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Why Francophone African leaders generally aren’t active on Twitter

September 1, 2013  »  WebNo Comment

The other day, Jeune Afrique posted an interesting article on how leaders of West African and Central African nations are less likely to be engaged on Twitter than counterparts in other African regions. The comparison seems to stem from the observation that presidents of South Africa, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Tunisia tend to often use social platforms to spread news to the public.

In the past, we’ve commented on how Francophone Africa face an extra challenge in communicating developments to the global community. English is, after all, the de facto language of the Internet. Although internet content is becoming more diverse, most leaders in Francophone Africa have chosen not to participate on Twitter. Perhaps the reasons are residual sentiments from the days of colonization or maybe they are something less complex.

The summary of reasons described by Jeune Afrique:

  • Generally lower Internet access rates in West and Central Africa compared with other regions (ie. 1.2% in DR Congo but 13% in Uganda). Plus there are discrepancies between neighbors (ie. 4.4% Cote d’Ivoire and 14% Ghana).
  • English-speaking countries are more receptive to tech – often since it is designed in English.
  • Former colonizer plays a role in how entrepreneurship is handled. For example, English speaking countries are quicker to develop tech than France, for example. Political reasons are partly to blame.
  • Young presidential candidates usually have Twitter accounts, but other politicians rarely do. Many politicians are either apathetic or private. Others care but outsource management of their account.
  • Intermittent updates – many leaders are active on Twitter during elections and then stop sharing information on the network. Examples are Cameroon’s Paul Biya and Congo’s Joseph Kabila. Other leaders like Ivory Coast’s President Ouattara are more idle and as a result have a smaller online audience.
  • In general, the French language requires mores characters than English to convey the same meaning. Therefore, 140 characters is an even stricter limit for French speakers.