Unpacking sub-Saharan African media consumption habits

Nairobi, Kenya

Nairobi, Kenya

The second Nielsen’s Africa Prospects Indicators (APi) report has released key findings on sub-Saharan African media consumption habits in a special section entitled Connecting with Africa’s Consumers – Spotlight on the Media Landscape.

One of its biggest insights was that despite country-to-country variations in terms of media penetration and practice, the penetration of mass media such as television, radio and mobile is near universal, while in stark contrast the penetration of print media (newspapers and magazines) and the internet is significantly lower.

Nielsen Africa marketing and communication director Ailsa Wingfield comments: “Audiences in Africa are increasingly connected and involved, providing marketers with multiple platforms to reach and resonate with consumers, which is vital for new and established brands to build trust and recommendation, the key driver of brand choice”.

Looking at the overall media penetration rankings for 17 African countries, the report ranked Angola, South Africa and Namibia as the top three countries based on an amalgamation of their individual mobile, TV, radio, print and internet penetration.

While Angola ranked number one overall, its internet ranking was eighth, which shows the potential for huge growth in online activity rates if the required connectivity is provided. South Africa ranked second overall but was tenth in terms of mobile penetration, with an urban mobile penetration of 92%. Mobile subscription rates in South Africa are, however, in excess of 150%.

Namibia ranked in third place and Kenya in fourth, which comes as no surprise given the latter’s diverse media sector with more than 20 television stations and over 370 radio stations now operating in Kenya, supported by a sizable middle class that sustains a substantial advertising market.

Most clicks of the button

When comparing the frequency of media use, the gap between mass media, the internet and print was found to be equally wide, with sub-Saharan African consumers watching TV or listening to the radio twice per day on average, while they access the internet only every second day.

Wingfield says: “Even with this lower average of accessing online, one of the biggest changes in recent times has been the increasing presence of the internet. From being largely unconnected to the web a little over a decade ago, millions of sub-Saharan African consumers are now using it, due to the exponential advancements in mobile connectivity.”

A highly social society

Despite the fact that only 39% of people in sub-Saharan Africa have online access, the escalation in internet accessibility has laid the path for rapid uptake of social networking and media. Social platform interaction across sub-Saharan Africa features highly, and will outstrip growth around the globe for the next couple of years. In fact, the APi report states that 40% of consumers now access the internet using their mobile devices, with this as high as 70% in Kenya and Zimbabwe, 67% in Ghana and 65% in Nigeria.

Against this backdrop, during the last five years Facebook has grown to become the most widely used social media platform across Africa, with nearly 20 million users (World Internet Statistics) in Nigeria and Kenya alone. Twitter usage is also on the increase, with frequency of use as intensive as Facebook, despite the lower penetration rates. According to the APi report Botswana, South Africa and Namibia boast the highest penetration and awareness when it comes to Facebook profiles, with 30%, 25% and 20% respectively.

The report stated that at present the most popular activities on social networks include: maintaining individual profiles, updating status, reading blogs, commenting on blogs and publishing blogs. Digital and social media has caused a fundamental change in the African media landscape over the past few years, with the origin and uptake of news and reviews now determined by audiences and consumers.

In terms of the activities Africa’s connected consumers are engaging in, 73% read emails, 51% read the news and 44% search for information for personal use. Downloading music is also popular with 36% citing it as an activity they regularly conduct on the internet. Thirty-four per cent search for work-related information, 33% upload their own photos, while 27% download information and visit links sent to them from friends and family, which shows the continued importance of personal referrals.

The impact of advertising

The report shows that African consumers are highly receptive to advertising messages with a massive 48% of sub-Saharan African consumers saying they are swayed to a large extent by advertising. The extent of influence varies by country, with Nigerians being three times as receptive to advertising messages as compared to Cameroonians.

In terms of media awareness and impact, audiences are most aware of outdoor and broadcast advertising platforms at 80% and 78% respectively, and also consider these the mediums where they see the most advertising, at 35%.   While consumers are aware of mobile as an advertising platform at 52%, only 8% say mobile is the most seen advertising. “Mobile is still primarily used for personal communication, while as a media platform it is still underutilised to deliver advertising content to mobile-savvy users,” says Wingfield.

Brand advocates amplify messages

In terms of trust in advertising, this is greatest from earned sources such as personal recommendations from friends and family and consumer opinions. Wingfield comments: “The power of digital ad formats cannot be underestimated as they offer many advantages for achieving effective reach.

“Passionate brand advocates can be powerful allies to amplify consumer engagement and sales-actioned outcomes. The key thing is to focus on who and how these messages and moments are delivered and how this can be adjusted to allow for local country and consumer differences.”