[guardian] Having swept America and conquered Europe, social networking site Facebook is now spreading rapidly through Africa.
From the deserts of Libya to the plains of Tanzania•Facebook is fast becoming the continent's most visited mobile site as Africans use their phones to access the internet, according to a new report.
Even micro-blogging phenomenon Twitter is making an impact, appearing as the ninth most visited mobile internet site in South Africa and Kenya, according to a study by Oslo-based mobile software developer Opera of the top ten 'mobile web' countries in Africa.
The most popular African destination on the mobile web, is Facebook. The social networking site is visited by users of Opera's mobile web browser in six out of the 10 countries surveyed by the company . Google is either number one or two in every African state except Kenya where Yahoo dominates.
Email services such as Hotmail and Gmail are also popular as is YouTube. The online video site has its highest rankings in Egypt, at number three, and Libya, at number four.
Among news sources, the BBC figures strongly in the top ten most visited sites in Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana, Tanzania, Namibia and Zambia. CNN features prominently in the top ten in Nigeria, Ghana and Zambia. They are the only two western news sources among the most popular mobile internet destinations across the ten African countries analysed by the Opera survey.
Sport features strongly with French sports newspaper L'Équipe the sixth most visited mobile web site in Ivory Coast. Egyptian mobile phone users flock to Arabic language sports portal Filgoal.com and Libyans prefer rival Koora.com.
Mobile usage is ballooning across the continent and the African mobile phone market – at more than 400 million subscribers – is now larger than in North America. Some countries, such as South Africa, have 'mobile penetration levels' - the number of handsets compared with size of population – close to those of Western Europe.
For many people in Africa, mobile telephones are the only way that they will ever get access to the internet because of the poor quality, and often complete lack, of fixed-line networks. Fierce competition has pushed mobile prices down for consumers while many of the latest crop of handsets available in Africa allow easy access to the mobile internet. Web browsers can also be installed on older phones.
The mobile web browser developed by Opera is the most popular in Africa, accounting for more than half the market, and in its latest State of the Mobile Web report, Opera estimates that the number of handsets using its browser across the top ten African states has leapt 177% in the past year. The report looks at South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya, Egypt, Ghana, Libya, Ivory Coast, Zambia, Tanzania and Namibia. Opera refuses to give overall customer numbers for Africa, but in its largest market – South Africa – it had 1.5 million 'unique users' in October.
Africa sees massive growth in mobile web usage