The rise in the use of smartphones and increased adoption of mobile internet in Africa are fundamentally altering the media ecology for election campaigns.
As mobile phones become commonplace, even in Africa’s poorest countries, the uptake of social media has become ubiquitous. Applications like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, WhatsApp, and blogs form 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 tremendous role in the creation, dissemination, and consumption of political content, writes Martin N Ndlela for The Conversation.
African political parties are spending huge sums hiring consultancy companies with expertise in digital campaigning and even the manipulation of social media content. For example, In Kenya, it emerged that President Uhuru Kenyatta had hired an international consultancy firm Cambridge Analytica (CA), ahead of the 2013 elections. CA’s activities sparked global outcry when it 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 writes.
A woman on Instagram on her mobile phone (file photo).