The power of communication in all spheres of life can never be overemphasized as life would be difficult hence technology over the years has been channeled towards creating more effective, faster, and universal communicating tools.
Social media which has its roots in the 18th century can be a website or application which allows a user to create and share content or participate in social networking thereby having a wider reach which can influence a region, state, or country. Political, economic and lifestyle decisions have greatly been influenced by the power of social media in Africa as a statistics report by Africanvibes revealed that the continent has a population of 1,304 billion people with about 1 billion of them which represents 80 percent having access to mobile phones, 473 million having access to the internet and about 216 million actively using social media. Facebook, Youtube, Whatsapp, Instagram, Twitter, Linkedin, and more which were all imported to the continent have helped greatly in shaping Africa both positively and negatively.
Since the dawn of the 20th century, social media has had more far-reaching effect in changing any government administration than other channels have, as it has enabled a wider coverage due to its large reach and the growing rate of internet penetration in the continent which has continued to grow. The Arab Spring which began in 2010 is the one not too distant political effect of social media we can’t forget as the power the tool holds showed its strength in changing a life long political tradition. The uprising which began in Tunisia was felt across the middle east but people ignored the power of social media until it got to Egypt when President Hosni Mubarak was toppled as twitter, youtube and Facebook were used to organize protests quickly as information which included both texts, videos, and pictures about venues, atrocities by the government and more were easily disseminated to a large audience. Aside from having effects in North Africa politically, the influence of social media also took its toll in Southern Africa, as it was one of the major tools used in Zimbabwe for the toppling of President Robert Mugabe. Whatsapp played a key role in the assembling of protesters as it was used to sustain the protest and a regime change occurred. Economically, social media has had its fair share of influence as far-reaching economic policies have been upturned with the power of social media. In Nigeria for instance the influence of social media in the economic decisions was felt in January 2012 under President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration as there was resistance against the increment in the pump price of petrol. The change was announced on the 1st and by the 2nd of January with the influence of social media, protests were assembled across the country, forcing the government to revert its decision on the increment. Lifestyle, dressing, and other social vibes have also had its fair share of influence from the social media sphere.
Aside from having its fair share of benefits in giving voices to the voiceless when it comes to politics, economics, and more, social media has had a negative effect also on the people of Africa. Extremists have keyed into the power it has in recruiting terrorists into their folds. Suicide bombers have been recruited through the platform, causing harm and terror across Africa, with Boko Haram in Nigeria, Al-Shabaab in Ethiopia, and Ansar al-Sharia in Tunisia, the continent has had its fair share of terrorism which is still being fueled also with the power of social media. Fake news has been another major disadvantage of social media in Africa as people easily get access to information that may not be true and act on it, thereby causing disharmony. Fake or sometimes misrepresented images and videos have led to a crisis that has led to the loss of life and properties. Misguided elements sometimes deliberately post this fake news to cause violence since it’s a fast and effective tool to send messages to a large audience (imagine being able to reach over 200 million people).
The power of social media has helped in creating business and work opportunities on the continent. Social network applications such as Linkedin has been effective in creating a presence for B2B marketing while others like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and others have helped in B2C marketing. Entrepreneurs grew rapidly in the continent with the help of social media, as retailers can easily advertise their products on the platform and reaching a large audience. Paid influencers increased with the rise of social media as the likes of instablog, Tundeednut, and more came to existence and are since making money from the rise of the medium.
The rate of internet users in Africa for the last ten years has been increasing annually at a rate of over 8 percent according to a report by Internet World Stats and its set to rise over the years which creates room for more influencing as the surge in social media also rises. Politics, entertainment, economics would continue to be influenced by social media in the coming years as the usage rises and so would revenue and job opportunities.