The unmistakable ability of social media to globalise local social causes is now recognised by all and sundry.
In this eNsight we share key findings from our analysis of tweeting behaviours of the top 20 African Heads of States, which clearly indicate that politicians in the highest offices across the continent have finally woken up to the power of this channel.
PLEASE NOTE: This eNsight is full of rich content that we have carefully laid out for pleasurable reading.
However, if you do not have time to go through all of it in one sitting, we encourage you to use the Table of Contents here below.
Let’s get into it.
Table of Contents
A bit about the approach we used in our analysis
The backstory on the African Heads of States series
This eNsight is a sequel to the Top 18 Heads of States on Twitter eNsight that we published in 2017.
As a quick summary, our focus in the 2017 edition was mainly on exploring relationships between the Twitter rankings of the Top 18 African Heads of States at the time, with 9 variables that included:
- duration in the political office;
- associated countries’ population sizes;
- AU-defined regions of the continent under which the associated countries fell; and
- whether the countries’ Francophone or Anglophone statuses could be used to explain why the Heads of States made it into the top 18.
None of the 9 factors included tweeting behaviours.
The overall key finding in 2017 was that there was no overarching direct correlation between the top 18 rankings and any of the 9 factors that we explored.
In this 2020 edition we update and extend the list of African Heads of States to top 20, and analyse their tweeting behaviours.
Definition of Head of State
We define the Head of State as the ultimate political accounting officer.
Thus, in cases of African countries with political offices for both the President and the Prime Minister, the former accounting officer made the cut into the top 20 African Heads of States where applicable, e.g. Ethiopia.
For our initial analysis, here is how we treated the only 3 African countries with monarchs and where the highest political office is of the Prime Minister:
- In the case of Morocco and Lesotho, where there is a healthy distance between the monarchy and the government, we included the Prime Ministers as the Heads of these States for our analysis
- In the case of Eswatini, where the monarch – King Mswati III – effectively runs the government, we included him as the Head of State in our analysis.
The process followed in our initial analysis
We started the process with the search of official Twitter handles of African Heads of States of all the 54 countries, guided by the definitions of the ultimate accounting officers in the previous sub-section.
To our delight, we could verify 46 official Twitter accounts of the qualifying African Heads of States.
This initial finding greatly improved confidence levels of our analysis accordingly.
It is from the verified 46 official accounts that we selected the top 20, based on sizes of their Twitter followers.
Fast facts about African Heads of States
For context, the 4 tweets below share overall stats about the Africa Heads of States,.
The tweets formed part of a build-up to the eventual publishing of this eNsight.
#FastFacts from our #Soon2bPublished eNsight:— eNitiate Integrated Solutions (@The_eNitiaters) September 8, 2020
- Ave tenure of African Head of State is 9yrs. Equatorial Guinea’s Pres Mbasogo has been in office for 41yrs (longest serving); & Heads of States from Burundi, Lesotho, Malawi and Guinea-Bissau all took office in 2020. #eNiversity pic.twitter.com/L3RvZKN2KM
#FastFacts from our #Soon2bPublished eNsight:— eNitiate Integrated Solutions (@The_eNitiaters) September 8, 2020
- 46 African Heads of States have verifiable Twitter handles. Handles of Presidents from São Tomé and Principe, Equatorial Guinea, Lesotho, Eswatini and South Sudan are suspended or can’t be verified. #eNiversity pic.twitter.com/pgLjRP2PVj
You can find the completed tweet collection of the pre-publishing campaign here.
And finally – the big reveal!
1. Top 20 African Heads of States by Twitter Followers
Here below is the African map of countries whose Heads of States are in the top 20 by Twitter followers, as at 7 September 2020.
- Notice the distribution of the top 20 Heads of States on Twitter across the African map (also see related Maps 7 and 8).
- The top 2 African Heads of States on Twitter – Presidents Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and Muhammadu Buhari – come from Egypt and Nigeria respectively, and these are 2 of the top 3 most populous countries, .
- The 3rd highest ranking Head of State in African Map 1above – President Paul Kagame – comes from Rwanda, a country of just under 13 million people, and which is in the bottom 4 of the top 20by population size (Graph 1).
- The bottom 3 Heads of States in the top 20 rankings (Map 1) are Presidents Sahle-Work Zewde (from Ethiopia, and 2nd most populous nation in Africa after Nigeria, according to Worldometers), Mahamadou Issoufou (Niger) and Faure Gnassingbe (Togo).
