As Twitter usage continues to expand in Africa, presidents and politicians in the continent are leveraging the unique power of the micro-blogging site to disseminate their political agendas, instantly communicate with a vast majority of people, recruit citizens to help in their campaigns, and create a space for dialogue and participatory democracy.
Here is Sahan Journal’s list of top 10 African presidents on Twitter, with the most followed president on top.
Egyptian President Muhammad Morsi: @MuhammadMorsi — Verified account
He is Egypt’s fifth president and leader of its first democratically-elected, post-revolutionary government. Tweeting in Arabic, Morsi has used the social site as a platform to engage the youth and deliver witty political statements that arouse patriotism, peace and political progress. Since he started tweeting in mid-November 2011, the former engineering professor has so far sent over 900 tweets. And with more than 1.2 million followers, Morsi is currently the leading African president on Twitter.
South African President Jacob Zuma: @SAPresident — Verified account
Although the South African president has more than 210,000 followers, he is not active on the social networking platform. He tweeted only four times last year, and in 2013, has so far tweeted once, wishing a happy 70th birthday to Mozambican President Armando Emilio Guebuza on January 20th.
Nonetheless, the Twitter handle — @SAPresident — is unique because it can be inherited by the next president, a precedent the leaders on this list have not done yet.
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta: @UKenyatta — Verified account
During his 2012-2013 campaign for presidency, the newly-elected leader of Kenya gained more than 76,000 Twitter followers since January 1. His deputy,William Ruto, is also an avid Twitter user, with almost 40,000 followers. During the campaign, the Jubilee Coalition that both Kenyatta and Ruto belong to, presented themselves as the “digital team” that was yearning to develop Kenya for the better. Kenyatta’s wife, Margaret, also joined Twitter on March 9, the day her husband was declared the winner of March 2013 general elections, gaining over 10,000 followers in just under a month.
Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki: @Moncef_Marzouki —Unverified account
President Marzouki joined Twitter on March 2011 at the height of Tunisian revolution, and two months after former President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali fled the country following a series of protests against his rule. The demonstrations were ignited by the spread of videos showing the police quelling demonstrations after the self-immolation of Mohamed Bouazizi, a 26-year-old vegetable vendor in the small town of Sidi Bouzid. Mohamed’s death gave way to the start of the uprisings that spread across the Arab world, from Tunisia to Egypt, Libya and now in Syria.
President Marzouki’s account has amassed over 120,000 followers, tweeting videos of his appearances, stories of interest to Tunisians and sometimes his articles.
Rwandan President Paul: @PaulKagame — Verified account
Hailed as one of Africa’s most progressive president, Paul Kagame has been able to lift Rwanda from the backdrop of the 1994 bloody genocide and into the fast-paced economic growth that it is experiencing today. And with the country aiming at becoming an African technology hub as part of its Vision 2020, it comes as no surprise that its 55-year-old president comes at number five most followed African leader on Twitter.
Kagame has over 118,000 followers, tweets mostly in English, and curiously provides an email address for respondents to write him directly. If you are interested, that is: [email protected]
Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete: @jmkikwete — Verified account
Tanzania’s President Jakaya Kikwete joined Twitter on March 2011. He is one of the few African leaders who understands the potential of the social site as a tool to reach out to fellow Tanzanians. He tweets mostly in Kiswahili, addressing national development, outlining government programs and publicizing ongoing or completed projects. He currently has 57,626 followers. He passed the 50,000 mark on 16 February 2013.
Nigerian ex-President Goodluck Jonathan: @JGoodlucktweets —Unverified account
Although Nigeria is the second African country in Twitter’s Worldwide Trends list, the last time its president, Goodluck Jonathan, tweeted was on the 10th of May 2011. No one knows why he stopped tweeting to his almost 54,000 followers. The Twitter account has a colorful background picture, with the sea-green Nigerian flag brand colors with the message “Join the discussion on President Goodluck’s agenda for change and development of the Nigerian nation.”
Who knows? Maybe there hasn’t been any major change or development worth tweeting about in Africa’s second-largest economy!
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni: @KagutaMuseveni — Unverified account
Uganda’s President had his fifteen minutes of fame on social media in November 2010, when his song, “You Want Another Rap?”became popular amongst YouTube viewers. Seeking re-election at the time — Museveni has been ruling Uganda since 1986 — the video was touted by some as campaign tool.
Museveni has not sent out a single tweet since his account was opened on 27 March 2010. Though it has amassed a total of 14,000 followers, we are not sure whether the account is authentic or not.
Ghanaian President John Dramani Mahama: @JDMahama — Verified account
Mahama’s account was opened in July 2012 when he first took office, following the unexpected death of former President John Atta Mills. His account has about 200 tweets and is mostly run by his campaign staff who tweet, in third person, when the president is giving a speech, meeting international dignitaries, or setting off on state visits.
Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara: @adosolutions — Unverified account
A former World Bank economist, Alassane Outtara has been the President of Ivory Coast since December 2010. His account was created on 29 October 2009 and tweets are written in French.