The growing use of smartphones and increased adoption of mobile internet in Africa is fundamentally changing the media ecology of election campaigns.
As mobile phones become commonplace even in Africa’s poorest countries, social media adoption has become ubiquitous. Applications such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, WhatsApp and blogs are an integral part of today’s political communication landscape in much of the continent. These platforms are becoming a dominant factor in electoral processes, playing a huge role in the creation, distribution and consumption of political content, writes Martin N Ndlela for The conversation.
African political parties are spending huge sums to hire consultancies that specialize in digital campaigns and even in manipulating social media content. For example, in Kenyait emerged that President Uhuru Kenyatta had hired an international consultancy Cambridge Analytica (CA), ahead of the 2013 election. CA’s activities sparked global outcry when they became known, culminating in its collapse.
There are indications that social media algorithms and bots are slowly changing the dynamics of elections in Africa. This is seen in the number of political parties hiring a new breed of communicators, such as social media managers, Ndlela writing.
A woman on Instagram on her mobile phone (file photo).