It’s not surprising that WhatsApp is bigger than Facebook in South Africa

I heard on SAFM radio this morning that a recently released social media report shows that WhatsApp is bigger than Facebook in South Africa.

What surprised me was the mention by the gentleman who was interviewed by Stephen Grootes that this finding is astonishing. 

Well, anyone who follows social media consumption trends in this country would be surprised by the astonishment, as I am.

Let me share stats and facts to back this up.

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Digital Report 2019

The open secrete that WhatsApp is bigger than Facebook was revealed in Hootsuite’s Digital Report 2019 for South Africa.

As the graph above shows, 9 out of 10 Internet users in South Africa are active on WhatsApp, while Facebook is third in the usage rankings.

Compare that to the global ranking stats, where Facebook has the biggest usage:

Clearly, WhatsApp is more popular in South Africa than is the case in the other 147 countries where it exists, such the US where only 76% of Internet users are active on this platform. 

Top 12 Countries on WhatsApp

According to Statista’s Quarter 3 of 2017 report, South Africa is in the top 10 countries by population most active on WhatsApp.

As the graph above shows, 1 in every 2 South Africans are active on the platform.

For the same year – 2017 – Facebook’s penetration of monthly active users in South Africa was 32%!

Reasons why WhatsApp is bigger than Facebook in South Africa

A quick story to illustrate the point.

I was in a company of 4 South African business explorers in China at the beginning of last month.

The leader of the exploration who has never been on social media before and finds this communication channel absurd, loaded a WhatsApp app on his smartphone about 2 weeks before the trip.

Given lack of access to Google products including gmail in China, and associated exorbitant international call rates, our exploration leader came to appreciate the value of WhatsApp for business and family communications while away. 

He is now active on this platform even after the trip.

I know of many older people – including bo-Malome, bo-Rakgadi and bo-Koko (#GoogleTranslate) – across South Africa who are not on social media but who are part of and are active in WhatsApp family groups (they do not see this messenger app as a social network, or consider it safe). 

Consider how young the median of social media user is in South Africa, as per Digital Report 2019 graph below.

The Report also found that South Africa is in the top 5 countries for individuals using social media for work! 

We use WhatsApp for business at eNitiate, and I know that many other companies do.

WhatsApp is popular in almost all of Africa too

This video by Mark Kaigwa, founder of Nendo Kenya, explains why WhatsApp is so popular in Africa:

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