Social media is the new media in Africa. Many individuals are happy to use various social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and WhatsApp to communicate, share ideas and access information. According to We Are Social, a UK based company dealing with global social media statistics, 170 million people in Africa are using social media now in 2017 as compared to 120 million in 2016 and 100 million in 2014.
In Africa, social media is at most times used by individuals and civil society for political reasons. In fact, today no other continent has managed to level up in terms of social media usage in political mobilization and discourse. Many Africans prefer to use social media because mainstream media, which is mostly state-owned, instills less trust. In 2015, Freedom House reported that all African countries lacked free local media. There have been various instances where political decisions have been influenced by social media activism with the most notable one being the Arab Spring in 2011.
Although social media growth in Africa may have been influenced by politics and the lack of a free media, other non-political issues have immensely contributed as well. A good number of Africans see social media platforms as the best place to express their pride and showcase the continent’s beauty through hashtags such as #theafricatheynevershowyou. They present a different image from the one depicted of poverty, war, and corruption. There have been a few successful campaigns for instance when Snapchat put Kenya’s capital Nairobi on the world stage- the responses were overwhelming. Social media has also been used for crowdfunding initiatives where individuals have raised thousands of dollars in just a few days.
Today, only 9.1% as compared to 9% in 2016 of the African population uses social media. However, according to We Are Social’s global digital report of 2017, 7 out of 10 of the fastest growing internet populations are in Africa. This may be attributed to some initiatives such as the Google Digital Skills for Africa and Digify Africa programs.
Earlier last year, Google had targeted to equip a million youth in Africa with digital skills through face to face training conducted in 20 countries across the 59-state continent. Today, they have managed to reach their target even with the training still in progress. Furthermore, Digital Skills for Africa training is easily accessed for free online. The program is similar to Google Garage which targets the European market. Like Digital Skills for Africa, Digify Africa aims at equipping young entrepreneurs with digital skills which include digital marketing and branding. The course is only in three major areas here: South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya, but should widen its reach soon.
Through the Digify and Google Digital Skills for Africa initiatives, you can expect more digital agencies rising in Africa, an increase in social media specialists and of course new digital media consumers.
Social media growth in Africa is inevitable with these digital-specific initiatives considering the fact that smartphones and mobile data are becoming cheaper by the day. In Africa, there are 150 million social media users on mobile, and 81% of the population has access to a mobile phone.
For entrepreneurs, this means a wider digital market with great potential. This also means that competition is on its way and as an entrepreneur, you need to stay ahead in regards to social media management techniques and the type of strategy you use for your business and brand.