I've got more followers than you! #AfricanLeader
Twitter has revolutionised the way we communicate, and has spared no political leader. Africa has the honour of being home to the most interactive head of state in the world – more on that later. On a continent where traditional processes take time, it is in the best interests of African governments to stay connected on social media and responsive to requests. Indeed, accounts following each other on this social network even have the opportunity to exchange private messages; could this help to bypass lengthy diplomatic or protocol procedures?
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari joined Twitter at the end of 2014 and became, in less than a year, the most influential African political leader. He is also the most active; he publishes on average 14 tweets per day, and each one is retweeted on average 500 times. However, he is not the most connected to his African counterparts. Of Buhari’s connections on Twitter, only one is another African president – the Rwandan president Paul Kagame.
Heads of states across the world are seriously under-utilising the opportunities that this connection brings, and these global players also seem to underestimate the power of social media. Among the world’s political leaders, Laurent Fabius, France’s Foreign Minister, has the best performance on Twitter with 100 mutual links with global political figures.
What about in Africa? Are political leaders in complete cyber-autarky, or do they follow each other?
African political leaders are increasingly on Twitter, even if few of them apply a “digital pan-Africanism”. The President of Mali, Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta, takes the prize for most interconnected with 10 mutual links to other African institutional Twitter accounts. Paul Kagame and Uhuru Kenyatta, Kenya’s president, both follow and are followed by 5 African political figures on their Twitter accounts. They tie for second place. Finally, the Senegalese leader, Macky Sall arrives in 4th position with 4 interconnections.
Jacob Zuma, President of South Africa is the least active on the network: he follows only 5 people, and none of them are African leaders. His last activity on Twitter was in 2013.
And the Palme d’Or goes to…
The global gold prize goes to Amama Mbabazi, the former Prime Minister of Uganda who is running again in 2016. Mbabazi mainly uses Twitter to exchange with “netizens”, the so-called affectionate term for internet users. Replies to tweets represent 96% of his activity. On the microblogging website, Amama Mbabazi does not miss an opportunity to defend the position of Uganda. One of the best illustrations of this was on Twitter, back in 2012. Global celebrities – including Bill Gates, Rihanna and Oprah Winfrey – began spreading the viral campaign “Kony 2012.” The Head of the Ugandan government did not hesitate to strike back against #KonyIsInUganda with #KonyIsNotInUganda. Mbabazi even invited each of these stars to visit his “great country”. A “shining example of how world leaders can interact directly with their constituents” on the social network, said Twiplomacy 2013, a study by the American agency Burson-Marsteller on the use of Twitter by 505 world leaders.
If I follow you, will you follow back?
Some African leaders, like the Egyptian Abdel Fattah el-Sissi, Benin president Thomas Boni Yayi or the Congolese Denis Sassou Nguesso, are not interconnected with their peers on the continent at all. Some crossed the first hurdle, by subscribing to the accounts of other leaders. But this strategy does not always pay off. In East Africa, for example, where all leaders are present on Twitter, the President of Burundi, Pierre Nkurunziza, follows all the other leaders of the sub-region. He includes Yoweri Museveni (Uganda), Paul Kagame (Rwanda), Jakaya Kikwete (Tanzania) and Uhuru Kenyatta (Kenya) among his 18 followings. But only Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya follows him in return.
Indeed, connections on Twitter are not always a reflection of interpersonal relationships – especially when it comes to politics.
However, Twitter is definitely changing the political landscape, offering leaders a new way to manage their diplomatic relations as well as their relationships with citizens.
Movemeback isn’t followed by any African leaders just yet, but we’re working on it! Why don’t you follow us in the meantime?