Why Nigeria continues to be Facebook’s biggest growth opportunity in Africa

eNitiate | Bra Willy Seyama | Facebook's biggest growth opportunity in Africa | Top 10 African Countries | Banner | Feb 2021

The Digital Report for leading African countries was published in mid-February.

Time for the 2021 analysis of performance of the key countries on the continent, which I shall be publishing together with The eNitiaters as a series.

The first eNsight in this series takes a look at why Nigeria continues to be Facebook’s biggest growth opportunity in Africa.

RELATED ENSIGHT:

What we can learn about Africa from Global Digital Report of 2019

Table of Contents

For context

Let me take you back to June 2016, when Mark Zuckerberg’s first of a few stops in Africa at the time was Nigeria; where he met President Muhammadu Buhari, the tech community and other influential people in the country.

We opined at the time that he – Mark –  must be having his sites on this country.

You can read about what informed our opinion in the related eNsight below.

RELATED ENSIGHT:

Facebook monthly active users grew by 39% in Africa in 2017

This eNsight builds on our opinion that we formed back then, and is backed by data from the Digital Report and other trusted sources.

Growth of Facebook in Africa for the year to February 2021

My analysis shows that Facebook grew in Africa by 22% – from 211 million monthly active users in March 2020 to 256 million in February 2021.

Globally, this social media behemoth grew by 12% to 2.8 billion users.

With the continent’s latest population count at 1,36 billion, 19 of every 100 Africans are active on Facebook.

The top 10 African countries by Facebook monthly active users

Here is a map of the top 10 African countries by Facebook monthly active users in February 2021.

eNitiate | Bra Willy Seyama | Facebook's biggest growth opportunity in Africa | Top 10 African Countries | Nigeria | Feb 2021
Top 10 African Countries By Facebook Users | Feb 2021

Combined, the top 10 countries contribute 75% to Facebook’s monthly active users in Africa.

The top 10 African countries’ average growth was a combined 20%, slightly below the continent’s overall growth of 22%.

eNitiate | Bra Willy Seyama | Facebook's biggest growth opportunity in Africa | Top 10 African Countries | Nigeria | Penetration | Contribution | Growth | Feb 2021
Graph 1: Top African Countries By Facebook Users: Penetrations, Contributions and Growths

A deeper dive into Nigeria's data

50 in 100 Nigerians have Internet access. This is in line with the continental Internet penetration average.

As Graph 1 above shows, Facebook monthly active users in Africa’s most populous country grew by 27%, above the top 10 and continental averages of 20% and 22% respectively. 

However, only 16 in 100 Nigerians are Facebook monthly active users. 

Comparing this country’s performance to the continent’s 19 Facebook users in every 100 citizens indicates that there is room for growth.

RELATED ENSIGHT:

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

Side note: Ethiopia

Also in Graph 1, Note that Nigeria’s Facebook penetration is the second lowest in the top 10 African countries after Ethiopia, the African country that also recorded the lowest Facebook user growth at 13%.

Also note that Ethiopia is the second largest African nation with a population of 115 million (Graph 2).

According to the Digital Report, the only African country said to have never been colonised also has the lowest Internet penetration in the top 10 on Facebook, with only 20 in 100 Ethiopians having access against a top 10 average of 53 in 100.

eNitiate | Bra Willy Seyama | Facebook's biggest growth opportunity in Africa | Top 10 African Countries | Nigeria | Population | Penetration | Feb 2021
Graph 2: Top African Countries By Facebook Users: Populations and Penetrations

Why Nigeria continues to be Facebook's biggest growth opportunity in Africa, you ask?

Let me revisit the data on Nigeria that I have already shared in this eNsight, but in a summarised format.

0
Million Nigerians
0 %
Internet Penetration
0 %
Facebook Penetration
0 %
Growth of Facebook Users

Findings

  • Nigeria is the largest nation in Africa.
  • The country has decent Internet penetration level, buoyed by 22% growth in 2020, according to the latest Digital Report for this West African country.
  • Nigeria’s  Facebook penetration is the second lowest in the top 10 African countries on this social network.
  • Nigeria experienced robust Facebook user growth for the year to February 2021, which is above the continent’s average of 22%.

Key insight

Nigeria’s large population size, coupled with healthy Internet access and yet low Facebook penetration, makes this nation an attractive prospect for Facebook, ahead of all the other top 10 countries under review.

Some more evidence for Facebook to look to Africa for growth

Facebook is facing increasingly insurmountable troubles in the developed world at the moment; which include the looming anti-trust legislation in the US and the EU, and the most recent stand-off with Australia over new regulation that requires that media publishers be paid for their content that is used by online platforms to generate income.

eNitiate | Bra Willy Seyama | Facebook Users | Top 10 African Countries | Nigeria | Anti-Trust Legislation in the US | Feb 2021
Date: December 2020
eNitiate | Bra Willy Seyama | Facebook Users | Top 10 African Countries | Nigeria | Payment of Media Publishers Legislation in Australia | Feb 2021
February 2021

The biggest and most recent threat yet is Apple’s new privacy policy that requires iPhone users to give permission to access usage data on their iOS devices, which has resulted in a public spat between Time Cook and Mark Zuckerberg.  

Reason?

This latest development is bound to deal a blow to Facebook’s advertising revenue model that has relied on unfettered access to users’ mobile usage data to date, especially in the US – one of Facebook’s key advertising revenue markets – where the iOS’s share of mobile Web traffic is 55% versus Android’s 45%.

To make the point, below is Graph 3 that plots shares of mobile Web traffic for Android and iOS devices across the top 10 African countries by Facebook monthly active users.

eNitiate | Bra Willy Seyama | Facebook's biggest growth opportunity in Africa | Top 10 African Countries | Nigeria | Android vs iOS | Feb 2021
Graph 3: Top African Countries By Facebook Users: Share of Web Traffic By Mobile Operating System

Therefore, Apple’s new privacy policy does not have a major risk for Facebook in Africa due to iOS’s small share of Web traffic on the continent.

Conclusion

The announcement Facebook made in September of 2020 came as no surprise. 

As part of our ongoing investments in Africa, today, we announced we’re opening a new Facebook office in Lagos, Nigeria... It will also be the first office on the continent with a team of engineers. The office will support the Sub-Saharan region and is expected to become operational in H2 2021.

Surely then, Facebook knows the side on which its next slice of bread is buttered. 

That is Africa, and Nigeria is its focal point.

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