Africa’s Facebook explosion – user numbers double in many countries in just seven months
Facebook has become the single biggest non-mail client product in Africa. Over the last seven months user numbers have doubled in many countries and the smaller countries where it was barely visible, now have significant numbers of users. It is the number one or number two site in every African country. But as Christian Hernandez, Head of International Business Development, Facebook told Russell Southwood, this is really only the beginning of what the platform is setting out to do.
Amongst the 14 African countries analysed by Alexa.com, Facebook is listed as either number 1 or number 2 most used web site. And this is the pattern across the globe except in China and Russia.
Since August last, the level of Facebook usage has doubled in many of the countries listed below. For example, Senegal went from 229,340 users to 477,840. In many of the smaller countries where Facebook users were in the thousands in August 2010, they are now in the tens of thousands. Take-up has not always happened at the same speed. For example, although Tanzania has a larger population and bigger economy than Uganda, it is the latter that has the larger number of Facebook users.
Africa Total: 27.4 million
The Million Plus Club
Egypt 6.58 million
South Africa 3.8 million
Morocco 3.2 million
Nigeria 2.9 million
Tunisia 2.35 million
Algeria 1.39 million
Kenya 1.03 million
* It will soon pass into the million plus user zone.
The mid-field (100,000-999,000)
Lower tier (20,000-99,999)
Burkina Faso 71,400
Af Rep 66,500
Cape Verde 54,220
Sierra Leone 34,100
Not yet started (0-19,999)
Sao Tome &
Facebook has three objectives for the platform and these cover its development in Africa. Firstly, it wants to acquire more users. Secondly, it wants to monetize this use by attracting advertising: for example, it already has agents in African countries selling its online advertising space to ad agencies and clients. Thirdly, it wants to have developers write more services for the platform. For example, the latter already includes what it calls Social Widgets like the Top articles shared by friends button on CNN.com. It wants African developers and entrepreneurs who will use tools like its social widgets and APIs to create local products and services based on Facebook.
Indeed Facebook has put a lot of effort into making sure that it can reach the widest number of users on a mobile and not just smartphone users. It has a WAP platform, a stepped down HTML version, a App, and Snaptu, which allows access to feature-rich phones using Java. The latter is a product we’ve highlighted before that creates a smartphone like interface for feature-rich phones. Facebook liked the company so much that it recently bought it. It has also worked with Gemalto to build Facebook into an SMS structure using SSID menus so that users with basic phones can receive status updates from friends even when they can’t access the full site. Anecdotally it seems that “Facebook-ready” has become one of the key factors in choosing secondhand phones in places like Kenya.
One of the things about Facebook in Africa is that it provides an extremely fast route to getting a web page: you can have an online presence without needing to go through all the cost and hassle of having a web designer do it. For the individual, it becomes a combination of bulletin board and e-mail browser. It is probably one of the significant links between Africans on the continent and friends and family in the diaspora.
For the corporate, it’s potentially a much softer way of engaging with your audiences. For example, Coca Cola is no longer creating topic or campaign-specific web sites but using Facebook as a platform to play this role. Small African companies are using Facebook to attract interested users to their product. For as Hernandez notes:”It’s a self-selecting eco-system.” Hernandez pointed out from his experience in Latin American that almost all the billboards in El Salvador now have a Facebook logo on them. SMEs in Africa have been less quick to catch this wave.
Facebook also has location-based products like Places, which companies can use to offer individual users sales promotion coupons: for example, a user checks into a Place on Facebook like a Java Coffee Shop and as you open it up, the user is presented with a little yellow coupon giving a free cup of coffee.
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