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A surfer on Twitter. Twitter is ranked as the fastest growing social networking site on the web. Photo/FILE

A surfer on Twitter. Twitter is ranked as the fastest growing social networking site on the web. Photo/FILE  Nation Media Group

By Peter Mutai

Posted  Thursday, January 26  2012 at  14:48

Majority of tweets in Africa are made by young people from their mobile devices, thus driving the growth of Twitter Africa, a new research has revealed.

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The study, How Africa Tweets, says African Twitter users aged 20-29 are active across a range of social media, including Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and LinkedIn.

The research by Portland Communications and Tweetminster also found that Twitter is helping to form new links within the continent. "It is clear that Africa's Twitter revolution is really just beginning," said Beatrice Karanja, associate director and head of Portland Nairobi. "Twitter is helping Africa and Africans to connect in new ways and swap information and views. And for Africa -- as for the rest of the world -- that can only be good."

According to the report, Twitter is becoming an important source of information in the continent with 68 percent of those polled saying they use Twitter to monitor news while 22 percent use it to search for employment opportunities. Analysts said Twitter will play a crucial role as Kenya gears toward the general elections either in December or early 2013 as it has been embraced by politicians to voter mobilization purposes.

All Kenya's presidential candidates including Prime Minister Raila Odinga, Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka and Finance Minister Uhuru Kenyatta are active Twitter users. However, the report found that the majority of African leaders or public figures have not joined the continent's growing Twitter sphere.

"One of the more surprising findings of this research is that more public figures have not joined Africa's burgeoning Twitter sphere," Mark Flanagan, Portland's Partner for Digital Communications said.
With some notable exceptions, Flanagan said, they found that business and political leaders were largely absent from the debates playing out on Twitter across the continent.

"As Twitter lifts off in Africa, governments, businesses and development agencies can really no longer afford to stay out of a new space where dialogue will increasingly be taking place," Flanagan said.

Portland Communications and Tweetminster analyzed over 11.5 million geo-located Tweets originating on the continent during the last three months of 2011. The latest pan-African analysis of Twitter traffic was complemented by a survey of 500 of Africa's most active Tweeters.

How Africa Tweets found that 57 percent of Tweets from Africa are sent from mobile devices and 60 percent of Africa's most active Tweeters are aged 20-29. "Twitter in Africa is widely used for social conversation, with 81 percent of those polled saying that they mainly use it for communicating with friends," the report says.

According to latest figures from the Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK), mobile telecommunications are driving the country's rapid internet growth. The CCK's latest telecommunications and internet report indicates that Kenya now has 14.3 million internet users, a penetration of 36.3 percent, most of them -- 75 percent -- access the internet using mobile devices.
CCK, the industry regulator, said fixed line access could be considered more expensive than mobile access, which has come within reach of more consumers due to growing competition between operators.

"Mobile data is poised to transform the Internet market in the country. With the number of mobile data/Internet subscriptions rising steadily over the period, this trend is likely to continue as operators leverage on emerging technologies to bring new offerings to the market to meet user demands," said the CCK report.

The How Africa Tweets study found that South Africa is the continent's most active country by volume of geo-located Tweets, with about 5 million tweets during the fourth quarter of 2011 followed by Kenya which had 2.5 million tweets.

The report also says Nigeria (1.65 million), Egypt (1.21 million) and Morocco (745,620) make up the remainder of the top five most active countries. According to How Africa Tweets, the majority of those surveyed said that at least half of the Twitter accounts they follow are based on the continent.
CCK says it expects to see intense competition continuing as operators seek to diversify their services in an effort to grow their revenue margins. CCK says another telecoms trend is for mobile users to favor text messages as a means of communication.

The number of SMS messages sent between July and September last year rose to 1.5 billion, an increase of 134 percent over the previous quarter. Mobile phone money transfer services are also growing in popularity, with four out of five new mobile phone subscribers signing up to use mobile money transfer services too. (Xinhua)