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Study sheds light on how Africans use Twitter

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How Africa Tweets is an annual study by Portland Communications which highlights Twitter trends, hashtag usage and online habits in Africa.

In their 2015 report Portland analysed 1.6 billion geolocated tweets and the top 5,000 hashtags for 2015. Below are some of the main takeaways.

► Tweets regarding entertainment dominated the pan-African feed last year, totalling just over 20% of all hashtags posted. The next four most popular hashtag themes were commerce, politics, lifestyle and football.

► The most tweets in Africa came from up north, with Egypt accounting for about 500 million.

Nigeria came in second with 360 million tweets followed by South Africa, Kenya, and Ghana sitting at 325 million, 125 million, and 70 million tweets respectively. It total, Africa tweeted 1.86 billion times last year.

► English is the most used language on Twitter in Africa – as 77% of the top 5,000 hashtags were in English.

You can find the interactive version at: http://www.howafricatweets.com/

You can find the interactive version at: How Africa Tweets

► The study shows a trend towards having political debates on Twitter – with discussions around the category accounting for 10% of all geolocated tweets in Africa, compared to just 2% of hashtags in the US and UK.

The two most active countries in the political debate was Nigeria and South Africa – possibly owing to the Nigerian presidential election and the student-lead #FeesMustFall movement in South Africa.

Mark Flanagan, Portland’s senior partner for content and digital strategy, pointed out that in the two previous studies, Africa’s Twitter feed was “much more a space for social interaction and frivolous banter.”

Top five themes of hashtags around the world. Source: How Africa Tweets

Top five themes of hashtags around the world. Source: How Africa Tweets

► The top hashtags in many small African countries, such as Comoros, Cape Verde and Central African Republic, were surprisingly predominately Japanese and Korean. The Mail & Guardian Africa related the large amount of Japanese tweets to “an individual from Japan who had lost his job. Tweeting every five minutes, he had contributed over 198,000 tweets to the world, and during the research period, 99,000 geolocated tweets had washed ashore on the Comoros.”

The surge of Korean tweets were reportedly due to Korean ‘Twitter robots’ spamming twitter in these countries.

► Allan Kamau, who leads Portland’s Nairobi office remarked on how political interest and debate on governmental trends is beginning to transcend borders in Africa.

“Excitedly, our report also hints at the coming together of Africans across boundaries to comment on and discuss common issues. How to successfully engage with these emerging pan-African online communities represents a challenge for all brands and organisations seeking to build their presence in this space.”

A good example of this would be the popular continent-wide tweets last year that focused on Burundi’s conflict and Nigeria’s presidential elections.

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  • Max Cuvellier

    “English is the most used language on Twitter in Africa – as 77% of the top 5,000 hashtags were in English.” / If you look closely at the ‘study’, you will realise that any word or country which is similar in English and other languages has been considered as an ‘English-language hashtag. It is the case for a lot of French-Speaking countries for instance: Mali, Niger, Senegal, Gabon, Togo, Chad, Benin etc. It illustrates how datamining & Big Data more generally is only really relevant if there is a brain analysing the results, not just a computer…

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