“If you want to become extremely wealthy over the next five years, and you have a basic grasp of technology, here’s a no-brainer: move to Africa.”- David Rowan (Wired Magazine)

A few weeks ago, I wrote about developing an online advertising strategy in Africa. Now, I will be sharing information about some of the services (besides search and email) that sell on the web in the continent. Please note that Africa, in reality, is a large and complex continent; hence general information such as this may not apply in all communities. In major countries however, these are the trends:

1.     Friendship / Social Networking: Africans spend an incredible amount of time cultivating e-relationships! In almost all countries in Africa (as with many other countries in the world), Facebook is one of the most visited websites. The number of Twitter and LinkedIn users in Africa is also increasing astronomically. Besides, there are a few significant local social networks such as Yookos and Afroterminal. Many others exist, although they may not fare as well because the social networking world is hugely dominated by the top shots.

2.       Political News and Discussions: Politics dominates the majority of African discussions. It is therefore not surprising that many of the very popular sites in Africa are websites for news and political discussions. In fact, four to five out of the top ten websites for most countries in Africa fall under this category. Besides the official websites of various news agencies, a worthy example in this case would be Nigeria’s Nairaland Forums, which is popular mostly for its political discussions.

3.       Free Advertising: Sites patterned after Craigslist- providing free advertising platforms- have become very popular in Africa, with Dealfish and Google Trader having a lead in the continent. Olx is widely used in South Africa while Tradestable commands a respectable amount of traffic in Nigeria. On an African country-level top ten list, websites providing free advertising would form about ten percent of the entries.

4.     Jobs: Job websites attempt to solve one of the most pressing problems in the continent. As a result, many of the large ones today are known to have grown astronomically within very short periods of time. Noteworthy examples of successful job websites are Jobberman (Nigerian and Ghana), Career Junction (South Africa) and Uganda Job Online (Uganda).

5.      Entertainment: Movies, music, celebrity gist and sports are major forces in the African online market. While the clear leader is Youtube, there are many notable blogs and portals dedicated to entertainment in each country. Assuming we were to pick a top 100-list from almost any African country, entertainment websites would occupy above 30 percent of the slots. It is rare, however, to find entertainment websites within the top ten.

I have limited the list above to services used in Africa, regardless of whether or not the companies behind the services are of African origin. As you may have observed, global websites, such as Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Youtube and Twitter still account for most of African traffic. However, this trend may be changing gradually as more local services are springing up online. I believe the trends would tell a different story in a few years. Perhaps the lists would begin with your own African web startup!

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