Twitter ‘widely used’ for Africa political debates

Twitter is being widely used for political debates in Africa, research shows.

According to an analysis by Portland Communications, almost 1 in 10 of the most popular African hashtags in 2015 related to political issues and politicians, compared to 2 per cent of hashtags in the US and UK.

The top political hashtag in Africa was focused on the highest profile election on the continent last year – #NigeriaDecides, the analysis shows.

Portland, a London-based integrated communications agency, analysed 1.6 billion geo-located tweets and the top 5,000 hashtags on the continent, as part of their third: How Africa Tweets report.

National borders

The main findings of the report were:
• Although tweets about showbiz and entertainment dominated the conversation last year, representing over 20 per cent of all hashtags, discussion around politics has grown to 10 per cent. Nigeria, South Africa, Ethiopia, Burundi and Egypt were the most active in these political conversations. The report also found that interest in politics transcends national borders. For example, hashtags about the Nigerian Presidential Elections and strife in Burundi were among some of the most popular and widespread hashtags across Africa.

• English is by far the most dominant language on Twitter in Africa. This lingua franca has helped bridge national and cultural barriers across the continent, providing Twitter conversations with a wider reach than those using conventional media. Of the top 5,000 hashtags that were analysed, 77 per cent were tweeted in English. Other top languages like Arabic and French were tweeted significantly less – only 7 per cent and 4 per cent respectively.

• Twitter in Africa is used distinctly less for commercial campaigns than in other parts of the world. Commercial hashtags (such as brand names and promotional offers) are 25 times less prominent in Africa than in the US, for example.

• Egypt tweets the most out of any country in Africa, with 28 per cent of all geolocated Twitter volume (amounting to about 450 million tweets). Nigeria (350 million geolocated tweets), South Africa (325 million geolocated tweets), Kenya (76 million geolocated tweets) and Ghana (65 million geolocated tweets) round out the top five tweeting African countries. Overall, there were 1.6 billion geolocated tweets in Africa in 2015 – a 34-fold increase from our initial research in 2012.

Frivolous banter

“Our previous studies showed that Twitter in Africa was much more of a space for social interaction or frivolous banter. This study, our third, demonstrates that the platform is coming of age with the prevalence of serious debate about politics and government,” said Mark Flanagan, Portland’s Senior Partner for Content and Digital Strategy.

Portland is a communications and public affairs consultancy based in London, with offices in New York, Washington, DC, Doha and Nairobi.

Digital campaigns

It has a speciality and focus on media and digital campaigns in Africa.

Portland utilised the social media analysis tool Sysomos to collect the data for the How Africa Tweets report.

It collected the top 5,000 hashtags from Africa in 2015, which represented more than 1.8 billion geolocated tweets.