Ethiopia, joined by Iran and Uzbekistan globally, stood out as the only nation where Telegram was more popular than any other app. The ranking was based on data collated from the Google Play store.

By Abdi Latif Dahir (Quartz Africa) |

In a recent survey of social media use in Africa, WhatsApp—and its Facebook-owned sister app Messenger—was crowned the king of apps in Africa.

All except for one country: Ethiopia.

The Horn of Africa nation, joined by Iran and Uzbekistan globally, stood out as the only nation where Telegram was more popular than any other app. The ranking was based on data collated from the Google Play store for each country by Dec. 2017.

Telegram has 200 million users worldwide, compared with about 1 billion WhatsApp users. It’s on course to raise about $2 billion, mainly through an initial coin offering.

So why is Telegram popular in Ethiopia? It’s not immediately clear why the messaging service has emerged as the favorite alternative to WhatsApp or Messenger, but a few reasons give clues to its dominance.

Ease of use:

Gaining access to the internet is still very difficult in Ethiopia, with internet penetration at just 15% for its over 105 million population. And even though over 53 million people have mobile connectivity, just 3.8 million of them are active social media users. Part of the problem is that data is expensive and not competitive, given the government’s monopoly over all mobile and internet services through the state-owned Ethio Telecom.

Given that, the economics of downloading and using Telegram (49 megabits) versus WhatsApp (103 MBs) or Messenger (125 MBs) is part of what makes Telegram attractive in Ethiopia, says Moses Karanja, a doctoral candidate at University of Toronto and researcher at the Citizen Lab. In his research, he says, Ethiopians have told him how “frequent updates were too expensive” and that “internet bundles consumption is lighter and hence cheaper” with Telegram.

Continue reading this story at Quartz Africa
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