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On African mobile phones there’s social networking, and then there’s everything else

By Leo Mirani

Reporter

This article is more than 2 years old.

Speaking at Davos this year, Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s operations head, told the crowd that ”Facebook is one of the main drivers of why people buy phones, particularly in the developing world,” adding that “People will walk into phone stores and say ‘I want Facebook.’”

A new report from Opera Mediaworks, a mobile ad platform that also produces a popular mobile web browser, shows just how important social networks are for African web users. Looking at South Africa and Nigeria, Africa’s two largest economies, the company found that nearly 65% of all page views in South Africa and just under 60% in Nigeria are for social networking sites. The next category, search, accounts for less than 10% in both countries.

Moreover, the enthusiasm for social networking sites is so great that people are willing to tolerate slow connections and small screens. Opera’s measure is based on page views from its browser rather than on app use. Since smartphones users are likely to have the Facebook app, the data suggest that Nigerians and South Africans are accessing social networking sites even from their older, non-smart phones.

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