13 stats about South Africa you need to know, from the Global Digital 2019 Report

Bra Willy | eNitiate | Global Digital Report 2019 | Internet and Social Media Penetrations - South Africa | January 2019

In this post, I share stats about South Africa that will show that online media have effectively become the new normal for the country.

The latest Global Digital Report – titled Digital 2019 Q3 Global Digital Statshot (July 2019) v01– is out. 

The first report for 2019 was published in January, and this July report is the third since then.

As I went through this latest report, I discovered insightful comparative digital stats for the top 45 countries, which included stats about South Africa, across various measures. 

This discovery inspired this blog. 

In line with the word ‘statshot’ that is found in the title above, this latest report shares top line stats only. 

As a result, I revisited the January report – the most comprehensive report for the year so far – for additional stats.

I have satisfied myself that the 6 months lag between the 2 reporting periods will not have discernible impact on the findings and insights herein.

Let’s get on with the 13 stats about South Africa.

Table of Contents

How do stats about South Africa's Internet and Social Media penetration levels compare to Africa and Global averages?

To answer this question, I went back to January 2019 Global and South Africa digital reports.

Here goes: 

Bra Willy Seyama | eNitiate | Global Digital 2019 Report | South Africa | Internet | Social Media | Penetration | 29 September

Key findings and insights:

  • 5 in every 10 South Africans use the Internet. 4 in every 10 are active on social media, and they use mainly mobile devices for access.

  • Notably, South Africa’s Internet, Social Media and Mobile Social Media penetrations – calculated as users divided by total population of 47.6 million at the time the reports were published – are closer to global averages, and these are markedly higher than Africa’s averages. 

  • In addition, the key findings support the case for applying global digital trends to the South African market in instances where the latter’s are not available.
    Needless to say though, this will be done with caution. 

3 stats about South Africa were shared in this section.

How do stats about South African Internet trends compare to other top 44 countries in the world?

Building on the penetrations topic from the previous section, here is a graph that plots South Africa’s users on the Net as a percentage of total population, compared to the other top 44 countries in the world. 

The Global Digital Report of January 2019 was used for this comparison.

Key findings and insights:

  • South Africa’s Internet penetration of 54%, which is below the global average of 57%, puts it at the 41st ranking in the top 45 countries.
    The other 5 African countries – Kenya (84%), Morocco (62%), Nigeria (50%), Egypt (49%) and Ghana (35)% are identified with “X“. 

  • As can be seen on the graph, the top 45 countries by Internet penetration include the US, some from Europe (such as the UK), Asia (Japan, China and India), the Middle East and the rest from many other parts of the world.
    Thus, South Africa is part of a high ranking group of countries.

How does South Africa compare with the other top 44 countries when it comes to time spent on the Internet?

Key findings and insights:

  • Mzansi – a colloquial Zulu word for “South Africa”, is in the top 6 countries in the world where a 3rd or more of the users’ average day is spent on the Internet.
    The country’s average is close to 2 hours above the global average of 6 hours and 42 minutes.
    The only other African country in the top 45 is Egypt at the 11th spot.

  • Let me add richness to the relative time spent on the Internet finding above, by contrasting it with these 3 additional statistics:
    • According to a 2018 report by Sleep Cycle, South Africans sleep on average 7 hours 20 minutes.
      When this is deducted from the 24 hours of each day, it means the country’s Internet users spend half their waking hours on this medium!
      Here is another associated fact for good measure – a 2016 study showed that Mzansi’s Internet users spend more time on this medium than any other, including tv and radio.
    • As has become well-known, the cost of data in this country is among the highest in the world!
      Despite the #DataMustFall outcry that picked up steam in the last 2 years, clearly Internet users are not deterred from spending their last Rand on this medium.

Cable [- the UK-based broadband market analyst firm] ranks SA at number 143 out of 230 countries in regards to its mobile data prices. The average cost of 1GB of data in SA is $7.19 (R100).

So, what do South Africans do on the Internet? According to the July report, searching for news is among the biggest activities on this medium.

