Africa is Slowly but Steadily Adding Facebook Users

Today we’re taking a look at Africa’s growth on Facebook, drawn from our Global Monitor statistics for February. Africa is by far the world’s smallest region in terms of its total number of Facebook users, coming in almost even with the Arabian Peninsula despite a huge disparity in total population.

Below we’ve listed the only six countries on the whole continent that are growing significantly. As you can see, the top two are both in northern Africa, part of the culturally-interrelated Maghreb region (we’ve exempted Egypt).

Despite having higher growth and a few more users than Tunisia, Morocco has less than half the penetration — only 4.4 percent of its internet users are on Facebook. Long-term, it seems like these two could grow into significant markets. Their huge neighbors, Algeria and Libya, don’t have many internet users and aren’t tracked by Facebook at all (we draw these stats from its advertising tool).

The third-fastest grower in sub-Saharan Africa is Nigeria. This country’s Facebook user base is growing slowly. What you can’t see here is that its penetration is about as low as it gets, at 0.7 percent. Ghana and Kenya aren’t much better off, while South Africa has about 5 percent of its internet users online — no doubt advantaged by the country’s many English speakers.

It’s easy to blame the relatively limited internet access in Africa for its slow growth, but from the low penetration even among internet users we can see that there’s more to the story. Language is likely one problem; Facebook isn’t likely to get translated into hundreds of African regional dialects any time soon.

The continent also tends to have more mobile users, who might not have an easy time using Facebook. But this could be changing, and driving more growth in the future. Facebook has been pushing out many new mobile features intended to help more people access the site more often. And, in December, Opera reported that Facebook is the most popular service accessed through its Mini mobile browser.

Here are all six:

Taken as a whole, Africa has only 2.6 percent penetration on Facebook, but grew 5.6 percent in February. As of March 1st, it had about 9.9 million users on Facebook, out of a total population of 375 million. The data above, by the way, all comes from our in-depth Global Monitor report, which provides 164 pages of growth statistics and forward projections for 98 countries and five world regions.