Joburg leads Top 18 African Cities on Twitter, and there is more

eNitiate | Top 18 African Cities on Twitter | Feature | 2 Jul 2020

With COVID-19 having disrupted normality across Africa (and the world), we wondered how the continent’s cities – the major centers of economic activity for the citizenry, are coping with the need for the information tsunami related to the pandemic.

To answer the question above, we identified the top 18 African cities on Twitter, one of the leading digital media channels for the dissemination of trending topics.

The metric we used for the identification of the top 18 is number of followers.

Here below is an interactive table of contents that can be used for easy navigation of this eNsight.

Table of Contents

By sheer coincidence

A major event is on the horizon.

Did you know, Johannesburg Metropolitan Municipality’s official Twitter handle is marching towards the millionth Twitter follower in a not-too-distant future?

We have been tracking performance of the @CityofJoburgZA account on our Homepage for over one month now, and we are forecasting that this local government will join the #OneMillionTwitterFollwerClub before the end of this month.

Why is this milestone worth noting?

The first time @CityofJoburgZA popped on our analytics radar

We published the first eNsight about Joburg’s Twitter performance in March of 2015.

Back then, @CityofJoburgZA had less than 100 000 followers.

In addition, the City of Cape Town (@CityofCT) had more followers at the time.

The growth of Joburg’s Twitter followers has since exploded.

Even more remarkable, @CityofJoburgZA is now not only bigger than @CityofCT. 

This local government Twitter account is the biggest in Africa, 

In line with the inspiration for developing this eNsight, we will show why Joburg is most likely coping better with COVID-19 because of its strong presence on Twitter.

What is the value of being on Twitter for local government?

COVID-19 has obviated the value of social media for all levels of government, and especially for local government, where the public service rubber hits the electorate tar. 

eNitiate | Bra Willy Seyama | Johannesburg | Joburg | Top 18 African Cities on Twitter | June 2020 2020

Here are 3 reasons:

  • So much was up in the air about the COVID-19 pandemic at the beginning of March 2020, and there was a need for constant communication of updates at great speeds, using all media channels that are under the direct control of health services at all levels of government, supported by local government in ensuring widespread dissemination.
    While the flow and frequency of information has reduced as we publish this eNsight, the need for ongoing communications has not gone away.
  • The spread of misinformation and disinformation about the pandemic has been and continues to be high, and it is fueled by social media.
    As a result, there is a need for credible, verifiable social media sources that netizens can go to for correct information.

With fake news and bots influencing conversations on social media, people continue to search for traditional sources of verified, accurate information.

  • With the expectation that local governments must still continue to provide public services despite the COVID-19 lockdowns, customer relationship management at local government level has increasingly moved to social media, and especially Twitter.


Johannesburg Water's handling of #Talavera water interruption crisis proves social CRM is effective

As we publish this eNsight, the COVID-19 infection curve is trending up again in some places globally, not least in South Africa

The two images below were beamed on the Aljazeera news channel on the 28th of June 2020.

For context, read the bottom scroll in the WHO image with the Director General, and the text popup about Dr Fauci of the US CDC in the next image.

eNitiate | Covid-19 | JoburgZA | Top 18 African Cities on Twitter | 30 Jun 2020-1
eNitiate | Covid-19 | JoburgZA | Top 18 African Cities on Twitter | 30 Jun 2020-1

No doubt, CIVD-19 has thrust the role of social media to the centre of public service communications.

It is our view, therefore, that African governments that have been building social media communities before the pandemic will fair better in their efforts to effectively disseminate the disease-related information in the fight to keep its infection and death rates under control.

Our analysis has highlighted that many of Africa’s local governments will have to fly the COVID-19 information dissemination social media plane as they build it, or face the prospect of the catastrophe that is fueled by fake news.


 Coronavirus - can African countries afford lockdowns?

Now that we have presented a case for the value of social media for enhancement of effective local government communications, brought to life by the pandemic, let us present our analysis of the top 18 African cities on Twitter.