- As Graph 1 shows, there is no overarching correlation – positive or negative – between sizes of followers and country populations of the top 20 Heads of States.
- Notice any Twitter handles in the top 20 African Heads of States list in Map 1 that are usual suspects, such as in the top 5, maybe?
- Any African Heads of States you did not expect in the top 20, such as Algeria’s President Abdelmadjid Tebboune (ranked 13th in Map 1), who took office in December 2019, and whose Twitter account was opened only in November 2019?
- Any Heads of States that you were expecting in the top 20 but are not there, such as Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta whose Twitter handle had the largest number of followers of all African Heads of States in 2017?
And for the rest of this eNsight
Now that we have identified the top 20 African Heads of States on Twitter by number of followers, we share findings of our in-depth analysis of their tweeting behaviours in the remainder of this eNsight,
The findings will be accompanied by our thoughts where relevant.
Twitonomy is our main source of the associated tweeting behaviour stats.
2. Top 20 African Heads of States who give love back
Tweeps who follow others expect reciprocity.
Understandably, the expectation by the ardent followers to be followed back by influential Tweeps is especially higher.
To demonstrate the expectation for follow-backs, here below are most recent and self-explaining tweets involving MasterKGsa – one of the emerging influential Tweeps from South Africa called, thanks to his dance song – called Jerusalema – that has gone global and grabbed the attention of both Cristiano Ronald and Janet Jackson.
If you don’t know why Master KG’s social influence has been on steroids, the tweet below may help:
Clearly, the act of following back is an important sign that influencers love their followers back – it contributes in the building of follower affinity.
Politicians hold sway on social media. They are not an exception to the follow-back (a.k.a. love-back) rule.
So how are the top 20 African Heads of States doing in the love-back scene?
The answer is presented in Map 2 below.
The Prime Minister follows back 3 Tweeps for every 1 000 who follow him.
Presidents Faure Gnassingbe (Togo, 20th in Map 1) and Roch Kaboré (Burkina Faso, 14th in Map 1) are 2nd and 3rd in the top 20 love-back list respectively .
- The bottom 3 in the top 20 love-back list are Presidents Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo (Somalia), Cyril Ramaphosa (South Africa) and Abdel Fattah el-Sisi (Egypt).
3. Top 20 African Heads of States who are most prolific Tweeters
The metric we use for ranking the top 20’s daily tweeting frequencies is average number of tweets per day.
His average tweeting frequency per day is more than 4 times those of President Yoweri Museveni (Uganda, 4th in Map 1) and Cyril Ramaphosa (South Africa, 6th in Map 1).
On the 9th of September alone, Morocco’s Head of State tweeted 22 times!
- The bottom 3 Presidents are Algeria’s President Abdelmadjid Tebboune (13th in Map 1) who tweets once every 5 days; and Tanzania’s President John Magufuli (8th in Map 1) and Senegal’s Macky Sall (7th in Map 1), both of whom tweet once every 10 days.
The Burkinabe, Ivorians and Tanzanians are scheduled to elect new or reelect sitting Presidents between October and December of this year, all things being equal considering COVID-19.
We assume that the coming presidential elections have led or will lead to increased daily tweeting activities of the affected sitting Presidents, which would otherwise be lower during the non-election season.
What informs Prime Minister’s El Othmani’s high tweeting activity?
Are his tweets getting the desired response?
We do not have the answer to the first question above.
To answer the second question, we compared top 20 African Heads of States’ daily tweet rates with RT rates in Graph 2 below.
RT rate is worked out by dividing PM El Othmani’s analysed tweets by those that were RT’d by his followers at least once.
Here are the results:
As Graph 2 shows, Algeria’s President Abdelmadjid Tebboune holds a 100% record, which means all his analysed tweets were RT’d.
The next highest RT rate is for President Yoweri Museveni (Uganda) at 99%.
President Paul Biya (Cameroon) completes the top 3 with 95% RT rate.
The bottom 3 are Prime Minister El Othmani with 4 RT’s for every 10 of his tweets, together with Presidents Cyril Ramaphosa (South Africa) and Sahle-Work Zewde (Ethiopia).
The results of Graph 2 show that PM El Othmani’s RT rate is comparatively poor, despite his high daily tweet rate.
In essence, his high daily tweet rate is tantamount to noise.
