Ruto, Sall, Ramaphosa… Who are the most influential African leaders on Twitter?

By Damien Glez
Posted on Thursday, 15 December 2022 10:30

@Damien Glez

In the age of political buzz, Africa is carving out its place in the ranking of the world's most prominent leaders on the social network Twitter…

Successive periods of Covid-19 lockdown have crowned the era of almost-everything digital. Beyond the video meetings, digital diplomacy has imposed itself, for better or worse, offering direct and instant communication between citizens as well as manipulation via fake news.

Without imposing a value judgement, and while waiting to see what “Musk management” will do with Twitter, the website offers statistics evaluating the digital influence of every head of state on the little blue bird platform…

Not surprisingly, the ranking is influenced by the number of people in the concerned countries and their level of connectedness.

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi is in first place, with the Asian country set to become the most populous country in the world in 2023, ahead of China, which censors Twitter use anyway. In second place is the American Joe Biden, whose predecessor Donald Trump was excluded from the platform (Musk recently reinstated Trump’s profile).

Race for digital impact

A garden variety of profiles round out the top 50. First are those who have recently been thrust into the limelight, such as Ukrainian Volodymyr Zelensky, in seventh place. Secondly, the “young” leaders in their forties, traditionally familiar with this tool, such as Canadian Justin Trudeau and Frenchman Emmanuel Macron, respectively eighth and twelfth.

Then there are the “alternative truth” lovers, politicians keen on stunts and propaganda – the dark side of Twitter – such as the Venezuelan Nicolás Maduro – sixth – or the Brazilian Jair Bolsonaro, fifth in the ranking, whose personal digital juggernaut couldn’t save him from the verdict at the polls. To be noted in this category, the spectacular bronze medal of Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the absence of Russia’s Vladimir Putin…

In this race for digital impact, English-speaking Africa is doing quite well.

Kenya’s new president William Ruto, the self-proclaimed “hustler-in-chief”, has managed to be the first African in the top 50: He is in 13th position globally. Next in line are South Africa’s Cyril Ramaphosa – currently in bad shape – 18th, Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni 29th, Ghana’s Nana Akufo-Addo 36th, Zambia’s Hakainde Hichilema 39th and Botswana’s Mokgweetsi Masisi 44th.

The only French-speaking sub-Saharan president in the “2022 Twiplomacy” ranking is Senegal’s Macky Sall, who, although he has dropped four places, may be benefiting from his continental responsibilities. North African leaders have only one Twitter representative, Egypt’s Abdel Fattah al-Sissi, 42nd and down 14 places.

Who will make the buzz in 2023? Maybe we’ll have to look at TikTok…

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