African Twitter map reveals how continent stays connected
Analysis of 11.5m tweets in last three months of 2011 shows South Africa generated the most, with more than 5m recorded
Breakdown of the African countries who tweet the most.
The first Twitter map of Africa shows the social network is forging links between smartphone users from Cape Town to Cairo while, with a few exceptions, political and business leaders are yet to get the hang of tweeting.
More than 11.5m geographically pinpointed tweets originating on the continent during the last three months of 2011 were analysed by Portland Communications's Kenya office and media platform Tweetminster.
Africa's biggest economy, South Africa, generated the most tweets with over 5m, more than double second placed Kenya's 2.48m. Then came Nigeria (1.67m), Egypt (1.21m) and Morocco (0.75m).
Rwanda, which has invested heavily in information technology, produced nearly 100,000 tweets – way more than its giant and impoverished neighbour, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, with 2,408.
The map also shows that thousands of people are now using Twitter in less "wired" countries such as Angola, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Mali, Niger and Sudan.
The research, How Africa Tweets, also carried out a survey of 500 of Africa's most active tweeters. It found Twitter in Africa is fast becoming an important source of information on a continent with few guarantees of press freedom.
The average age of African tweeters is between 20 and 29 years old, compared to the worldwide average of 39 years old. Some 57% of tweets from Africa are sent from mobile devices, including BlackBerrys and iPhones.
Toby Shapshak, editor of Stuff magazine in South Africa, said: "Africa is a mobile-first continent. There are more people with phones than PCs."
Twitter is widely used for social conversation, with four in five of those polled saying they mainly used it for communicating with friends. But more than two in three of those polled said they use Twitter to monitor news. More than one in four uses it to search for job opportunities.
How Africa Tweets found that Twitter is helping to form new links within Africa. The majority of those surveyed said that at least half of the Twitter accounts they followed were based on the continent.
But the companies behind the research said few African business and political leaders have joined the continent's Twittersphere.
Mark Flanagan, Portland's partner for digital communications, said: "One of the more surprising findings of this research is that more public figures have not joined Africa's burgeoning Twittersphere.
"With some notable exceptions, we found that business and political leaders were largely absent from the debates playing out on Twitter across the continent. As Twitter lifts off in Africa, governments, businesses and development agencies can really no longer afford to stay out of a new space where dialogue will increasingly be taking place."
Rwanda's president Paul Kagame is a notable exception when it comes to leaders' Twitter abstinence, as is South African president Jacob Zuma, although his most recent post was on 8 January. "It feels good to be here in Mangaung," it reads. "I wouldn't have it any other way. The ANC is great."