. The younger generations are more educated, they view the internet as a positive influence in their life and follow up on Western trends much quicker. The reason behind the rise of social media in Africa is also the growing smartphone ownership rate among younger generations.

Pew Research Center conducted a study on cell phone ownership in the African continent. Bellow you can see that in all the observed countries there is a age gap in smartphone ownership between those aged from 18 to 34 and those older than 35.

Africa smartphone ownership


2. Political Activism

Though in the Western world people are eager to tell others about their latest vacation and shopping purchase, Africans experience social media as a tool for free speech. With many countries being under de facto dictatorship governance, citizens use social media to call out for greater democracy.

One of the most popular social media campaigns of 2016 in Africa was called #ThisFlag. A father from Zimbabwe, pastor Evan Mawarire, draped himself into his country’s flag expressing his frustration with Zimbabwe’s political and economic state. The video swept across the entire continent and even stirred strikes all across the country, calling for the resignation of 92-year old president Mugabe.

That social media is a powerful tool for free speech in Africa shows the recent trend in governments speeding up legislation concerning its restriction. Countries such as Uganda, Congo and Zimbabwe have at certain points blocked Whatsapp, Twitter or Facebook due to threats to national security or other weak-grounded reasoning. The biggest upset is also the spreading of strict criminal legislation for making politically critical comments on the internet.

3. Crowdfunding and Economy Boost Calls

Social media is on of the best ways to reach thousands of people in a simple and yet appealing way. Another reason for the rise of popularity of social media in Africa is also the increasing number of online funding campaigns. This way, many have raised money to fund health, educational and business related projects.

A notable action on Twitter in 2016 was #BuyNaijaToGrowTheNaira. The year 2016 was difficult for Nigerian economy, where the country faced its first trade deficit after seven years, recording a negative balance of 184.1 billion naira ($925 million). The Nigerian currency, the naira, was pegged at 197 to one U.S. dollar for 16 months before the country’s central bank started the devaluation of the currency in June 2016, which didn’t do much. To support the country’s economy Nigeria’s popular businessman Ben Murray-Bruce issued tweets to promote Nigerian products:

An interesting fact with Africa’s crowdfunding platforms is that what normally functions in the Western world, might not be the best fit South bellow. That’s why Patrick Schofield from South Africa co-founded Thundafund in 2013. The idea was to establish a crowdfunding website focused on helping entrepreneurship ideas in Africa. In the 18 months since launched, Thundafund has raised 4.3 million rand on the platform, successfully funding 116 of 150 projects listed on the site.

Did you find the reasons behind Africa’s social media craze interesting? Have you ever wondered why people click to view your website or why they prefer the unstylish competition? We’d be happy to answer the question, give us a shout and check how we can help you.

Featured image source:

Polona Golob

Polona Golob

Enjoys a good crossword puzzle and matching keywords is her favorite.

Entries by Polona Golob