Key findings and highlights:

  • 9 out of 10 South Africans on the Net search for news.
    This puts the country in the top 3 in the world.
    Note that Mzansi is the only African country in the top 45 for this measure. 

  • The big news events of 2018/2019 in South Africa were driven by politics – including the former President Jacob Zuma’s downfall (Feb 2018) and the aftermath, the Zondo Commission and the national elections (May 2019) – and personalities – such as the death of Mama Winnie Mandela (April 2018) – a well-known political activist and former wife of Nelson Mandela.

  • Undoubtedly, South Africans have been engaged in the affairs of their country.
    One wonders if the high Internet consumption behaviour is going to continue when some of the big news that drove the conversations thus far give way to “lower order” stories.
    Or will the behaviour continue, driven by whatever news of the day there is?
    Only time will tell.

The findings related to the Internet trends in this section lead to a question: what is the extent to which South Africans use the Internet for work?

I searched Google but could not find a straight answer. 

However, the same question under social media trends below may provide some clues. 

3 additional stats about South Africa were shared in this section. This brings the cumulative number to 6.

How do stats about South African social media trends compare to other top 44 countries in the world?

The first image in this post – the one that compares Internet and social media penetrations between Mzansi, Africa and global averages – shows that 4 in every 10 (or 2 in 5) South Africans are active on social media.

How does the country compare with the other top 44 countries in the world? 

Key findings and insights:

  • South Africa is ranked 41st, and is below the global social media penetration average of 45%.
    Note that this ranking is the same as the Internet penetration ranking (see the 1st Top 45 Countries graph above).
    The 5 other African countries for this measure are – Morocco (47%), Egypt (40%), Ghana (19%), Kenya (16%) and Nigeria (12%).

  • As an aside, the most glaring anomaly when comparing penetration levels of an African country in the top 45 is Kenya, which has 84% Internet penetration and yet social media penetration is only 16%?
    • When I raised this with Safaricom, the country’s biggest mobile operator and owner of M-Pesa, the response was that the number of active social media users quoted in the WeAreSocial Digital 2019 Report (8.2 million) is lower than what is in their (Safaricom’s) data records, which is closer to 10 million.
    • However, even at the 10 million social media user mark, the social media penetration level goes up to 19%.
      This still leaves me scratching my head about the reason why there are so few Kenyans on social media, compared to the high number who have access to the Internet.

The obvious follow-up question then is: how long do South Africans spend on social media?

Key findings and insights:

  • Mzansi netizens spend 2 hours and 48 minutes on social media each day. This performance puts the country at the 14th spot in the Top 45 Countries rankings for this measure.

  • Of the 5 other African countries appearing in the top 45, 3 are ahead – Nigeria (3:17 | 6th), Ghana (3:07 | 9th) and Egypt (3:04 | 10th) of Mzansi. Kenya and Morocco are at 15th (2:47) and 17th (2:33) respectively. 

  • All the African countries rank above the global average of 2 hours and 16 minutes.

  • It is worth mentioning that a report by Digital Information World shows that time spent on social media has been increasing, from 1and half hours in 2012 to 2 hours and 22 minutes in 2018. 

  • South Africa has a better ranking for time spent on the Internet (see the 2nd Top 45 Countries graph in this post), and fairs better than all the other African countries in this measure.
    However, this is not the case when it comes to time spent on social media. Scratching the surface further unearths more interesting findings. 

The finding above on time spent on social media not withstanding, how does South Africa perform with regards using social media as a source of news? 

Key findings and insights:

  • Mzansi, with 7 in 10 Internet users who use social media as a source of news, is in the top 2 countries in the world.
    This is way above the global average of 5 in 10 Internet users.

  • There are no other African countries in the top 45 countries for this measure, and this finding is the same for users using the Internet as a news source (see 3rd Top 45 Countries graph above).

Given what we have learnt about the social media trends in the last 2 graphs above, how does South Africa fair with regards using this channel for work? 

