According to a recent report the use of mobile chat apps and micro-blogs has been increasing in Nigeria. More and more users are turning to Cape Town, South Africa-based 2go, a mobile instant messaging service, as well as to messaging services Eskimi and WhatsApp as their social media platform choices than to Facebook. Last year Alan Wolff, 2go’s co-founder, said that the service had over 20 million registered users across Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa, and that 2go sends over 7 billion messages each month. Additionally, the report chalked up the popularity of messaging apps to their ability to perform well on lower bandwidths, which results in less data usage and that they are a less expensive alternative to SMS.
Facebook has acknowledged that in some parts of the world its most important demographic—teenagers—are becoming less active users, “We did see a decrease in daily users, particularly among younger teens,” said Facebook’s chief financial officer, David Ebersman, when referring to usage numbers from Q2 to Q3 in 2013. In a 2013 survey of teenagers from 30 countries, the number of these users claiming to be active on Facebook fell from 76 percent in Q1 to 56 percent in Q3. Young users, always looking for something new, are willing to switch platforms frequently; however, we do not think this is the reason for the high use of messaging apps in Nigeria.
Nigeria’s population of just over 170 million has an internet penetration of 33 percent, and 72 percent of those connected to the internet visited social media sites last year. Nigerians are turning to social media as a way to attract the government’s attention and hold it accountable for its actions that impact the country. Branding of businesses, engagement in civic issues and sources of news information are also reasons for Nigerians use of social media platforms.
Nonetheless, only 25 percent of Nigeria’s more than 105 mobile phone users have smartphones, and using Facebook’s app is difficult in a country that has poor internet access and an inadequate supply of affordable electricity. Therefore, messaging apps are the social media platform of choice for feature phone users.
We have reported on Facebook partnering with mobile operators in several emerging countries, which is a way for the social media giant to increase its penetration in these nations. If operators can find ways to develop mobile networks and increase services in these developing countries, which will allow for larger amounts of data penetration, Facebook believes it will see an increase in active users. Last November Nicola D’Elia, Facebook’s growth manager for Africa, said, “The network, unsurprisingly, is seeing the biggest uptake in the African markets with growing data penetration. There is a strong correlation between data penetration and Facebook penetration… Growth will come where we are able to deliver the highest data penetration and in sub-Saharan Africa it is definitely through mobile.”