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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Social media booms in Africa

Did you know that Facebook is the most visited website in Africa? 
‘Studies suggest that when Africans go online (predominantly with their mobile phones) they spend much of their time on social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and so on). Sending and reading e-mails, reading news and posting research queries have become less important activities for Africans.
In recent months Facebook — the major social media platform worldwide and currently the most visited website in most of Africa — has seen massive growth on the continent. The number of African Facebook users now stands at over 17 million, up from 10 million in 2009. More than 15 per cent of people online in Africa are currently using the platform, compared to 11 per cent in Asia. Two other social networking websites, Twitter and YouTube, rank among the most visited websites in most African countries.’
This is from the UN’s Africa Renewal magazine, published in December 2010. Here is the link to the article: Africa Renewal Magazine | A social media boom begins in Africa.

I found this piece interesting for a number of reasons: Our internet use in Africa (and Zambia) compared to the rest of the world is still low, but our Facebook use is higher than that in Asia - in terms of percentage of sites accessed. More importantly, however, what does this study say about our development prospects in Africa?

If Africa is to develop and propser socially and economically, many have touted the internet, information and technology as one of the ways to do it. But, isn't it telling that as Africans, we are more interested in social media than in business, science and economics. And, before people become over excited about a social media revolution in Egypt, we should be realistic that Twitter, Facebook et al were merely components in a much larger revolutionary mechanism. Do we escape into YouTube because we don't know where else on the internet to go, or because we are running away from our poverty stricken, corruption laden real lives?


  1. Well, the Zambian aversion for reading is well known. It's amazing what people don't know is on the net.

  2. The other thing worth noting is that there are a number of Asia-specific social networking sites that are significantly more vibrant in their own regions than Facebook ( in China, for example), which is not so much the case in Africa, despite the some growth of regional platforms in East Africa (for example).

    The Facebook shift really only took place in 2008-9 in Zed, for example - before then everybody lived and loved on Hi-5 in this part of the world.