The study also found that English, French, and Arabic were the most common languages on Twitter in Africa, accounting for 75.5% of the total tweets analysed. Zulu, Swahili, Afrikaans, Xhosa, and Portuguese were the next most commonly tweeted languages in Africa.
Tuesdays and Fridays were the most active tweeting days.
“Twitter activity rises steadily through the afternoon and evening, with peak volumes around 9pm,” it said.
It also found that soccer was the most-discussed topic on Twitter in Africa.
“[Soccer] was discussed more than any other topic, including the death of Nelson Mandela. The most mentioned [soccer] team was Johannesburg’s Orlando Pirates.”
Politically-related hashtags were less common.
Allan Kamau, head of Portland Nairobi, said the African “twittersphere” was transforming the way that Africa communicated with itself and the rest of the world.
“Our latest research reveals a significantly more sophisticated landscape than we saw just two years ago,” he said.
“This is opening up new opportunities and challenges for companies, campaigning organisations, and governments across Africa,” he said.
A few weeks ago, I walked into a friend’s house to find a raucous argument going on. I didn’t know what the exact topic of the argument was, but the bottles of wine and beer on the table indicated that it had veered off course a long time before. The argument reached an impasse and could only be resolved in one way: Google. As the only sober one in the room, the task befell me. I asked for a phone. Tap. Tap. Tap. We had the answer. The argument was over. All was well in the world. The gods of the internet had spoken through the high priest of the smartphone.
The internet-enabled phone has changed many Kenyans’ relationship with the internet. According to the Communication Commission of Kenya, 99% of the country’s 16 million internet connections are on mobile devices. Advertising campaigns by the mobile network operators coupled with low-cost smartphones such as the Intel Yolo and the Huawei Ideos and declining costs of data have seen mobile data consumption grow at 75% year on year.
Increased access to the internet has had some very interesting results and opened some doors into the Kenyan psyche, thanks especially to Twitter.
Kenya is Africa’s second most active country on Twitter. The microblogging service has provided the perfect tool for Kenyan youth wanting to be heard and seeking validation. It offers the option for anonymity and has a numeric metric for validation in the form of number of followers. We will often put out an update, then keep checking out mentions, waiting to see how many retweets and favourites we have garnered. Just like in any society, there are people at the top of the ladder. On Twitter, they’re the bigwigs with over 10 000 followers (as of the last informal definition). These users are regarded as trendsetters and opinion influencers.
Kenyans on Twitter – #KOT as they are known – are quick to weigh in on everything and anything. They’ve even achieved global recognition on several occasions. It started with #Makmende, a campaign that resulted in Kenya’s first viral music video and the country’s own Chuck Norris.
Kenyans on Twitter have also done some inspiring things. In November 2012 when Nairobi’s public transport providers went on strike, #KOT started #CarPoolKE, an initiative which saw car owners give rides to stranded commuters for free. Another initiative that has enjoyed success on Twitter is Wanadamu (meaning “We have blood”). This service puts out calls for blood donations to supplement Kenya’s overstretched blood banks in cases of accidents, surgeries and blood shortages.
On the downside and as can be expected, there’s some not-so-pleasant activity. Cyber bulling and trolling is on the rise and #KOT often latch on to on a trending topic, throwing acerbic jabs to seek validation from the bigwigs through LOLs, retweets and faves. As funny as their insults may be, they actually cause significant damage to the recipient. In some cases, the “victims” commit twittercide (delete their Twitter accounts for good).
Kenyans’ use of the internet is not just limited to Twitter, though. One dark, rainy evening I caught a taxi driven by a 60-year-old fellow who knew very little English. When I gave him my destination, I expected to see him furrow his brow and ask me to direct him. Instead he picked up his phone and started tapping away.
“Nini hiyo?” (What is that?)
“Ngoongoo Maps! Hata mimi ni ndingito!” (Google Maps. I am digital too!)
Sure enough, he got me to where I was going without any problems.
Joel Macharia (@themacharia) is the founder of the online consumer finance publication pesatalk.com and the agribusiness start-up Sagana Farms. He is one of 10 young Africans shortlisted to be a One Young World delegate at this year’s summit. At this event, the M&G’s Trevor Ncube will be chairing a session on African media and what Africans think of their journalists. To share your views, complete this short survey.