The top 18 African cities on Twitter

We identified official Twitter handles of African cities as at the 28th of June 2020, and selected the top 18 active accounts by number of followers.

Below is an interactive graph of the top 18 African cities on Twitter.

As you can see from the bar graph above, the number of Twitter followers for Joburg Metropolitan Municipality (@CityofJoburgZA) is so high that the associated bar overshoots the graph’s right border, but you can mouse over the it [the bar] to see the actual number.

For detailed stats, see the table of the top 18 African cities on Twitter here below. 

eNitiate | Bra Willy Seyama | Johannesburg | Joburg | Top 18 African Cities on Twitter Table | June 2020 2020-


  • Only seven countries are represented by the top 18 African cities.
    The 3 countries that top the tally are Nigeria (5 cities), South Africa (5), and Kenya (4).
    The remaining 4 countries – Egypt, Uganda, Ghana and Ivory Coast (Côte d’Ivoire) – are represented by 1 city each.
  • All the 5 South African cities are in the top 7, with 1 city from Nigeria and 1 from Uganda completing the top 7.
  • Johannesburg (@CityofJoburgZA) has the largest number of Twitter followers in Africa. 


@CityofJoburgZA hits 100K Twitter followers

  • Nairobi (@047County) has the smallest number of followers.
    We were expecting that the Twitter handle of this city – Kenya’s ICT hub – will be one of the most active and with a large following in the top 18 , given that this city’s Governor is the colourful Mike Sonko – one of the most Twitter savvy Kenyan politicians.
    What is even more perplexing, this account tweeted only 4 times – including two RT’s – during the whole of June!
    We checked the account’s authenticity again, and we are afraid it is the one whose link and feed are found on the city’s Website.
  • There is no obvious correlation between Twitter follower rankings and:
    • The sizes of the cities’ populations
    • The sizes of the associated countries’ populations
  • There appears to be some correlation between the rankings and the countries’ Internet penetration levels, and GDP.

African cities that are not on Twitter

It caught our attention that the following 8 cities do not have official local government Twitter handles:

eNitiate | Top 18 African Cities on Twitter | Cities not on Twitter | 30 Jun 2020
Source: Populations - Worldometer

See the comments for each of the 8 cities in the last column of the table above.

The 8 cities represent 6 African countries.  

Egypt is the only country that appears in both the top 18 African Cities list, and the African Cities Not on Twitter list.

Observations worth noting, related to Egypt and Morocco

Considering that Egypt is the 3rd largest nation after Nigeria and Ethiopia, also the 3rd richest country, and has the 3rd largest Facebook community, in Africa:

  • Cairo, the second most populous city in Africa, after Lagos, and capital of Egypt, does not have official local government presence on Twitter.
  • Even Alexandria, the second largest city of Egypt by population, has a negligible Twitter presence with a paltry 1 802 followers that puts the city at 17th spot in the top 18. 
Contrast the 2 findings above with the fact that President Abdel Fatah Al-Sisi of Egypt has the biggest Twitter following (over 4 million) of all African Heads of State at the time of publishing this eNsight. 

An analysis of tweets by city of origin in the last quarter of last year showed that three of Africa's top five Twitter capitals were in South Africa and two in Egypt. In order of tweets sent, the five were Johannesburg, Ekurhuleni (the urban area east of Johannesburg), Cairo, Durban and Alexandria.

We plan to publish an updated list of top 18 African Heads of State on Twitter in September 2020. Be on the lookout for it.

Also considering that Morocco is the 5th richest African country, and has the 5th largest Facebook community on the continent, we also found it surprising that all the major Moroccan cities’ local municipalities do not have official Twitter handles. 


So, how are the 8 cities without official local government Twitter accounts dealing with the effective dissemination of COVID-19 communications? 

Are they using different media channels? 

If yes, are these channels just as or better than Twitter? 

Further analysis may shed some light

We drew relevant stats of the 6 countries represented by the 8 cities without Twitter handles, in order to shed more light. 

We added the 3 countries with highest representation from the top 18 cities on Twitter, so as to enhance the comparison of country stats. 

