Few years ago, only a minute fraction of social observer could picture the current ‘penetrating effect(s) of social media on Africa’s political landscape and structure. Today, the once perceived ‘social play-ground’ is now the hub for strong political discourse and developmental engagement on the politics and policies of Africa.
From Kenya to Botswana, Nigeria to Egypt, social media is setting a new agenda for Africa’s political manoeuvring through active citizens’ engagement and pro-active social consciousness and public connectivity.
In 2013, Kenya held its presidential election which was adjudged free and fair by electoral observers. Whilst Twitter – a fast growing microblogging platform in Africa played a significant role in the outcome of that election which Uhuru Kenyata eventually won, the hashtag #KenyaDecides was helpful before, during and after the election to monitor events, exchange opinions, get update and rally support for choice candidates.
Just like in Kenya, social media played a vital role in the presidential election in Algeria and Tunisia in 2014, Zimbabwe and Mauritius in 2013, amongst other non-presidential elections conducted across different African countries.
To speak or write of the impactful role of social media in Africa’s politics without recourse to Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, Libya etc is to be unfair to history. In the wake of the uprising, Egyptians made use of social media to inform and organise movements for public interest and protest. Social media provided the platform for people who were dissatisfied with the status quo to voice their opinion and gather support for cordinated protest. This finally led to the resignation of the then president, Hosni Mubarak on the 11th of february 2011.
The recent resignation of Burkina Faso’s Blaize Comparee as the country’s president which was first received by the online community, also lends credence to the undeniable force and impact of social media in Africa and its politics.
Today, multitude of socio-political, economic and developmental issues are constantly debated and contested on a number of online platforms by Africans, hence, increasing citizens’ understanding and engagement in political cum policy processes and programmes.
In the coming year, 2015, new vista of political and social media connection will be explored as Africa’s most populous country –#NigeriaDecides amongst other African countries.
One thing has become very clear though, technology is influencing not just the political landscape but all spheres of our lives in Africa and will continue to do so in ways we cant imagine yet control.