December 14, 2022
Africa still largely lags regions such as Europe or North America in terms of social media or internet penetration among its population. However, things are improving. In recent years, these platforms have become more readily accessible, thanks in part to a broader rollout of more affordable broadband internet services and relatively cheaper mobile data services.
As of 2021, analytics by Statista showed that 45 percent of North Africa’s population used social media, while Southern Africa was at 41 percent. In East Africa, Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda have the highest numbers of social media users, with 11 million, 5.4 million and 3.4 million active users respectively. In Central Africa, only about eight percent of the people use social media, which is the lowest rate across Africa.
As social media platforms become a major part of life for the majority of the continent’s citizens, those in leadership positions, whether in politics, business or non-profit sectors, have quickly adopted these platforms not just for canvassing support for their ideas or agendas but more so as channels through which they can proactively account to their constituencies.
A majority of those in political leadership, whether state presidents or prime ministers and even royalty, in regions where they still exist, have set up pages and handles across platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn for the primary purpose of regularly updating citizens on their government’s activities and agenda. This includes showcasing delivery on political campaign promises such as recruitment of more teachers and health workers or making good on commitments around a reformed national legislative framework.
The active presence of political leaders on social media platforms has given wider and immediate access to ordinary citizens to directly engage with their national leaders on matters close to their hearts or of importance to their communities. A cursory look at conversation threads points usually to two-way engagement, itself a break from the past where engagement with political leaders was mostly one-way and top down. Thanks to social media, citizens of African nations can now even directly challenge their political leaders on a range of issues, from unfulfilled election promises to poor service delivery in their communities.
Business leaders have equally not been left behind even though they may not have to directly account for the day-to-day activities of their businesses or organisations to the public. Many, particularly those in the services industries, are taking a more proactive approach in engaging their target audiences via social media platforms mostly to demonstrate walking the talk on their organisations’ purpose, mission or objectives. From telecoms giant MTN’s Ralph Mupita to insurer Discovery’s Adrian Gore, Africa’s top business leaders are proactively accounting for the activities of their respective businesses through direct and two-way engagement with audiences on chosen social media platforms, mostly LinkedIn and Twitter.
As access and usage of social media platforms continues to deepen on the continent, it is expected that more and more leaders – in politics, business, non-profit sectors – will continue to adopt digital platforms to proactively account to their bases, constituencies or target audiences. The current picture is pretty impressive and it should only get better in times ahead.
Data compiled by Africa No Filter between 2020-2021 showing the top 10 most followed African leaders on Twitter
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