This is what Zimbabweans do on the internet when they are not on WhatsApp

Leonard Sengere Avatar
Mac work station with coffee

There was a time when the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz) used to break down the internet usage stats they release in their sector reports. From that data, we found out that WhatsApp accounted for close to half of all internet usage in the country.

The dominance of WhatsApp is going to be hard to challenge. It started with Econet and now all three mobile network operators (MNOs) offer WhatsApp-specific data bundles. This has had a huge impact on how Zimbabweans use the internet.

In extreme cases, some equate the internet with WhatsApp. All they know to do is buy WhatsApp bundles and they get their news, entertainment and socialising needs met through the instant messaging app. Some understand the internet goes beyond WhatsApp but do not really have need for anything beyond WhatsApp.

This came to bite Econet, who started with the WhatsApp bundle, in the rear when they tried to launch their own WhatsApp competitor. Despite offering cheaper bundles for their app, Sasai, they could not get people to use it in any meaningful way.

At this point, they can’t discontinue the WhatsApp bundles, there would be an outcry. So, the bundle looks set to stay and funnel internet usage into this one particular service.

The problem with this for the MNOs is that there is only so much data one can use via WhatsApp. For data usage to really increase, Zimbabweans have to discover the many services on the net that will have them hooked. Video streaming sites would be great.

We said WhatsApp was taking up about half of internet usage in the country and we can work under the assumption that that hasn’t really changed in the years since that data was released.

So, what are Zimbabweans doing on the internet half the time when they are not on WhatsApp?

We can peer into this usage by looking at what people search for on the internet. In the DataReportal report we found out that Google Search has a 93% market share in this country. So, we shall look at Google Search trends only.

The top 20 search queries in January 2023 were:

Search queryIndex vs Top Query
1The100
2What66
3Download49
4News 29
5Weather 18
6WhatsApp18
7Facebook17
8Google15
9Youtube14
10EPL14
11World Cup11
12Liverpool10
13Moors9
14Gmail9
15Chelsea9
16MWOS8
17MSU7
18Man City7
19Moors Betting7
20WhatsApp Web7
These are not absolute volumes. Rather we are comparing the volumes of a search query against that of the top query. For example, we are saying search volumes for “weather” were 18% of the ones for “The”.

We can look past the top query and some others on the list. We do find that people are indeed looking to download stuff. Just what it is they are downloading, we don’t know.

We can see people need their news fix and for some reason, weather information. I guess the rainy season does that to people. The WhatsApp query makes sense, I imagine those are people looking to update their app.

Facebook is facebook and Google is self-explanatory but, these are Google searches, so why are people searching for ‘Google’ whilst on Google? I don’t know, maybe you know what that’s all about. Youtube is youtube.

Of the remaining 11 queries, only 3 have nothing to do with football.

Not everyone has Gmail in their bookmarks and so some just search ‘Gmail’ so they can get to the inbox.

MSU is the Midlands State University. I know that they have a large enrollment but I’m not sure what was going on in January for it to get that many queries.

WhatsApp Web is self-explanatory. Although, this shows just how popular WhatsApp is. These queries are for people looking to log in and so don’t include those who use the desktop app.

EPL stands for English Premier League. We have a few football teams from that league on the list.

Apparently, the most popular betting house is Moors World of Sports (MWOS) with 3 entries. Moors allows betting on a lot of things but football is the most popular.

So, it appears when people are not looking for news about their favourite soccer teams, they are busy betting via Moors. I am not a fan of this betting epidemic. You know how betting is, the house would not survive if it paid out more than it got in.

People are gambling their meagre earnings in the hope that they can win big. Unfortunately, 99% are only going to lose what little they already have.

So that’s it. That is what Zimbabweans search for on the internet. They love their football and their betting. Make of that what you will. If you can see a business opportunity from this then good on you. Go forth and conquer.

Also read:

Only a third of Zimbos connecting to the internet in 2023, why so few?

WhatsApp becomes a note taking app, working to allow sending photos in OG quality

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13 comments

  1. MtRex

    People search for YouTube hoping to go to the YouTube website. The same goes for Facebook, people would want to log into their Facebook accounts using the web. And as for MSU, we all know of the sexual scandals that were going on at the University hence the searches.

    1. Leonard Sengere

      Oh, didn’t know about the MSU scandals you’re talking about. Yeah, people love those kinds of stories.

  2. El Salvador

    searching (the) i bet you ma primary students mazhinji akutsvaga (the). As for you wanting to know what people are downloading kkk my frend you are better off not knowing at all..music comes second,movies and series third, first place inotorwa nana mai Denzel na Dj Tamuka kkk 🙊🙊

    1. Leonard Sengere

      Ah 🤣🤣 those downloads. I thought it was a streaming affair these days. Do people still have folders with those vids? Inga…

  3. Smokie

    I am a little bit ashamed that my people are seriously searching for Google on Google Chrome..but all that said not so many of us know how to surf the web..but it is is a step for going forward

    1. Leonard Sengere

      It is peculiar. Like Google Search is the default search engine on Chrome and so they are literally typing Google into the Google search bar.

  4. Stripes

    What about xvideos.com. We need the stats on that as well

    1. Leonard Sengere

      I think they disregard the dirty stuff. If they didn’t I imagine the top 5 would look different.

    2. Dofo

      Yearly search stats would be better for analysis I think #1 would be Google… I’ve noticed that when people go on the internet they search Google so they can have the search bar then Continue with their search business…… But foe experts it’s straight to the point right on the address bar if u know what u r doing…

  5. Imwe Mbeu

    😂 these queries so 🙌🏽 I’m going to try them one by one

  6. ET

    Google Trends is still my go-to-to site for ranking search; for Zimbabwe in the last 12 months:
    https://trends.google.com/trends/explore?geo=ZW

    Google Trends is more relatable and insightful. Even business subscribe to get insights

  7. Tmars

    Zimbos zvenyengo vanozvida manje….most downloads i porn

  8. Mybest

    super, my favorite club Chelsea got here.

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