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Mobile devices drive Twitter use in Africa, report says

People use Twitter for social interaction but also to monitor international news

The rapid increase in the number of mobile devices in Africa is driving growth of Twitter usage, as people in the region eagerly adopt social media communications, according to recently released research by Portland Communications.

The survey, a first attempt to map the use of Twitter in Africa, looked at 11.5 million geo-located Tweets originating in the region during the last quarter of 2011. The research South Africa leading adoption of Twitter, followed by Kenya, Nigeria, Egypt and Morocco.

The survey showed 57 percent of Twitter messages in Africa are sent from mobile devices, mostly for social conversation, and 60 percent of Africa's most active Twitters users are between 20 and 29 years old.

The company chose to conduct the survey at this point because Africa was the fastest growing market for smartphones in the world during 2011, and the researchers wanted to see what impact this had on social media usage, according to Portland Senior Account Executive Matt Gould.

"We were aware of other reports into social media use around the world but found that Africa is often excluded entirely," Gould said. "Anecdotally, we were aware that the use of Twitter was being used widely on the continent and we wanted to see if there was any evidence to support this."

Though the research showed that many public figures are yet to start using Twitter, Portland's researchers think that Twitter traffic throughout the continent will continue to grow in the coming years as more people use mobile devices.

"Clearly, there are some countries where technology and political freedom is restricted so this will have an impact on likely growth," Gould he added. "But where the infrastructure is available then citizens, especially young people, will take advantage of it to communicate and engage with each other and the rest of the world."

Portland would like to see more public figures from government and the corporate world take advantage of Twitter to converse with citizens, Gould said. "Doing so," he said, "will enable anyone with a Twitter account to have their voice heard by key decision makers."

The study, dubbed "How Africa Tweets," also reinforces the fact belief that Africa is very open to new technologies such as social media or mobile banking, which are playing important roles in the continent's development.

"Besides further growth in the use of Twitter, we believe that the coming years will see an evolution in how Twitter is used in Africa," Gould said. At the moment, Twitter is largely used in Africa as a tool to converse with friends, Gould noted. The second most common use of Twitter, however, is monitoring international and domestic news, he said.

"Portland believes that this trend will continue to grow and the platform will become a key tool for reporting and tracking current events taking place on the continent. Other platforms such as Google+ and Foursquare are also increasing in popularity across the continent," Gould said.

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