The use of social media in Zimbabwe and amongst Zimbabweans in the diaspora is increasing all the time, especially between the two groups. We have tools like blogs, Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp to thank for this. The internet is still one of the few places where we can freely air our views with the advantage of anonymity.
Back in January 2012 I used the #Twimbos hashtag on Twitter and asked fellow Twimbos if they were interested in participating in a regular Twitter chat revolving around our beloved country. (Zimbabweans are commonly known as Zimbos; Zimbos on Twitter are therefore Twimbos.) I received a multitude of responses, but I was left a little unsure about it all so I shelved the idea. However, in late September, I embarked on what #263Chat has become to date. #263Chat evolved from a proposed fortnightly Twitter discussion on five different topics to the current format, which is a weekly discussion every Tuesday at 6pm CAT with one main focus. To gauge the Zimbabwean pulse on Twitter, search for the hashtag #Twimbos and #263Chat.
The #263Chat journey so far has confirmed many of my perceptions about fellow Twimbos:
We generally want to engage in discussion about Zimbabwe and/or Africa with other Zimbabweans and get an idea about what others are doing;
We often seek to maintain relationships with family and friends scattered across the globe;
Given our high literacy rate, we yearn to exchange ideas about other opportunities in business or generally about other Zimbabweans across the globe through robust discussion.
I started #263Chat for a variety of reasons. Firstly, I love engaging with others. Secondly, I believe that to tackle any problem (and Zimbabwe has many), a conversation is the initial step. #263Chat was created to have that national conversation, but more importantly to crowd source solutions to challenges that we face in our own daily lives. I believe that local problems require local solutions. There are often solutions we can implement if we work together. Sometimes #263Chat is about gathering new ideas from Zimbabweans based all over the world or from those in different parts of the country. The topics are set by the community depending on the current issues of the week and they vary widely: we’ve discussed the recent referendum on the Constitution, as well as indigenisation, women and bullying.
I suspect that some Zimbabweans don’t discuss issues openly, but issues we discuss in private regularly affect us all. We may know someone who has suffered from domestic violence or wondered how others feel about gay rights in Zimbabwe. The challenge is that we rarely discuss these issues with complete strangers. I have always thought that perhaps we are afraid of the consequences, whatever those are, so we believe talking won’t help. What I have since discovered with #263Chat is that there is a genuine need to talk as a nation, and not just on social media. We have issues we need to resolve! Not to suggest that we don’t already, but #263Chat taps into the minds of those in the diaspora and links them with someone living in Masvingo, for example. I believe creating that link is powerful. The exchange of ideas from that connection is ultimately why #263Chat exists and continues to grow.
As expected, not every Twimbo is going to accept and/or participate in the conversation. Many view #263Chat as ‘all talk and no action’. Some have suggested that perhaps I set up this initiative as a way of entering politics or that I have some other hidden agenda. I find that quite amusing. Some are tired of talking and want to see visible change in society. I can understand that. I maintain that change is a process which takes time. If we band together, change is easier to implement. We can achieve simple things like teaching our kids about bullying or informing our helpers at home about registering to vote and what the referendum means in real terms. Simple things like that.
Three weeks ago, we held our second #263Chat live event, which focused on tourism. We partnered with The Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, NewsDay and C1rca 1964, and hosted the Zimbabwean tourism minister, Walter Mzembi, and the Zambian ambassador to Zimbabwe, Ndiyoi Mutiti. They, together with Barbara Joziasse, the Dutch ambassador to Zimbabwe, were keynote speakers. This event reflected an increasing awareness of the importance of social media in Zimbabwe and indeed how useful it can be in creating a space for much-needed dialogue.
Our website will be launching shortly, and more 263Chat live events will take place later this year including community initiatives such as ‘Adopt a School’. Meanwhile, our Twitter conversations continue – I invite every Zimbabwean online to join in!
Nigel Mugamu is founder and host of #263chat. Visit his blog and connect with him on Twitter.