Internet penetration in Africa remains low, held back by numerous stumbling blocks related to unreliable infrastructure and high costs.
Despite the challenges faced by Africans to get online, blogging on the continent has enjoyed explosive growth, helping shape a positive African narrative in recent years.
Just 17% of North Africans have access to the internet. Although that figure climbs to 38% in sub-Saharan Africa, it remains far behind the OECD group of developed countries, where over 80% of the population use the internet.
Like internet users worldwide, Africans are increasingly using their mobile devices to get online. This trend is likely to continue as the mobile market continues to grow. GSMA, an association of mobile phone operators, estimates that smartphone connections in Africa will rise to more than 700 million by the end of 2020.
This explosion of internet use has meant that Africans want to see stories we can relate to. Content generated on the web can and should be specific to our lives. Unlike conventional media, blogging provides the opportunity for freedom of expression; just like social media, which has already been widely adopted in Africa. Unlike other platforms, it is easy to set up and maintain a blog, meaning ever more entities are blogging as an outlet of expression.
This has been especially evident in fashion, with many rising stars among African bloggers, sharing their work and style with African consumers. Kenya, South Africa, Nigeria and the diaspora have produced many curators of fashion, entertainment, finance management and lifestyle, who are positively shaping the African story.
The growing consumer culture on the continent has further bolstered this trend. With Africa’s vast youth population, targeting millennials has become increasingly important. Millennials spend a lot of their time on the internet, using it for both entertainment and information. We are open to innovation, technology, futuristic trends and globalization.
Young entrepreneurs in Africa are looking beyond conventional business approaches. They are now able to become thought leaders through the content they share on their craft, forging new connections with their audience. Blogging allows them to reach markets outside their own; and cuts costs related to marketing, public relations, and brand awareness.
E-commerce has also seen significant growth across Africa. This too opens new markets for individuals and businesses, not only on the continent but internationally. Many artists are now exporting their work around the world.
Exports are not just limited to products. Africans are contributing to the international conversation, through writing and sharing thought-provoking ideas on global platforms.
Business and individuals alike have recognized that they can boost their credibility by establishing a voice and becoming influencers. High-profile collaborations have been made possible by the customized and relatable content that a blog offers.
The growing consciousness of being African has lessened people’s inhibitions. Blogging has given a voice to many Africans who otherwise would not have been heard and given content to an audience that has been searching for it.
It has given rise to stories curated by Africans, that speak to Africans and others. This is a trend that will grow and grow, as blogging continues to take hold across the continent.