Trends In Sub-Saharan Africa’s Shifting Social Media Map

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Written by Dana Sanchez

South Africans are the most devoted social media buffs in Africa and text messaging has replaced BlackBerry’s once-leading instant messaging service as their No. 1 communication of choice, according to a report in ITWeb.

All other sub-Saharan countries echo South Africa in terms of text leading the way, the report said.

The market is becoming more sophisticated in terms of how consumers use their mobile devices – an observation reflected in shifting numbers and behaviors, according to research by Swedish telecommunications company Ericsson.

The latest Ericsson Consumer Labs study for sub-Saharan Africa is expected to be released in October. Shiletsi Makhofane, Ericsson’s marketing and strategy head, gave a sneak peek to Swedish media on preliminary research into how consumers in Africa use their mobile phones and what it means for mobile operators and the ICT sector at large.

Here are 10 of the key trends from Ericsson’s ongoing research, carried out to understand consumer behavior and inform operators’ strategic direction:

1. The mobile phone is by far the main device in sub-Saharan Africa, with DVD players and smartphones being the second and third in line.
2. Most mobile users in sub-Saharan Africa pay for data on their mobile phone only as they need it. A large number of cellphone users across the region do not use data on their phones at all.
3. The top three communication services used by South African mobile users are SMS (sending and receiving text), followed by social networking and then instant messaging. Text is also No. 1 for other sub-Saharan countries, but unlike South Africa, they favor Internet browsing over instant messaging.
4. South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya are the highest consumers of social media in sub-Saharan Africa, with mobile users under 30 being the biggest contributors.
5. Thirty percent of mobile users in sub-Saharan Africa use the Internet on their mobile phones every day.
6. The top three instant messaging platforms used by South Africans are WhatsApp at No. 1 right now, followed by Facebook Messenger and then BlackBerry Messenger.
7. App usage across the region is still focused on entertainment and communication, but there is now an apparent aspiration for users to start using more productivity and utility apps.
8. Buying airtime, followed by transferring money to or from someone are the most commonly used mobile financial services in sub-Saharan Africa.
9.    The top three financial services used by South Africans are bank or credit card notifications, buying airtime or phone credit and receiving salaries.
10. The top three financial services of interest in South Africa are buying airtime, transferring money to someone, and then transferring money between a bank account and mobile phone.