Perhaps African Leaders Should Avoid Facebook

A new statistical analysis indicates that the more Facebook fans an African politician has, the more likely they are to be forced from power.

Statistics can be used to prove anything. In the realm of social media, for instance, they can even be used to predict the career longevity of African leaders. While correlation is not necessarily causation, it seems that the more Facebook friends an African politician has… the more likely they are to be thrown out of office.

African internet analysis site Oafrica recently published a data set of the Facebook presences of different African presidents, prime ministers and rulers. It revealed interesting data nuggets: Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan gained more than 250,000 online ‘likes’ for his official page in five months, while President Fradique De Menezes of far-off Sao Tome & Principe only had a mere 24 Facebook fans for his community page as of December 2010. In the following months, only two more Facebook users liked de Menezes’ page.

But then Ethan Zuckerman, a researcher at Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society, discovered that having more followers on Facebook was directly proportional to regime instability:

Here are the top leaders, in terms of followers, as of December 2010:

341,759 – Goodluck Jonathan, Nigeria
232,424 – Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, Tunisia
61,510 – Mwai Kibaki, Kenya
59,744 – King Mohamed VI, Morocco
57,072 – Morgan Tsvangirai, Zimbabwe (Prime Minister to Robert Mugabe)
21,306 – Jakaya Kikwete, Tanzania
15,723 – Hosni Mubarak, Egypt
15,377 – Laurent Gbagbo, Ivory Coast
14,714 – Jacob Zuma, South Africa
12,658 – Abdelaziz Bouteflika, Algeria

In that top ten, we’ve got two leaders who’ve been forced out of power (Ben Ali, Mubarak), one struggling to retain power after losing an election (Gbagbo), one facing protests like the ones that toppled his neighbor (Bouteflika) and one in danger of arrest from opponents within his coalition government (Tsvangirai.) In other words, there doesn’t seem to be a strong correlation between Facebook friends and staying power of a regime.

Of course, Africa is in a uniquely unstable geopolitical position right now. Egypt and the Maghrebi states have been turned upside-down as a result of the 2011 Arab revolutions. Meanwhile, the Ivory Coast is still suffering from an ongoing political crisis that puts Gbagbo’s government in serious jeopardy.

Regardless of the correlation/causality debate, 50% of the politicians on Oafrica’s list have either been thrown out of power or have dealt with career-threatening crises in the past four months. While it may not compare with Anne Hathaway’s mysterious power over Warren Buffet, it is still quite impressive.


1 comment

  • Eyebeekay

    Hmm. Like the bible you can (mis/)_use statistics to (dis/)_prove ANYTHING!. depends on which side of the fence you are hanging from.!

    Seriously, it is only an unpopular regime that needs to prove its popularity through FACEBOOK.

    Just like having 5000 'friends' on facebook does not depict true friendship..

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