First Twitter map of Africa reveals a connected continent

In the first-ever Twitter map of Africa, South Africans are the most active tweeters on a continent where young people armed with smartphones are embracing social media to connect across borders.


Social networking, particularly Twitter, is gaining ground across Africa, connecting people from Cape Town to Cairo.

Portland Communications, along with media platform Tweetminster, have produced the first Twitter Map of the African continent after analysing more than 11.5 million tweets from across the region.

Over five million of the tweets emanated from South Africa, which, as the continent’s most developed country, might not come as a surprise. But second on the map, with 2.48 million tweets, was Kenya, ranked as the region's thirteenth economy.

The map, titled How Africa Tweets, also revealed that over half of all tweets were sent from mobile devices like smartphones and that 60 percent of Africa’s tweeters were aged 20 to 29.

Robert Watkinson, associate director of Portland Communications, said Africa’s tweeting trend had wrongly been ignored up until now.

How Africa Tweets - click to enlargen image

“We were shocked last year when we received a report from a US think tank about the world’s most influential Twitter users, but it did not cover Africa,” Watkinson told France 24.

“How could they ignore a whole continent like that? So then we wanted to show that African countries are using this dynamic social media network, too.”

Portland’s Twitter map was made possible after analysing thousands of tweets sent in the last three months of 2011. Although South Africa is way out in front, the allure of the microblogging site stretches across the continent. Rwanda produced 92,000 tweets, while its vast neighbour the Democratic Republic of Congo generated just under 2,500 tweets.

“What is perhaps a positive surprise is that there is not one country in the whole of Africa where Twitter is not used,” said Watkinson.

The map reveals that the number of tweets is not necessarily related to the wealth of a particular country. Kenya ranked ahead of Nigeria and Egypt, despite those two countries being wealthier, more populous, and regular sources of headline news.

“Kenyans generally consume much more mobile internet data per user than the Nigerians. For example, this could be the very reason why Kenya generates more geo-located tweets than others,” said Watkinson.

Researchers not only studied the numerical data, but also carried out a survey of 500 of Africa’s most active tweeters.

The results revealed that most users make use of Twitter for social conversation, with 81 percent of those polled saying they mainly use it for communicating with friends. Research also showed that 68 percent of those polled said they used it to monitor the news.

“Twitter allows people to communicate with friends and also network with people from other African countries,” said Watkinson. “It is clear that in Africa we are still in a period of discovery with regards to Twitter.”

One interesting trend the research showed was that political leaders in Africa are way behind their counterparts in Europe and the United States when it comes to using Twitter.

Mark Flanagan, Portland’s partner for digital communications, said “one of the more surprising findings of this research is that more public figures have not joined Africa’s burgeoning Twittersphere. With some notable exceptions, we found that business and political leaders were largely absent from the debates playing out on Twitter across the continent.”

Portland promised that the world’s first Twitter map of Africa will not be the last. The consultants plan to monitor traffic each year to prove to the world that Africans have not missed the Twitter boat.

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