“The mobile is going to bring in a huge amount of transparency and information sharing that Africa has never had before,” Knight said. “Socially and politically, that levels the playing field. People are not going to be able to say things that aren’t true; propaganda won’t work any more.
“I strongly believe this is the time when technology can make the most difference in people’s lives. There are five-to-nine-year-olds today who, by the time they are 20, will have technology so embedded that the old Africa won’t exist for them,” he said.
Africa’s top tweeters
By David Smith
The Guardian, Johannesburg
■ Nana Akufo-Addo (@nadaa2012)
Leader of the New Patriotic Party and presidential candidate in Ghana.
1,640 tweets, 35 following, 6,132 followers.
The opposition leader is hoping social media can propel him to victory in forthcoming elections. One of numerous recent tweets declared: “In #48days, we will go to the polls to decide between two profoundly different visions for the future of #Ghana. #VoteNana2012.”
■ David Coltart (@DavidColtart)
Education, sport, arts and culture minister in Zimbabwe.
2,962 tweets, 280 following, 6,600 followers.
The Movement for Democratic Change politician regularly tackles politics and sport. “’The Minister is sleep WORKING on duty,’ Zanu PF’s Jonathan Moyo blaming me for the Warriors loss against Angola in the Herald today!”
■ Paul Kagame (@PaulKagame)
President of Rwanda.
2,161 tweets, 0 following, 82,510 followers
Kagame was involved in an infamous Twitter spat with British journalist Ian Birrell, who tweeted that Kagame was “despotic” and “deluded”. The president hit back: “Not you either ... no moral right! You give yourself the right to abuse pple and judge them like you r the one to decide ...”
■ Uhuru Kenyatta (@UKenyatta)
Deputy prime minister of Kenya.
1,364 tweets, 48 following, 76,169 followers.
When finance minister, Kenyatta reportedly asked his followers for input into the budget. However, not every post by the politician, facing a trial at the international criminal court, is riveting: “Had a great time with my wife at the James Ingram concert last night. Have a blessed Sunday as we prepare for the week ahead.”
■ January Makamba (@JMakamba)
Deputy minister of communication, science and technology in Tanzania.
6,044 tweets, 1,956 following, 18,968 followers.
Engages in politics, humor and philosophy. Recent tweets include: “Permanent Secretary. When a job title starts with the word ‘Permanent’, there will be problems” and “I’m a Muslim. My Mom is devout Catholic. She prays for us everyday. She covers herself and participate when we have Dua. We can coexist.”
■ Julius Malema (@Julius_S_Malema)
Former president of the African National Congress youth league in South Africa.
4,810 tweets, 103 following, 234,486 followers.
This firebrand populist used to dismiss Twitter and there were several hoax accounts in his name. Now making up for lost time with declarations such as: “I will never be intimidated by those who r playing to the gallery and seeking attention at my expense. I shall remain focused and unshaken.”