Africa Discusses Politics via Twitter


When Africans go on Twitter, they are increasingly talking politics.

A study by Portland Communications, a London-based business, shows that nearly
10 percent of the most-popular African hashtags in 2015 were related to political issues and politicians. In the U.S. and Britain, only 2 percent of those conversations were about politics, the study shows.

The top political hashtag in Africa was #Nigeriadecides during Nigeria’s presidential election in 2015. Another popular conversation was the strife in Burundi.

“In the U.K., we were using Twitter a lot and we wanted to know how Africa was using it,” said Mae Dobbs, Portland’s senior account executive. “And suddenly we noticed that everyone was curious, as well. It showed us that people are using Twitter to have those important conversations.”

Portland says it analyzed
1.6 billion geo-located tweets to determine the 5,000 most popular hashtags in Africa during 2015.

The report says Burundi, Egypt, Ethiopia, Nigeria and South Africa were the most active countries in the political conversations. It notes that 77 percent of the tweets were in English.

“Our thoughts on the language is that the popularity of English has snowballed to the point where people want to use it on social media in order to be part of the global conversation,” Dobbs said. “There were interesting ‘Englishizations’ of Arabic words, for example, which showed that those who speak Arabic are still interested in joining conversations in English in order to reach wider audiences.

“As we say in the report, we find that English is becoming the lingua franca of Twitter in Africa.”

Egypt tweeted more than any other country in Africa, with 450 million tweets. Among Sub-Saharan countries, Nigeria led with 350 million tweets, followed by South Africa with 325 million.