Social networking (and that could to some extent be read as ‘Facebook’) is quite a phenomenon across the African continent and especially amongst the youth. According to this article:
According to Alexa statistics, Facebook is the number one or number two most visited site in most African countries. The social networking site has been witnessing high growth rates on the continent and so it is not surprising that Africa is Facebook’s fastest growing continent according to Facebook analytics site, Social Bakers. (Asia comes a close second).
In many parts of the continent, user numbers have doubled in the last seven months.
Much as Facebook has come to be the de facto social network in most African countries, there are 2 major local social networks in South Africa that have managed to carve out a niche and an amazing following as well. MWEB’s late 2009 Friendship 2.0 survey showed that social networking is a great tune in South Africa and MXit and Blueworld are rocking it at a local level!
MXit is not only a major hit in South Africa but literally all over the world. It’s niche – mobile. The social network experience is built almost entirely around mobile based offerings.
MXit (pronounced “mix it”) is a free instant messaging application developed by MXit Lifestyle (Pty) Ltd. in South Africa that runs on multiple mobile and computing platforms. Along with its own standard protocol, it can connect to Yahoo, ICQ, Google Talk, Facebook, AIM, or Windows Live Messenger contacts as well.
MXit began simply on the idea of Instant Messaging on mobile, the critical opportunity that it capitalized on to turn a simple mobile IM client to a massive social network on mobile was simply the fact that sending normal SMS was way to costly in South Africa at the time.
A great idea, the right timing and great execution and the result is phenomenal, according to Wikipedia:
MXit has a registered userbase of over 19 million, about 20 million log-ons per day and over 250 million messages sent and received per day – around 35 000 messages per second during peak times. The application is distributed internationally and used by users in over 120 countries daily, but the bulk of its userbase is in South Africa and Indonesia with fast growth in 123 other countries.
In fact, in a survey of over 5,000 youths in South Africa that was done back in 2010 it appeared that South Africa’s youth chose MXit over Facebook:
Mobile instant messaging provider MXit was voted number one by SA youth, beating a formidable list of global players like Facebook, YouTube and Yahoo, a survey showed on Wednesday.
The survey, which was part of the Sunday Times Generation Next Survey, interviewed more than 5 800 youth from six provinces. MXit took first place for best cellphone application and best social networking application.
MXit founder and CEO Herman Heunis said MXit was a “true SA success story”, attracting between 25 000 and 28 000 new registrations a day.
“Its users send 10 times more messages per day, than the total global ‘tweets’ sent per day,” he said in a statement.
To learn more about MXit’s beginnings here is a great interview from Mixergy ‘Setback. Setback. Setback. Then (Finally) Success!‘ about the dramatic beginnings of what eventually became MXit and the sheer determination behind it.
Blueworld would appear to be the dominant local web social network. Blueworld is owned by Blueworld communities which also runs another niche social network that’s targeted at car lovers, Zoopedup. Blueworld Communities was founded by Charl Norman, one of South Africa’s foremost internet entrepreneurs. The company was acquired by Media giant, Media24 back in 2008. Blueworld Communities also uses it’s own custom platform to run several web properties for third party companies.