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Africa’s internet usage: The lowdown

February 9, 2012 • Lists, Top Stories

It is no secret Africa is one of the fastest developing continents in terms of telecommunications and internet connectivity. Over the last couple of years we have witnessed incredible growth, especially since the landing of undersea fibre optic cables. But how does internet penetration in Africa stack up compared to the rest of the world?

South Africa is fourth on the list of most connected, with only 6.8-million internet users (image: stock.xchng)

* At the end of 2011 Africa had 139 million internet users according to Internet World Stats. In 2000, it was a meagre 4,5 million. That’s 2 988.4% growth! Out of these 139 million users, 37,7 million have Facebook accounts.

* With 11,4% internet penetration, well behind the 30,2% world average, Nigeria has the most users at 44 million. Egypt has 20,1 million and Morocco 13,2 million. South Africa is the fourth most connected with 6,8 million internet users. Neighbouring Zimbabwe sports a modest 1,4 million.

* Despite South Africa ranked fourth, it is second when it comes to Facebook with 4,8 million users. Egypt ranks top with a population of around 82 million, with over 9 million users. Nigeria has 4,3 million users.

* Countries at the bottom end of internet users are Equatorial Guinea (14 400), Liberia (20 000), Comoros (24 000), Djibouti (58 000) and Mauritania (75 000). The island of St Helena only has 900 internet users, but their population (4 000) is a lot less compared to smaller countries.

* Facebook’s immense popularity around the world is not reflected in many African countries. Comoros sports 13 840 users, while 18 180 Equatorial Guineans check their status updates. Eritrea, with a population of almost 6 million, only has 19 180 Facebook users.

* Zambia remains one of the most competitive mobile markets. With two fixed-line operators (TTCL and Zantel), eight operational mobile networks and four additional players licensed under a new converged regulatory regime.

* Africa’s cellular history dates back Mauritius in 1989. Since then 3G launched in 2004, WiMAX wireless broadband network in 2005 and Africa’s first internet protocol TV (IPTV) service in 2006.

* Africans love mobile. Currently there are 610 million subscribers with 24 million new connections in 2011. The estimated number at the end of 2012 seems around 735 million subscribers.

* South Africans are tweeting away it seems with 5 million tweets over the last quarter of 2011. Second in line is Kenya with 2,4 million tweets with Nigerians sending out 1,6 million tweets in Q4 2011.

* Studies indicated 57% of tweets in Africa are sent from mobile devices. The ages 20-29 sent out 60% of the tweets in Africa.

* According to Portland Communications, “Twitter in Africa is widely used for social conversation, with 81% of those polled saying that they mainly used it for communicating with friends. 22% use it to search for employment opportunities.”

Charlie Fripp – Online editor

Sources: Internet World Stats, TelecomsMarketResearch, IBM, Portland Communications


  • I work for a London-based charity called Techfortrade. We are about to launch a global competition in which entrants: social entrepreneurs/inventors or just ordinary people, will have ideas on how 3D printing can be of benefit in the developing world.

    A large cash prize and on-going technical support will be provided for the winner.

    To follow this exciting launch, please find us on Twitter or Facebook or email me at: research@tech4trade.org

  • Jagat Jit Singh

    Don't big countries / regions in Africa have own " large social media portals " like China and Russia ?

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