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Twitter seems hell-bent on pushing its business solutions for small- to medium-sized businesses, and like many big tech companies, Africa has entered its sphere of thought. Last week, the social media platform officially launched in Africa via a partnership with contextual ad network, Ad Dynamo.
It was announced a month ago that Ad Dynamo had partnered with Twitter to become its exclusive advertising partner in South Africa. Highlighted as one of Twitter’s fastest-growing markets when the company went public, South Africa has an estimated 5.5-million Twitter users (a 129% increase in just a year).
We caught up with Ali Jafari, Twitter’s head of Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA), to chat about what coming to Africa means for the social platform, where the next destination could be, and how people in Africa are using the platform.
Inroads into Africa: Twitter for business
Jafari says that “the partnership [with Ad Dynamo] is a very efficient way of entering the market”.
African, and especially South African, brands and businesses have started paying attention to Twitter, and the growth in social business and audience targeting means these brands want to get their Twitter dollars to the right people.
To meet the demand of brands and businesses wanting to do business on the platform in Africa, the company has decided to use South Africa as the entry point for its move into the continent and will probably launch in other African countries through its partnership with Ad Dynamo, which also has operations in Kenya, Ghana and Uganda.
“We have been looking at South Africa for quite a while and have seen great usage here, good growth and a lot of demand for Twitter. And good innovation and creativity,” says Jafari. “Earlier this year we selected Ad Dynamo as our exclusives sales team here in South Africa. What that means is that they are essentially Twitter on the ground and can work with brands on anything related to Twitter.”
Ad Dynamo’s role as “Twitter on ground” means a variety of things, Jafari explains. He reckons that the ad network will be available to help with content strategy, audience growth and campaign launches.
“We are starting with South Africa, that is the focus for today. Ad Dynamo do have offices in other parts of sub-Saharan Africa, over time we may extend the level of service they are providing here in South Africa to those markets,” he says.
Waking up to Twitter: how does Africa differ from the rest?
The exciting trend for Twitter in Africa is the level of mobile usage, which Jafari says “fits in very well with Twitter” because the platform is mobile first.
“All of our product development, both on the consumer and advertiser side, starts with mobile and so that fits in very well with how people consume data here in South Africa and Africa in general. That represents anyone that is on Twitter — whether it is politicians, athletes, bloggers or journalists — who are able to build a community and communicate with that community with authenticity. This extends to brands as well.”
In Africa, social media platforms seem more poised to serve as a tool for change, social activism and a way to galvanise society to take action. We have seen this with #ArabSpring and more recently Nigeria’s #BirngBackOurGirls campaign. For Jafari, the beauty of Twitter is that it can be whatever you want it to be — but at its core it is just a platform.
“We are a platform,” he says. “We are an open platform that allows people to communicate anything they want. It could be disrupting a story, if you are a journalist, or movements like the ones that we have seen in other parts of the world.”
The way the company sees it, it has been placed in a unique position to help make historic moments happen globally, as well as empower individuals to take active roles in making those moments happen.
“We are lucky to be in a position to allow for those things to happen worldwide. It is exciting to hear that in Africa, people are taking advantage of the benefits that Twitter is able to provide to people.”
According to Jafari every movement on Twitter starts with the user. He argues that the social platform “puts the user at the forefront” of everything it does.
The age of democracy and choice: Twitter allows you to choose
At its core, Jafrai says Twitter is a real-time information network that connects people to whatever information they want. They have the choice of what information they see and what they don’t.
“You as a user choose who you follow and you choose [the type] of content that appears on your stream. But you can also tweet,” he says. “60% of our monthly active users worldwide actively tweet, so it is an opportunity that allows everyday people to distribute content as well.”
Jafari wouldn’t give us any real numbers of Twitter’s usage, but you can listen to the full podcast below.