See the table below.

eNitiate | Top 18 African Cities on Twitter | Cities not on Twitter - Detailed Analysis | 30 Jun 2020
Sources: Country Populations - Worldometer | Internet Users - Internet World Stats | Facebook and Internet Users - Digital 2020 Country Reports

Our findings

  • See the Comments in the last column of the table above.
  • We also found that all the Heads of State of the 6 countries are on Twitter, and many of them are fairly active.
    The Head of State with the lowest number of followers is President João Lourenço with over 66 000, and the Head of State with the highest number of followers, as we pointed out already, is President Abdel Fatah Al-Sisi with over 4 million. 


Africa’s top 10 countries contribute a combined 76% to the continent’s Facebook active users

What our findings suggest

  • It seems the major cities in Egypt and Morocco have made a deliberate choice to not use Twitter as a channel of communication with their locals, whatever their reasons are.
  • For Angola, DRC and Ethiopia, which have overall low online penetration levels (% of population), the indication is that their major cities would not have high numbers of citizens on Twitter to justify the using microblog for local government communications.
  • We expect that Tanzania’s Dar es Salaam will start to use Twitter some time soon, judging by the high levels of activity by President Magufuli, national government departments and many of the Tweeps from this country.

Key lessons

COVID-19 did not only lay bare the challenges African governments face in coping with mega health crises.

In addition, this pandemic has put to the test governments’ effective communication services, which are at two levels:

  • Countries’ extent of the digital divide in this era of social media communications.


Gender-based digital divide in Africa - what I found out from the latest social media data

  • Social media presence by the various levels of governments, and the ability to communicate effectively.

Undeniably, the biggest lesson is that governments that appreciate the value of social media and that have taken the time to build communities on these platforms coped better with the COVID-19 pandemic through effective information dissemination, using their trusted accounts.

In our view, any government that does not take heed by strengthening its online communications – and especially social media communications, will have missed the lessons.

Back to @CityofJoburgZA

With the clock ticking towards the achievement of 1 million followers by @CityofJoburgZA, we are keeping our eye on this Twitter handle.

@CityofJoburgZA's success formula?

We have been asked this question by many people, given our tracking history of this Twitter handle.

Here are our views:  

  • It appears as though the City of Joburg’s Social Media team, who are an internal resource, are given room by the City to operate mainly within social media marketing guidelines versus a constricting policy.
    This gives them the freedom to be more on the level with their Twitter community. 
  • The way the team communicates points to the fact that the city’s local government has left them alone to focus on public service related issues, and not the politics.
    This is unique in many ways in South Africa, and in this city that is run by a coalition government.
  • The team is in touch with everyday events, and can insert itself in social conversations without much trouble.

Here's to the impending admission of @CityofJoburgZA into the #OneMillionTwitterFollowersClub

Tap on any of the coordinates on the line graphs below for popups of Total Twitter Followers or Daily New Followers for chosen dates.

As we publish this eNsight, @CityofJoburgZA’s has 998 891 Twitter followers – 1 109 shy of 1 million. 

At a projected growth of 150 new followers per day, the city will welcome its 1 millionth follower on the 8th of July, only 6 days away! 

We might as well start shouting #drumroll.

Fun reading: Joburg, the city with many names

Joburg’s full name is Johannesburg. 

It was established in 1886 as a small gold mining village, and rapidly grew from there. You can read more about it here.

Joburg – self-titled Africa’s world class city – is also called by many other names, including City of Gold, Gauteng (Sotho for place of gold, originally used long before the adoption as the name of the province), Jozi, Mjondolo, Lejwe Leputswa, and lately – Johustleburg. 

@CityofJoburgZA earns its 1 million Twitter follower

Edited on 9 July 2020

The day for the City of Joburg to earn its 1 millionth Twitter Follower dawned.

Bra Willy Seyama, our founder, had the privilege of conducting a Zoom chat days before the dawn with Tumelo Komape, the man credited for the social media success of the City of Johannesburg, and the municipality’s current Deputy-Director of Online Medoi Communications.

See the first of the 16-part video series of the chat here:

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