Kenyans ditch WhatsApp after crackdown on clone apps


WhatsApp's parent firm Meta has been cracking down on clone apps.

Photo credit: File | AFP

Thousands of Kenyans have stopped using the popular instant messaging app WhatsApp in the wake of a clampdown on clone apps, allowing Facebook to be the most used social media platform in the three months to March.

Latest data from the Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) reveals that WhatsApp usage fell by 0.3 percent to 47 percent in the first quarter of this year after Meta stepped up the war on clone applications like GBWhatsApp and YoWhatsApp, among others.

This has made Facebook, which has been playing second fiddle to WhatsApp since it became mainstream around ten years ago, the most prominent social media platform in the country.

About 49.4 percent of the Kenyan adult population used Facebook in the quarter to March, up from 47.5 percent in the three months to December—making it the second quarter in a row that the Meta platform is top.

The drop in WhatsApp usage comes as the app’s parent firm Meta steps up war against clones of the popular chatting platform, which have for long been favoured by users for their advanced privacy and custom features.

Lately, after publishing a warning message about the ‘unofficial’ third party apps on its website earlier in the year, WhatsApp has been banning users still using the clone apps, forcing them to transition to the official app, but many Kenyans appear to have abandoned the platform altogether.

“Unofficial apps are fake WhatsApp apps, developed by third parties, which violate our Terms of Service. We don't support these apps because we can't validate their security practices,” WhatsApp said in its official website, adding that using these apps will lead to banning of accounts.

In India, for instance, where WhatsApp is legally required to publish a monthly report, it banned 7.9 million users from the app in March alone, with an additional 6.7 million and 7.6 million banned in January and February 2024, respectively.

This is more than triple the number of account bans WhatsApp executed in India in 2022, highlighting an increased vigilance against the clone apps this year. WhatsApp does not publish similar reports for Kenya or any other jurisdiction across the globe.

YouTube, Instagram, TikTok, and X (formerly Twitter) have also gained new users in the last quarter, an indication that those quitting WhatsApp are now spending more time on these other platforms.

Video-sharing platform YouTube has gained the most, with the number of Kenyans using it rising from 21 percent in the last quartet of last year to 29.5 percent.

TikTok, Instagram and X each increased usage by 5.2 percent, 1.5 percent, and 2.8 percent to 23 percent, 13.3 percent, and 10.7 percent, respectively in the three months to March this year.

Studies show that Kenyans spend more time on social media every day than any other country in the world, with an average of 223 minutes spent on the platforms daily, according to the 2024 Global Digital Report by media monitoring firm Meltwater.

The Kenya Time Use Report of 2021 published last year by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) also revealed that Kenyans spend about 234 minutes daily on non-productive work like communication, socialising, and mass-media use.

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