Key findings and insights:

  • South Africa is in the top 5 countries in the world for use of social media for work, with the Top 45 Countries graph showing that the country’s 1 in 3 social netizens use this channel for work.
    The global average is 1 in 4. There is only 1 other African country in the Top 45 Countries – Egypt – with the same number of users as South Africa. 

  • Using the broader definition of “Social Media”, this finding is not surprising. Whatsapp (WA) – the biggest social media platform in many parts of the continent by daily usage – is increasingly used for business in South Africa as an intra- company (company-based WA groups), inter-business and business to customer transactional platform.
    Companies such as Absa have now set up Whatsapp business accounts for CRM and transacting purposes. 

  • At the end of the section on Internet trends above, I indicated that the Digital 2019 Report does not include information on the use of the Internet for work.
    The information on use of social media for work provides a clue.
    Given that most of the Internet users in Mzansi are also on social media, the correlation for this measure would be high.

4 additional stats about South Africa were shared in this section, bringing the cumulative number to 10 thus far.

How effective is paid media marketing in South Africa?

I want to answer this question using 2 stats.

First, the Top 45 Countries Ad-Blocking graph:

Key findings and insights:

  • 1 in 2 South African Internet users claims to have used some form of ad-blocking tool.
    Therefor, this puts the country at the 8th spot in the Top 45 Countries ranking in the world.
    This tool does exactly what its name says – it blocks online adverts on the devices where the app is used!

  • Should this finding be a concern for digital media planners in South Africa? Let’s explore further.

Second, here is the graph that tracks number of monthly Facebook advert clicks per user across the top 44 countries.

Key findings and insights:

  • South Africa ranks the lowest, with an average of only 2 Facebook advert clicks per user per month.
    Note that this is for any content format. 

  • 4 other African countries are in the top 44, and Egypt leads with 7 clicks per user. 

  • My analysis indicates that there is no conclusive evidence that there is a correlation between ad-blocking and the poor Facebook advert clicks per user findings for South Africa, as per the last 2 graphs above. 

The word to digital media buyers is to keep the last two findings at the back of their minds as they go about their business of using the paid media lever for achieving digital marketing objectives.

2 additional stats about South Africa were shared in this section. The cumulative number now stands at 12.

What are the top 10 media for discovering new brands?

Here is the last stat, from the latest Digital 2019 Report, that sent me into a deep thought.

Key findings and insights:

  • This stat is available only for global trends in the statshot.
    I am hoping that it will be broken down by country in the January 2020 report – presumably the next most comprehensive report.

  • As the graph shows, the highest number of Internet users discover a new brand on search engines, followed by tv adverts.
    What is also remarkable, word-of-mouth is 3rd highest.
    It is not clear from the report if this channel includes both off and online word-of-mouth. 

  • Social media adverts and comments are 4th and 8th respectively. 

  • Given how close the stats about South Africa’s Internet and social media penetration levels are to global averages (see the first section above), there is a case for applying the new brand discovery trend finding for global to Mzansi.
    Understandably, the order of channels may be different, and magnitudes may differ.
    But my sense, supported by other findings shared in this post thus far, is that the trend will be similar.

With this last stat, which does not show South Africa’s performance per se but where an inference is made, the total number comes to 13.

In summary

The 13 stats about South Africans that I shared in this post point to the country’s netizens’ active usage of the Internet and social media, including for business, resulting in comparatively high ranking in the world. 

This, in turn, shows that online media have effectively become the new normal for Mzansi.

The findings herein inform my prediction that the country’s adoption rate of these “new” media still has space to grow, given that there are 5 in 10 South Africans who are not on the Internet, and 6 in 10 who are not on social media. 

The watch word is “YET”.

Here are key questions that need urgent answers:

  • Do the country’s business decision makers have site of the current online media trends, and do they understand their impact on their businesses?

  • Do the country’s Marketers have the requisite competencies to fully leverage the online media?

  • How integrated are online media in the communications strategies?

  • Do the Marketers know how to measure success of the online media?

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