While there is no perfect science to the optimal volume of daily tweets; this activity has to be matched with the high quality of posted content, as measured by relevancy and focused call to action.
Our advice to PM El Othmani is that he must improve the quality of content in his tweets so as to improve RT rate by the Tweeters.
4. Most Personable African Heads of States
The metric we use for ranking the top 20’s most personable Heads of States is the percentage of analysed tweets that include a mention of other Tweeters in their [Heads of States’] tweets.
- Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame ranks number 1 for mentioning other Tweeters in 8 of every 10 of his tweets.
- The 2nd and 3rd spots in the Personable Heads of States rankings are taken up by Burkina Faso’s President Roch Kaboré (14th in Map 1) and Ethiopia’s Madam President Sahle-Work Zewde (18th in Map 1) who is also Africa’s only female President.
- Bottom 3 Presidents for this metric are Tanzania’s John Magufuli, Egypt’s Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi and Algeria’s Abdelmadjid Tebboune.
Note that President Magufuli is also in the bottom 2 for average tweets per day rankings (Map 3), while President el-Sisi is bottom for love-backs (Map 2).
5. Most Chatty African Heads of States
The metric we use for ranking the top 20’s most chatty Heads of States is the percentage of analysed tweets that are Replies.
- The 2nd and 3rd spots in the chatty African Heads of States rankings are taken up by Presidents Muhammadu Buhari (Nigeria, 2nd in Map 1) and Faure Gnassingbe (Togo, last in Map 1).
- Bottom 3 Presidents for this metric are Alassane Ouattara (Cote d’Ivoire), John Magufuli (Tanzania) and Abdelmadjid Tebboune (Algeria).
- Note that both Magufuli and Tebboune are also in the bottom 3 for most personable Heads of States (Map 4).
Personability + Chattiness = Engaged African Heads of States
Taken together, “most personable” and “most chatty” metrics indicate the level to which the top 20 African Heads of States are engaged on Twitter.
Therefore, Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame stands head above shoulders in the top 20 for being the most engaged African Head of State.
In the same vein, President Abdelmadjid Tebboune (Algeria) is the least engaged in the top 20.
6. Acknowledgements by African Heads of States
The metric we use for ranking the top 20’s most interested Heads of States is the percentage of analysed tweets that are RT’s by the Heads of States.
Ethiopia’s President Sahle-Work Zewde (18th, Map 1) completes the top 3.
- Bottom 3 Presidents for this metric are Cameroon’s President Paul Biya (also the oldest African Head of State in the top 20 at 87 years of age), Rwanda’s Paul Kagame and Algeria’s Abdelmadjid Tebboune.
RT is at best a form of acknowledgement, but it is not always a good indication of being engaged.
This is why we separated this metric from Replies and Mentions, the latter 2 which signify being engaged.
Top 20 African Heads of States Rankings: Correlations between Followers and Tweeting Behaviours
Are there correlations at all between the rankings of followers and any of the tweeting behaviours of the top 20 African Heads of States?
Asked differently, can the growth in followers of the Heads of States be explained by their tweeting behaviours?
To answer the question, we share Graph 3 below, which plots top 20 rankings of followers against the individual rankings of the 5 tweeting behaviours that we analysed in this eNsight.
How to read the rankings in Graph 3:
A ranking of 1 in Graph 3 signifies a top performance on any of the 6 lines, e.g. the number 1 ranking for Egypt’s President el-Sisi on the Followers line is due to his 4.3 million followers – the highest number in the top 20 African Heads of States (Map 1).
A ranking of 20 signifies a bottom performance on any of the 6 lines, e.g. 20th spot for Senegal’s Macky Sall on the Tweets/Day line signifies that his tweeting frequency of 1 every 10 days is the lowest of the top 20 (Map 3).
Here is Graph 3:
How to interpret the correlations in Graph 3:
The blue line represents Twitter Follower ranking, and it is the reference variable by which we assess the extent of correlation with each of the 5 tweeting behaviours.
Where any of the tweet behaviour lines intersects the Follower line, this should be read as a positive correlation, e.g. Followers and Chattiness lines intersect for Nigeria’s President Buhari.
Also see example of Togo’s President Gnassingbe, whose Follower ranking is 20 (bottom of the list for this variable) and the rankings for Love-Back, Chattiness Acknowledgments are 2, 3 and 5 respectively; in which case the relationship between Followers and the 3 identified tweeting behaviours can be considered to be a negative correlation.
