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Africa should want its own ad networks

February 26, 2010  »  Business & Web11 Comments

2012 Update: AdsBrook, a Ghanaian startup ad network is in Beta stage. The platform will soon provide ads to web publishers and mobile developers.

It pays to be targeted

When it comes to ads, it pays to be targeted

Fundamentally, an online advertisement is a medium for communication. Advertisements are a vehicle for the transfer of goods and/or services. Not only do ads contribute to the economy, but they facilitate social progress. Additionally, ad revenue is a great way to defray hosting or staffing costs and can provide motivation to keep an informative site going. In general, web users who are accustomed to American and European advertising practices will notice a different method of online advertising on African websites. At first glance, it appears that African sites are less likely to use as many large ads as Western sites. Moreover, numerous popular African websites have very few ads, if any at all. These two observations are understandably valid. Image ads and flash ads add to the page load time (a typical ad is 30-40kb in size) and clutter the screen. However, the main difference in continental advertising practices is the absense of applicable ads on African websites. In most cases, African Internet users are more likely to use an African service than an American service. How many Africans take classes from University of Phoenix over a local counterpart? Probably very few.

The solution to this predicament is to utilize targeted ad networks that publish predominantly African content. Unfortunately, few platforms currently exist. In fact, the Zimbabwe Guardian recently examined the lack of ad networks in Africa, saying:

Media fragmentation in the region remains a major challenge for Advertisers intending to reach the more than fifty million internet users in the region. The Ad Network model here was long overdue…With increased uptake of Online Marketing among major Africa brands, 2010 could herald a big change in the way some of the big media agencies and big brands targeting consumers in Africa buy display advertising.

Surprisingly, Google AdSense, with a relatively low average eCPM (effective cost-per-mille, or the average amount of revenue based on clicks and impressions for every thousand ads) remains the popular source of ads on survyed large African-based sites. Many of the ads served through AdSense do not even relate to products that Africans would use and are a waste of information. Websites lose out on potential revenue when ads are not properly targeted (contextually targeting only goes so far as well). At the very least, attracting local or regional advertisers will stimulate the African economy. Ideally, Internet users will become exposed to local goods and services that can improve their lives.

There are two types of advertising that African website owners should consider:

  1. One solution to remedy the problem of generic, non-African ads is for advertisers to directly buy sponsorships on sites that match the intended demographic. Direct advertising buys (arranged through a sales person on the publisher’s site) require more effort than an ad network, but tend to pay slightly higher margins. Still, the extra time and cost of employing a sales person negate the higher revenue. Implementing one or two of these ads are a fine idea for large properties, but they should be mixed with ads from ad networks to maximize income.
  2. The most viable solution in the long run is to have larger properties carry ads through an African ad network. Think of it as an ‘AdSense for Africa’. The network will take care of the direct advertising logistics and the publisher will reap the benefits of having more targeted ads, which in turn result in more clicks and interactions. At this time, it appears that only one such network exists: sabiOne Africa Advertising Network. sabiOne claims to reach 130 million unique users in over 20 African nations by utilizing ads from over 120 independent publishers. Additionally, this network offers behavioral targeting – something that even many Western networks do not offer.

This is not to say that global ad networks like AdSense are bad. These platforms are great for small-scale operations and individually-run sites that receive relatively insignificant traffic. Large web properties (like the sites listed below) can better serve their user base via targeted networks. These players, in addition to African advertisers, should begin to inquire about more regional ad networks.

Below is an analysis of online advertising on the homepages of the most popular sites (according to located in Africa for selected nations. None of these sites rely on an African ad network. The format is [Site]: [Ad Size in pixels] ([Advertiser]) – [# African Advertisers]/[Total Ads]:


  • Daily Nation: Two 300×250 standard ads (one AdSense, one Kenya Airways), three 120×204 sponsorships (, Kenya Sugar Research Foundation, AirKenya) – 4/5
  • The Standard: One 468×60 (AdSense), one 468×60 house ad for mobile site, one 120×600 (Casale Media), four 120×70 sponsorships (unbought) – 0/7
  • KenyanLyrics: No ads – 0/0


  • GhanaWeb: One 728×90 banner (ValueClick), one textlink banner (AdSense), five 200×100 sponsorships (AdFarm,, 3 unbought) – 1/7
  • MyJoyOnline: One 250×160 (, two 250×250 (AdSense), one 120×600 (AdSense), one 120×250 (K-Net), one textlink banner (AdSense), one 180×150 (, one 180×340 (Zenith Bank) – 4/8
  • BusinessGhana: One 728×90 banner (PSGlobal) – 1/1
  • PeaceFMOnline: One 468×60 (AdSense), two 300×250 (AdSense), one 300×250 (FastClick), one textlink banner (AdSense), one 155×60 sponsorship (unbought) – 0/6


  • Nairaland: One 160×600 tower (AdSense) – 0/1
  • ThisDay: One 160×600 tower (AdSense), one 120×180 sponsorships (, one 120×240 textlink (AdSense),  – 1/3
  • 234Next: One 180×80 sponsorship (Zenith Bank), one 180×90 sponsorship (UBA Group), one 300×250 sponsorship (UBA Group) – 3/3


  1. Of the sites above, DailyNation and 234Next feature the greatest portion of African-targeted ads. This is achieved through direct sales rather than an ad network.
  2. The majority of pages are “top-heavy” in terms of ad placement. Banners and tiles are common above the fold, but little is at the bottom of the page. Could this have to do with page-load time?
  • Mark leo

    Alternative Adverts Ltd owners of is the biggest ad network in Africa, and has shown to have the highest traffic on both mobile and desktop