Back in 2008, in an article on socialmediatoday.com titled ‘Why Social Media in South Africa Will Fail’, the author makes a rather daring assertion:
… social media and social media marketing and social media strategy is an almost pointless pursuit for businesses in South Africa…
Perhaps the image projected of Africa may in times past have led one to believe that there are other more pressing issues to deal with in Africa. I mean, this is Africa we’re talking about, there’s hunger and disease to be dealt with before we can consider the social media as something of significance to the continent, right?
Well, that may have been an argument one could have made in times past, however, data shows that Africa is a really dynamic market for social networking. In fact, numbers from socialbakers.com from earlier this year suggest that as far as the world’s most popular social networking platform, Facebook, goes, Africa is gaining users rapidly:
What is interesting in the table is that Africa is the most dynamic continent on Facebook gainingmore than 50 % of its Facebook users in the last 6 months! Top raising countries on this continent are well, not surprisingly, Egypt (+1,6 million new users, +43 % change), Nigeria(+1,4 million new users, +83 % change) and South Africa (+750k new users, 25% change).
In fact, Facebook is quite the phenomenon in Africa. The continent’s youth are taking to Facebook in drones.
In the same year, 2008, Jonathan Gosier, a leading figure in technology in Africa also wrote an article on ReadWriteWeb taking an opposing stand to the idea of social media being pointless to the larger African context. Jon writes:
Contrary to popular belief, Africa is not completely absent from the Internet. In fact, the continent at large is undergoing a connectivity revolution unlike anything it has ever seen.
A recent study in East Africa provides further evidence of just how tuned in the region’s youth are to social networking.
Of course the convergence between, a highly enlightened generation (what is commonly referred to as the cheetah generation), uptake of mobile telephony and improved connectivity have played a large part in this growth. In fact, according to research from Frost & Sullivan and Colibria, mobile social networks will grow ten fold to over 500 million users in Latin America and Africa in the next five years.
The cheetah generation is using social media to revolutionize the continent – socially, economically and even politically. And governments have had to wake up as the young generation has literally over-turned governments by leveraging social media, the cases of Egypt and Tunisia are still fresh in the minds of many.
Mark Davies about trade & the potentials of online social networks in Africa
And it’s not just all a matter of consuming services created from outside Africa, Africans are active participants in the social media industry, here are a few examples:
Personera – Personera lets you create custom artifacts from your content on social networking sites like Facebook
Nikohapa – A Kenyan startup that offers Foursquare-like checkins made simple and that reward you with discounts for checking in to partner stores
Ushahidi – Crowdsources information using multiple channels including social networking platforms like Twitter
Swift River – An Ushahidi project that adds super data processing to data coming from sources of unstructured information such as a twitter feed
ForgetMeNot Africa: bridges the huge gap between the internet and mobile messaging worlds allowing any mobile phone to send and receive email and chat message on any carriers network.
Quirk eMarketing – A digital marketing agency that also helps companies make use of social media for great results. Quirk has also spawned other cool companies in social media such as BrandsEye that creates great tools for online reputation management and crowdsourcing company IdeaBounty.
And as far as group buying is concerned, Groupon has inspired many an African groupon clone. There are numerous African companies playing in this area – Rupu and Zetu in Kenya, DealDey in Nigeria, and a whole lot of others in South Africa
So as you may see, Africa has come a long way in social networking and social media. And it’s going to keep growing.