Not to state the obvious or anything but Africa has long gone past being the “dark continent”. With the infamous Western influence seeping through at a steady rate- which is for once actually a good thing-our continent is quickly becoming a social media society.
It’s astounding to think that the same people who for centuries used traditional messengers to transport little ragged paper notes to their counterparts across the land can now send tweets- instant messages for the masses to see at any given time. From biblical figure, Noah’s little birdie that first brought us “communication from outside” in the form of an olive leaf to the most popular bluebird in social media our continent is finally catching up to the world one tweet at a time.
Reputable for instigating revolution amongst the ‘little people’, Twitter has already leapt through social chasms that have long been in our way as a society. Pushing aside the minor detail that we can now simultaneously engage in one worldwide conversation about issues that actually affect us we can’t skip over these few bits: While Twitter was attempting to establish itself as a bona fide social media platform, somewhere near el Tahrir Square in Egypt it was inadvertently aiding in dethroning a dictator; a revolution that was tweeted and spread by approximately 15,000 citizens according to the India Times. As the current fastest platform for information distribution, tweeting 140 characters or less of breaking news can reach a worldwide audience at any time, making this particular network useful to shed our struggles and tell our side of the story with the world- for once. With a resume like that it’s no surprise that Twitter is fast become a reliable source of information.
According to Mark Casey, Director of the Technology, Media and Telecoms Industry at Deloitte it is estimated mobile Internet usage in Africa is among the highest in the world and also by 2016 there will be one billion mobile phones in Africa. On the Portland Communications Twitter Map is South Africa, leading the pack with the most tweets with over 5 million, followed by Kenya’s 2.48 million. Coming in third is Nigeria with 1.67 million, Egypt 1.21 million and Morocco 0.75 million.
On a continent with few guarantees of press freedom, political leaders have also put a stake on the platform bringing their political campaigns to the online user. Ghanaian Presidential candidate and leader of the New Patriotic Party, Nana Akufo-Addo is one example with his #VoteNana2012 Campaign. In one of numerous tweets he declared:”In #48days, we will go to the polls to decide between two profoundly different visions for the future of #Ghana”. In this way, he used Twitter to create a strategy for speaking directly to youth voters (the average age of African tweeters is between 20 and 29 years). Nana is also amongst the Top 10 Tweeting African Politicians that list also includes Rwandan President Paul Kagame and Lindiwe Mazibuko, leader of the opposition Democratic Alliance in the South African parliament.
As the Twittersphere expands it seems leaders who were largely absent from the debates playing amongst the civilians are also joining the conversation, whether they are actually listening, only Twitter timelines will tell.