Africa overtakes US and UK in using Twitter for political conversations

Digital Content

Twitter is 'coming of age' in Africa with the platform being widely used for political debate.

Analysis by Portland Communications found that almost 1 in 10 of the most popular African hashtags in 2015 related to political issues and politicians, compared to 2 per cent of hashtags in the US and UK. The top political hashtag in Africa was focused on the highest profile election on the continent last year - #NigeriaDecides.

Portland, a London-based integrated communications agency, analysed 1.6 billion geo-located tweets and the top 5,000 hashtags on the continent, as part of their third “ How Africa Tweets” Report were as follows:

Although tweets about showbiz and entertainment dominated the conversation last year, representing over 20 per cent of all hashtags, discussion around politics has grown to 10 per cent. Nigeria, South Africa, Ethiopia, Burundi and Egypt were the most active in these political conversations. The report also found that interest in politics transcends national borders. For example, hashtags about the Nigerian Presidential Elections and strife in Burundi were among some of the most popular and widespread hashtags across Africa.

English is by far the most dominant language on Twitter in Africa. This lingua franca has helped bridge national and cultural barriers across the continent, providing Twitter conversations with a wider reach than those using conventional media. Of the top 5,000 hashtags that we analysed, 77% were tweeted in English. Other top languages like Arabic and French were tweeted significantly less – only 7% and 4% respectively.

The theme of discussion amongst Rwandans on Twitter is decidedly political, dominating 4 out of the top 10 hashtags. For instance, #kagame was used in a massive 3.3% of all geolocated tweets in the country for the whole year.

Egypt tweets the most out of any country in Africa, with 28% of all geolocated Twitter volume (amounting to about 450 million tweets). Nigeria (350 million geolocated tweets), South Africa (325 million geolocated tweets), Kenya (76 million geolocated tweets) and Ghana (65 million geolocated tweets) round out the top five tweeting African countries. Overall, there were 1.6 billion geolocated tweets in Africa in 2015 – a 34-fold increase from our initial research in 2012.

“Our previous studies showed that Twitter in Africa was much more of a space for social interaction or frivolous banter. This study, our third, demonstrates that the platform is coming of age with the prevalence of serious debate about politics and government,” says Mark Flanagan, Portland's Senior Partner for Content and Digital Strategy.

“Excitingly, our report also hints at the coming together of Africans across boundaries to comment on and discuss common issues. How to successfully engage with these emerging pan-African online communities represents a challenge for all brands and organisations seeking to build their presence in this space,” added Allan Kamau, who leads Portland's Nairobi office.

On top of this data, the report consists of 12 case studies, which explore diverse topics such as how Twitter relates to terrorism in Africa, the Ebola response, economic development and more.
Source: The New Times 6 April 2016