Facebook tops mobile web browsing in Africa (and other mobile internet stats)

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Yesterday, Opera Software released its monthly State of the Mobile Web report, and this month focused on the growth of the mobile web browsing in Africa. The report looks at the usage of Opera Mini across 53 African countries in the past 12 months. One clear trend in the report is that Facebook.com tops mobile browsing using the Opera Mini in Africa.

Facebook.com is the number 1 visited website in all but 8 Africa countries (Algeria, Angola, Central Africa Republic, Egypt, Eritrea, Guinea and Mali), where Google.com tops. As you may probably know, Facebook was in recent months rumoured to be looking to buy Opera as many saw a common thread of expansion into emerging markets driven by the rapid adoption of mobile phones. The rumour eventually died down. Opera has however been incorporating some social features into its Opera Mini browser lately like enabling users to see all their Facebook and Twitter updates on the default page of the browser and not need to visit Facebook or Twitter.

Twitter.com, the globally popular micro-blogging social networking service is also quite popular on the continent making it into the top 10 most visited sites via the browser in almost half of the countries. Twitter is particularly popular in Kenya, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Swaziland, Lesotho and Madagascar where it’s in the top 5.

It’s hard to ascertain from the report just how popular Google Plus is as the social network is a sub-domain of the main Google.com site.

MXit, a popular mobile based social network in South Africa is number 7 on South Africa’s mobile web visits using the Opera software. One thing to be clear about here is that this suggests very little regarding the actual usage of MXit in Africa as MXit is used via a feature phone friendly app (and not Opera Mini). Facebook itself also has direct feature phone usage via Facebook Mobile.

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The Opera Mini browser has been very popular in emerging markets because of the data compression technologies used by the company to reduce the size of websites by as much as 90 percent before they are delivered to a user’s phone. This enables the browser to deliver pages very fast even on basic GPRS connections. The browser’s efficiency also provides huge savings on mobile broadband data bundles.

Opera has also entered into agreements with mobile operators in emerging markets to deliver a co-branded version of it’s browser to users as part of the promoting mobile operator value added services and the browser.

Here are other notable trends revealed by the Opera report:

  • Nokia handsets dominate the top ten charts for mobile handsets using the Opera Mini browser in Africa.
  • And this one came as surprise actually; the Northern Europe based mobile social network called Eskimi is becoming very popular. It’s so popular in Nigeria and Namibia that its usage there is only second to Facebook.com. Yes, it’s more popular than Google.com in Nigeria. It’s also in the top 10 most visited sites in Kenya (6), Mozambique (6), Zimbabwe (6), Zambia (3), Tanzania (4) and a few more countries.
  • Across Africa, data growth seems to outpace page-view growth, suggesting that Africans are browsing larger pages and most likely, using richer, more advanced websites.
  • 36 countries more than doubled their Opera Mini user bases in one year.
  • 25 out of 53 countries (47 percent) have international news sites as the most popular news source. Countries include Republic of Congo, Sierra Leone, Egypt, Libya and Côte d’Ivoire. 18 of those 25 countries turn to the BBC as the most-used source.

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