Good news for advertisers in the internet penetration numbers

Common wisdom states that in the average WhatsApp group 1 out of every 5 people is a joker, which is a relatively high proportion because even a deck of cards has only 2 jokers in a pack of 54. Our interests are however around the number of influencers in each WhatsApp group and their power to promote brands and ideas in their networks. The brand advocacy happening in the messaging apps is currently unstructured and opportunities lie in creating platform friendly content that is relevant and captivating, or by providing incentives to consume and share content.

Our primary source of internet access and consumption data is from the Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) and as you browse their reports you are warned that they take no responsibility for the information contained therein. I quote “Although every effort has been made to ensure accuracy of the data contained in this report, the Authority is not liable for inaccuracies in any of the information contained in this report, which is contingent upon the operators/service providers’ compliance returns.”

On reading a little further we find another disclaimer under some spectacular internet access numbers and I again quote “There is no scientific method of estimating internet users; for the purpose of this report the methodology is adopted from the recommendation from ITU (International Telecommunication Union).”  Perhaps the word ‘Authority’ in their name should become the active component and the thought leadership that they must drive should be backed up by comprehensive and accurate data that they are prepared to stand by. Without a doubt they should be accountable for the massive budgets that they control and thus provide information that is useful to their stakeholders for the betterment of the advertising industry and the audiences that they target.

That not withstanding, CA has the opportunity to be the first regulatory agency in sub-Saharan Africa to provide reliable insights into the usage and attitudes of the internet with demographic segmentation, delivering data on content consumed, mode of access, time spent online and geographical distinctions. There isn’t a better time than now to invest in this research and it certainly will be worth every shilling spent!

In the absence of dependable data, we are therefor forced to look elsewhere to get realistic indicators on internet usage in the country, and because Kenya has leaped-frogged the fixed line technology straight into universal use of mobile telephony and data services, we turn to the telecommunication companies figures for this. According to the research department of Safaricom there are 16 million people using their data services and the CA Operator Returns indicate that there are likewise 5 million data users on Airtel’s network. That gives us a total of 21 million people with access to the internet, and granted the numbers have a degree of duplication.

Additional information is provided by Facebook, the most popular social network in the country with up to 5.5 million active users in Kenya and a penetration rate of 26 percent of the internet users. The global average of Facebook subscribers in relation to internet users is 60 percent showing that the social network is yet to meet its optimal coverage in Kenya and the potential is impressive shown by the 18 percent growth in 2016.

The Kenya Audience Research Foundation (KARF) reports state that WhatsApp is more popular than Facebook, pointing to the fact that the direct and more intimate relationships matter more to us, leading to its rapid growth and wider acceptance. Without an advertising delivery system on the platform, brands have to turn to the influencers and market segmentation insights to develop appropriate and targeted storytelling.

The current internet penetration numbers therefore paint a positive picture with regards to effective reach and the data is very encouraging when predicting the potential for audience engagement expected to follow with the drop of both internet access tariffs and the cost of internet enabled devices, as well as the universal roll-out of high quality data services. The marketing executives that begin to review their communication strategies with this in view are bound reap the benefits of early adoption and deliver better return-on-investment through new media.

2 thoughts on “Good news for advertisers in the internet penetration numbers

    1. Hi Abby, thanks for your comments. Indeed it is difficult to get regular and comprehensive research about this space. However there are ways that we can get the data based on the providers numbers. True engagement can only be measured by specific surveys which find obstacles to funding. We’ll be discussing this and more at the next PAMRO conference in Cape Town. Go to for more.


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