The latest good and bad news from a premier United States global information and measurement company is that Botswana has the highest rates of Internet access in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), beating Nigeria and Kenya.
This Internet accessibility has allowed hundreds of thousands of Batswana to hop onto Facebook and according to Nielsen, their participation rates on this social media platform place Botswana far ahead of all SSA countries. The Facebook profile is derived from three variables: awareness, penetration and usage. In terms of awareness, Botswana ties with Namibia with both countries having a slight edge over their neighbour, South Africa. In terms of penetration, Botswana beats both its neighbours hands down, with South Africa coming in a distant second. And, in terms of usage, Botswana once more ties with Namibia.
Nielsen says that one of the biggest changes in recent times has been the increasing presence of the internet in SSA and that on average, consumers in this region will access the internet only every second day.
“From being largely unconnected to the web a little over a decade ago, millions of SSA consumers are now using it, due to the exponential advancements in mobile connectivity. Forty percent of consumers now access the internet using their mobile devices, with this as high as 70 percent in Kenya and Zimbabwe, 67 percent in Ghana and 65 percent in Nigeria,” the ratings agency says.
Facebook may have a largely frivolous use but Nielsen’s report considers how businesses can use mass media to connect with African consumers. With one too many Africans still preferring to buy from the neighbourhood tuckshop around, “Africa’s retail environments are some of the toughest in the world, given that 95 percent of the landscape is still made up of Traditional Trade outlets.” The information such as Nielsen publishes in its report will help businesses unlock retail prospects on the continent. The ratings agency says that the most popular activities on social networks include: maintaining individual profiles, updating status, reading blogs, commenting on blogs and publishing blogs.
Botswana’s participation rates on social media are, in no small measure, a direct result of the government’s ICT policy through which it wants more and more people access to the Internet. It should be good news that this policy is bearing fruit but there is a very ugly downside with specific regard to the use of social media. With specific regard to the observance of the road traffic code, Facebook use has become a serious law enforcement challenge. A United States study says that the use of smart phones is more dangerous than drunken driving. The other thing is that never having been impressive in the first place, Botswana’s labour productivity is being eroded by the use of social media, especially Facebook. In that regard, it is perhaps not surprising that the only African country which, according to a Rand Merchant Bank survey, is the only one where labour productivity was mentioned as a worrisome issue, should have the highest rates of Facebook use.