Protests and sport dominate African conversations in June

News 19 July 2021,  Africa No Filter

Perhaps a reflection of the uncertain times in which we live, hashtags associated with protests were the prevailing conversation amongst Africans on Twitter this June.

The Nigerian #June12thProtest hashtag came out on top, with 62,000 accounts mentioning it. It was also tagged in conversations alongside 31 African countries and was the number one hashtag in four countries - Nigeria, Benin, Kenya and Tanzania.

June 12th was the day Nigerians took to the streets to express their dissatisfaction with the country’s current leadership. The day has historical and political significance – it is a public holiday (Democracy Day) which marks the day in 1999 when the military handed over power to an elected civilian government.

It is also associated with the 1993 election of the presidential candidate MKO Abiola, who died in mysterious circumstances after being detained following cancelled elections which many Nigerians still believe he won.

This June 12th, although protestors in Nigeria were met with teargas on the ground, their voices were amplified on Twitter and carried beyond Nigeria’s borders. The irony won’t be lost on many, as Twitter is still officially banned in the country following the suspension of the president’s account.

It was a move that many across the world, including Nigeria’s 28 million-plus Twitter users, many of whom are still accessing the platform via virtual private networks, saw as a threat to civil liberty.

Other protest hashtags that made the top 10 on Twitter were #Tigray and #FixTheCountry. Both trended in conversations around 28 African countries.

#Tigray is part of the ongoing conversation about the conflict in the Tigray region of Ethiopia, where the government’s military and the regional nationalist group, Tigray People's Liberation Front have been in a crossfire since November 2020. #FixtTheCountry originated in Ghana in response to protests about the rising cost of essential goods and services.

It’s a sign of the times. It seems Africans are no longer simply hoping for change; they are organising protests on the ground and amplifying the action online to create that change.

Given that we are still in the middle of a pandemic, the hashtag that appeared the most in conversations around most African countries was #COVID19 - 53 of the 54 countries were tagged alongside the hashtag. The most engaged tweets about COVID-19 were about vaccinations, followed by the number of cases and the third wave of infections. The Delta variant didn’t get much play despite a statement from the World Health Organization saying the variant was responsible for the current spike in COVID-19 cases around Africa.

It wasn’t all doom and gloom. We have already seen how major global sporting events – especially football - dominate the Twittersphere. June was the month of the UEFA European Championship, so it wasn’t surprising that after #COVID19, #Euro2020 was the second most used hashtag trending in conversations about 46 African countries.

It wasn’t the only football conversation that trended; a nostalgic tweet with a poster of the South Africa 2010 football world cup, asking people what it triggered for them, was the most liked tweet tagged with an African country this month. Meanwhile, the Burkinabe were tweeting about Manchester United with the hashtag #MUFC when news broke that the famous club was looking to sign Burkinabe player Edmond Tapsoba. Football is clearly a conversation trigger on the continent.

Cryptocurrency is growing in popularity on the continent. Bitcoin was the most used hashtag amongst Tunisians and made headlines after the Minister of Finance announced that it would be decriminalised. The announcement followed reports of a 17-year-old being arrested for paying an online transaction using cryptocurrency.

#Bitcoin also trended in conversations across 45 other African countries, including Kenya, Sierra Leone, Nigeria (the ban) and Madagascar, following this tweet by Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey which simply stated that ‘the people of Nigeria will lead’.

Meanwhile, amongst South Africans, Bitcoin conversations were led by the news that the country’s largest cryptocurrency exchange founders have vanished, along with nearly $3.6 billion in Bitcoin. They told investors the exchange was hacked. Perhaps it’s time for policies to be put in place to protect investors and regulate the growth of cryptocurrency in Africa.

We made a surprising but fun discovery this month. As usual, we looked at which accounts mention Africa or any of its countries most frequently, and it turns out that a 12-year-old Ethiopian boy is the most prolific tweeter of content related to the continent this month. @heybereket calls himself a developer, designer and entrepreneur and has launched over 10 digital products. Much of his content is retweets and mainly around the situation in his home country.

Our methodology: We collated and analysed over two million unique tweets, retweets and replies mentioning "Africa" and or any of the 54 African countries to see what Africans are talking about. We also looked at hashtags that trended in each African country and hashtags that were widely used across countries to compile the report.

Read our full June report on What Africans are talking about here.