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Twitter Use in East Africa


Right now, the eyes of the Twitter community are all on Turkey, as the Turkish president has threatened to “wipe out” the social medium. However, there are other interesting things to say out the state of Twitter in other countries as well. How is the social medium used in East Africa, for example?

In a great piece on AllAfrica, Allan Brian Ssenyonga provides us a little insight in the presence of social media website Twitter in East Africa. At the moment he wrote the article, he says, the highest trending topic on Twitter was the shutdown of the service in Turkey. The country’s Prime Minister Erdogan has banned the website because it had but allegations that he was involved in corruption in the limelight. This news reminded Ssenyonga of an event in Uganda a while back, when a regulatory body in the African country threatened to block “Tweeter.”

According to Ssenyonga, Twitter is very much alive and kicking in East Africa and is still gaining in popularity. Moreover, Africans use the service to receive and spread the latest news and learn about one another, which he finds encouraging. Thus, he says, a ban on the social media service in the near future is very unlikely.

Ssenyonga says East Africans often tweet about regular topics that are featured in the global news such as the missing Malaysian airplane or the Oscars. He is following a number of East African Twitter users that tweet in English: according to him, many African countries seem to have embraced the social medium.

Kenyan users have recently coined the hashtag #KOT: Kenyans on Twitter. Ssenyonga regards the Kenyan users as “Fully ‘developed’ Twitter users” as they have their own social media awards, for example. Moreover, Kenyans are aware of the concept of trending topics and follow a lot of their local politicians. Ssenyonga even believes that some of the funniest accounts are owned by Kenyans!

Ugandan Twitter users (who use the hashtag #UOT) seem to copy quite a lot form their Kenyan peers. However, Ssenyonga believes they create their own topics from time to time as well. Because the number of Ugandan people using the social medium isn’t that large, these topics often fail to become trending worldwide, he says.

Twitter users from Rwanda (#RwOT) are often very positive about the events in their country, while Rwandans living abroad usually adopt a more sour tone, Ssenyonga says. However, quite a lot of Rwandans use the service, which is also visible from the social media awards that were recently issued. According to Ssenyonga, many government officials and agencies have even joined the service after the Rwandan president himself created a Twitter account.

Ssenyonga states that Burundian people on the social medium often use the hashtag #Abatwip. Ssenyonga  does not speak French, which is why he thinks it is a pity that many Burundians use French for their Tweets. There are some Burundians that use English and Swahili though, two languages Ssenyonga does understand. Even though only a handful of Burundi citizens have joined Twitter, Ssenyonga says these few did succeed in squashing the misconceptions about their country, which, according to Ssenyonga, have a lot to do with the languages spoken in the country.

For Tanzania, there seem to be two different hastaghs: both #TOT and #TzOT are used. However, Ssenyonga does know that the Tanzanian presence on Twitter is quite decent and that the service is used to ventilate opinions about the recent debate about the constitution. Ssenyonga has to admit his Swahili is not sufficient to understand all Tweets, though.

Even though people from Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania currently all have their own voice on Twitter, Ssenyonga concludes his article stating that these voices will slowly evolve into one, single sound.

The reason for this? Companies that now work on regional levels and the entertainment the service can provide. After all, Ssenyonga says, the more people you can complain to about Nakumatt or Kenya Airways, the better!

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