The Reality of Mobile Usage and Social Media Growth in South Africa

  The Reality of Mobile Usage and Social Media Growth in South Africa

It is a well known fact that South Africa has one of the largest telecommunications markets on the African continent. Mobile phones have become a popular and  prevalent form of voice and data communications among many sectors of the population in South Africa, especially for use in informal business. Cell phones are in fact taking the place of computer internet access and, as recent reports show, more than 60 percent of South African regularly use cell phones to access the Internet. This has also been accelerated  by the popularity of cheap communication via applications such as  Mixit  and WhatsApp.  A recent study of mobile usage in  South Africa  showed that," With low levels of PC use and near universal mobile ownership, South Africa is an excellent venue to observe mobile Internet use among resource constrained communities. Some estimate that there are more active users of the mobile Internet in South Africa than there are traditional Internet users. (

Mixit, a downloadable mobile instant messaging application, has played a prominent role in the spread of the mobile Internet in South Africa with more than nine million registered users. However, other social networks such as Twitter are making inroads into the  mobile market at an increasing rate.

In understanding the  growth of mobile in South Africa, one also has to understand the demographics. As one report notes: 

Although half the 50 million people in South Africa live below the poverty line, more than 75% among those in low-income groups who are 15 years or older own a mobile phone. Mobile ownership at the base of pyramid (BoP)  households with an income of less than R432 per month per household member – is relatively high compared to other African countries. (  This leads to the obvious conclusion that; "Social media is a key driver of mobile internet adoption, particularly in developing countries such as South Africa” .

South African population

51.8 million

Total mobile connections (active sim cards)

66.1 million

Total unique subscribers (people)

40.7 million

Mobile penetration (active connections to population)


Estimated active smartphones in South Africa

11 million

Estimated mobile data penetration (data mobile connections)


Weighted blended Average Revenue Per User per month (ARPU)


Prepaid subscriber base


Post-paid (contract) subscriber base



 Reports of increasing evidence of mobile usage has led companies like Deloitte to state that  2013 holds big things for mobile in South Africa, as smartphone adoption is likely to increase, and with it, data consumption is set to increase dramatically. (

Social Media  and Mobile

The big growth area for mobile usage lies in the area of social media.  A Social Media Landscape 2014 study emphasizes that "... the top brands of South Africa are intensifying their social media activity". (  This study goes on to indicate that of the 57 large South African brands surveyed in the study, 53% are planning to invest in training in-house staff in social media while 44% of the brands have increased their social-media budget allocation in 2013, compared with 2012. The survey also shows that  93% of the big brands use Facebook, 79% use Twitter, 58% YouTube, 46% Linked In and 28% Pinterest. ( from

Importantly, the link between the growth  of social media and mobile was underscored  by the finding that  of the 57 brands surveyed, 67% are planning on creating mobile apps in 2014.

The following facts also add depth to this assessment:

  • SA is ranked 5th in World for mobile data usage (1st is Russia, 7th is USA!)
  • 30% of mobile users in SA are active on facebook via their phones (200 million globally)
  • 50% of SA facebook users access it via mobile
  • There are more mobile phones in SA than Taxis+TV’s+Radios combined
  • More active sim cards than citizens (Different operators sim cards are used at different times of the day depending on call/text/data cost)
  • Mxit gets 40,000 new users per day globally


One could continue  with other studies and reports in  the same vein - but what this all boils down to is that the future of online promotions and marketing, especially in South Africa, lies with mobile driven social media.

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