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Facebook taking Africa by storm

After its huge success in the United States and Europe, the social network site Facebook is now taking Africa by storm.


From the deserts in Libya to the plains of Tanzania, Facebook is on the verge of becoming the continent's most visited mobile site as cell phones to access the internet gain in popularity among Africans, according to a new report.


The blog phenomenon Twitter, also on a constant rise in popularity, appears as the ninth most visited mobile internet site in South Africa and Kenya, according to a study by Oslo-based mobile software developer Opera.
According to this same developer, Google remains for the moment at either number one or two in every African state except Kenya where Yahoo! dominates the market.

Email services such as Hotmail and Gmail are also popular as is YouTube. The online video site has its highest rankings in Egypt, at number three, and Libya, at number four.

Among news sources, the BBC figures strongly in the top ten most visited sites in Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana, Tanzania, Namibia and Zambia. CNN features prominently in the top ten in Nigeria, Ghana and Zambia. They are the only two western news sources among the most popular mobile internet destinations across the ten African countries analysed by the Opera survey.

In Côte d'Ivoire, sport features strongly with French sports newspaper L'Équipe the sixth most visited mobile web site. Egyptian mobile phone users flock to Arabic language sports portal and Libyans prefer rival

400 million mobile phones

Mobile usage is ballooning across the continent and the African mobile phone market - at more than 400-million subscribers - is now larger than in North America. Some countries, such as South Africa, have 'mobile penetration levels' - the number of handsets compared with size of population - close to those of Western Europe.

For many people in Africa, cellphones are the only way that they will ever get access to the internet because of the poor quality, and often complete lack, of fixed-line networks. Fierce competition has pushed mobile prices down for consumers while many of the latest crop of handsets available in Africa allow easy access to the mobile internet. Web browsers can also be installed on older cellphones.


Internet-enabled handsets are being used to access ever more mobile web sites, with page views shooting up 374% between November 2008 and last month. In some countries such as Kenya and Zambia, hundreds of pages are being accessed each month as handsets are often used by more than one person to get online. Across the continent roadside kiosks proliferate where people 'rent out' mobile phones. At first the devices were little more than a replacement for public phone boxes, allowing people to call friends and family, but increasingly they are being hired out as computers, allowing those who cannot afford a device of their own, to access the internet on a regular basis.


Source: Mail and Guardian

Photo: Libraryman (Flickr CC)