Lost in the excitement about Africans' enthusiastic embrace of mobile phones is the growing use of those phones to access the Internet - particularly YouTube, Facebook and other social media sites.Lost in the excitement about Africans' enthusiastic embrace of mobile phones is the growing use of those phones to access the Internet - particularly YouTube, Facebook and other social media sites.
In the mid-1990s, as the use of mobile phones spread in much of the developed world, few thought of Africa as a potential market. Now, with more than 400 million subscribers, its market is larger than North America's and is growing faster than in any other region.
A similar story now seems again to be unfolding as Africans use their cell phones to connect to "social media" - Internet services like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube - that allow people to interact with each other directly. In the process, they are joining what may be the next global trend: a shift to mobile Internet use, with social media as its main driver.
According to Mary Meeker, an influential Internet analyst, mobile Internet and social media are the fastest growing areas of the technology industry worldwide, and she predicts that wireless telephones use will soon overtake computers as the primary Internet device.
Africa is pushing both developments. Studies suggest that when Africans go online - predominantly with their mobile phones - they spend much of their time on social media sites.
In recent months, Facebook - the major social media platform worldwide and currently the most visited website in most of Africa - has seen a massive growth on the continent. The number of Facebook users now stands at over 17 million, up from just 10 million in 2009. More than 15 percent of people online in Africa are currently using the platform, compare to 11 percent in Asia.
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