Edward Tagoe

About the author : Edward is one of Africa’s young software entrepreneurs. He is a co-founder of an Internet start-up in Ghana and loves poetry.

African Social Media and the Arab Spring

Africa, Events in Ghana, Ghana, Technology in Africa 12 Comments
Photo Credit : cp-Africa

In Tunisia, on the 3rd Friday of December 2010,  out of frustration, a 27 old Arab merchant set himself on fire in protest of the seizure of his wares by a municipal official. Days later, three nations in North Africa topple their national leaders. Tunisia, Egypt and Libya have suffered from an uprising which is today called the Arab Srping; an event started by a young lad called Mohammed Bouazizi whose primary goal was to be just an orndinary bread-winner this poor home. There were waves of this Bouazizi effect weaving through Bahrain, Yemen and Syria as well as some other nations. In this post I am interested in bringing to light the role played by social media during the Arab Spring.

Young mobile users are known to be the most active social media users in a research released in Nairobi. Twitter and Facebook served as the dissemination channels for announcing gathering locations and times in Egypt and Tunisia especially. To curb the power of social media, the affected governements either blocked the use of twitter or simply shut down mobile networks. In Egypt, Google launched a project which made it possible for the demonstrators to publish their tweets by sending it via SMS. You tube served as a channel for CNN and other media houses to gather unverified video footages taken by protesters in Syria. This provided observers outside the Syria with a fair sense of the situations on the ground. When Al-Quaddafi was captured, pictures of his capture went viral on twitter and facebook, offering interested individuals the opportunity to view and understand aspects of the rioting.

The use of mobile devices for social media is becoming more and more common among African youth. More than half of the 11.5 million tweets analysed from Africa were sent from mobile devices. It is time for us to harness the power of mobile especially during election periods for activities such as citizen journalism, reporting of irreguarities, posting of election results by observers etc. The Arab srping would have been a difficult one without the power of social media which fostered the sharing of information and discussion of issues regarding various topics. In this post Arab Spring generation, probably our focus could be harnessing the power of social media to act as an alternative voice for us all.

On Friday 27th January 2012, BBC Africa Debate, will be broadcast from Accra, Kofi Annan Center of Excellene. Participants will attempt to answer the question, ‘Is an African Spring necessary?’. In this discussion, obviously, the role of social media cannot be downplayed.

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  • Gameli on January 27, 2012

    Very interesting and informative post. Quick question, don’t you think it will serve African youth better if they direct their social media energies to things that can directly influence their lives positively? It looks like governments come and go but their lots remain the same.

    • Edward Tagoe on January 30, 2012

      True Gameli, I have personally advocated, we as the younger generation, take a secon look at such issues. It is alarming when I find out that the older generation, the very generation out of which our leadership is selected does little or nothing to reserve resources for future leaders or create avenue for the next generation to flourish. I guess our tool is social media, we could use this medim to shout……my only question is whether or not the leadership will hear or at least listen?

    • Edward Tagoe on February 4, 2012

      Gameli, that is a good point. I have always advocated for a non-violent spring. Yes it is possible, if of course the resistance to such a Spring is not deadly. Feedback is good, Change is not bad!

  • Kwadwo on January 30, 2012

    The power of the internet coupled with recently developed Android technology has made our globe the size of an orange. I wonder what new technology will revolutionise the world a decade from now.

    • Edward Tagoe on January 30, 2012

      Kwadwo, right on point. Also social media is a channel which can lead the younger African generation anywhere we need to guide its use so it doesn’t land its youthfu users in the wrong path. In 10 years time…..well who knows? Let’s wait and see!

  • Ghanaboi on January 31, 2012

    I’m really shocked that Ghana is at the bottom of the barrel on this list.

    • Edward Tagoe on February 4, 2012

      I am shocked as well, but hey don’t worry, we have the chance to make amends. This year I know of lots of social media projects and events which will increase the number of Ghanaians on social media.

  • Nana Yaw Sarpong on February 2, 2012

    Informative. I am however more interested in your last sentence about the necessity or otherwise of an African ‘Spring’

    • Edward Tagoe on February 4, 2012

      Thanks Nana Yaw. I tried to stay away from the question as much as possible and rather address the ingredients which catalysed the Arab Spring. There might not be a Spring in Ghana of the Arab kind, but what I know is that we may need our own form of ‘Spring’ one day…or maybe it is already happening 🙂

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