As can be seen in Graph 3, there is no single tweeting behaviour that displays the same or similar correlation with followers for all the top 20 Heads of States.
If there was any uniformity, any such tweeting behaviour would have a straight line that runs parallel or in the opposite direction to the Followers line for all the top 20.
What about the exceptions where correlations are stronger?
Here are 3 exceptions:
- There is a strong positive correlation between Algeria’s President Abdelmadjid Tebboune’s follower ranking and those of all the 5 tweeting behaviours.
- There is a strong negative correlation between Burkina Faso’s President Roch Kaboré’s follower ranking and those of all the 5 tweeting behaviours.
- There appears to be somewhat negative correlation between Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s follower ranking and those of all the 5 tweeting behaviours.
The 3 examples above already point to the lack of uniformity in the correlations.
Therefore, the correlation exceptions that have been observed cannot be used to provide valid overarching explanations, again because these are not uniform across all the top 20 African Heads of States.
Thus, this strengthens the main finding that there is no discernible uniform correlation between the followers and any of the tweeting behaviours.
What does all this mean?
Our key insight is that there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to drivers of Twitter follower growths for the top 20 Heads of States.
For some Heads of States, the 5 tweeting behaviours – or some of them at least – seem to add to their follower growths.
The one clear example is Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame, who is ranked 3rd for Twitter followers (2.1 million), and leads the top 20 for Personability and Chattiness.
For other African Heads of States, the analysed behaviours play a small or no role at all in the growth of their Twitter followers.
Perfect examples are:
- Egypt’s President el-Sisi, who has the highest number of Twitter followers of the top 20 African Heads of States (4.3 million), does not interact much on Twitter, as shown by low rankings for Love-backs (20th), Personability, (19th), Acknowledgements (16th), Chattiness (13th), and Tweets/Day (9).
We believe the reason why el-Sisi, who has a strong military background, has such a high following is mainly due to the influential role he plays in regional politics, and this draws attention to his Twitter presence.
- Tanzania’s President John Magufuli is in the top 8 for number of followers (911 000), but he is ranked 15th for Love-backs, 18th for Personability and 19th for Tweets/Day and Chattiness jointly.
The closest tweeting behaviour to his follower ranking is Acknowledgements, where he is ranked 10.
Magufuli is reputed for being unconventional and rules with an iron fist.
We believe these attributes draw Tweeps to his account, in addition to the fact that he will be running for second term as Tanzania’s President at the end of October 2020.
Therefore, we conclude that political events, style of presidency, and the extent of the sphere of influence that come with the political office of the individual Heads of States, and also their political activities, some of which may be offline, play a role in varying degrees as part of the driving force behind the growth in Twitter followers.
7. Bonus findings
Top 20 African Heads of States on Twitter, classified using AU Regions
Using AU’s classification of Africa, here are the 5 Regions under which the countries of the top 20 African Heads of States (as per Map 1) fall:
West Africa dominates in the Top 20 Heads of States on Twitter list, followed by East africa.
Top 20 African Heads of States on Twitter: Francophone vs Anglophone Territories
Here is how the countries of the top 20 African Heads of States are classified by dominant, mainly foreign languages.
As can be expected, Anglophone countries lead the top 20 African Heads of States list, partly because English dominates the continent as a foreign language, and it is also the most used medium on Twitter platform.
However, Francophone countries are not too far behind.
Arobophone countries also have a decent showing in the list.
We do not consider Ethiopia as an Anglophone country because it was never colonised by the English – or by any of the European colonisers for that matter.
However, the Queen’s language is widely spoken as a secondary language and is taught in schools in this nation of mainly Oromo and Amharic speakers.
Somali is the most spoken language in Somalia.
While there are Somalis who speak English and it is taught in schools, the language is not as dominant as in the Anglophone countries.
Our closing thoughts
The character of social media is different from that of town hall gatherings and rallies.
This channel is owned by the voters. They call the shots.
Two of the fundamentals of politics are power and control in the hands of the few, and these are antitheses of social media.
Some of the Top 20 Heads States on Twitter display an understanding of the rules of engagement on this channel.
Our findings indicate that other Heads of States continue to use the old rule book, as exemplified by excessive or insufficient levels of tweeting activity and lack of engagement.
As politicians flock to social media, best they understand that they do not control the narrative, but they can harness it to their advantage.
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