South Africa’s internet landscape thrives and prospers

I know, I know, my last blog post dates back quite a while. And yes, I want to get more active again. So let’s start with a new blog post about interesting statistics regarding the internet usage in South Africa.

A couple of days ago I stumbled upon a website called which shows insights for the sub-saharan continent (date from 2010/11)

Here are the most interesting findings (click on the images to enlarge):

  • 48 % of all citizens in South Africa ever used the internet (52 % of male population, 44 % of female population)

    Internet Users in South Africa

  • Especially young people use the internet. The older a South African is, the smaller the chance that he ever used the internet. Only 17 % of South Africans older than 55 years have ever used the internet whereas the percentage for South Africans between 16 to 24 years amounts to 67 %.

    Internet Usage South Africa by Age

  • 91 % of all South Africans own a mobile phone. The website doesn’t tell how many users access the internet via computer and how many via mobile phone but recently I have read a study from World Wide Worx stating that mobile pushes internet to the masses and “that almost 8-million South Africans sometimes or regularly access the Internet on their phones”, while 6 million use a computer, laptop, or tablet.
  • The following chart shows what people use the internet for.

    Internet in South Africa used for

    Most South Africans use the web to read news or for entertainment purposes. They also do research for work and school or use the web to search for a new job. Others seek for information with regard to sports, religion, health, arts & culture, politics and so on. But one thing is missing. According to this diagram, apparently nobody uses the internet to compare prices and to purchase products or services online (read here what holds South African back from buying online). I assume that this intended purpose was just missing in the survey as there are only a few e-commerce players in South Africa (,,, on the market. Yes, the e-commerce industry is growing in leaps and bounds but compared to the European, Asian and American market there is still a lot to catch up in South Africa.

  • Also interesting for online marketers are the barriers for non-users.

    Barriers for Internet Usage in South Africa

    Most respondents (49 %) don’t use the internet because of limited connection/access possibilities and because of the high costs (44 %). There is still a lot of potential and room for improvement for area-wide, better, faster and cheaper internet access across South Africa. 45 % said they don’t use the internet because of a lack of interest and/or time. And 44 % don’t have the knowledge to do so. Potential internet users must be trained to work with a computer and to surf the web. It is also important to demonstrate non-users what advantages the internet offers and how it can help people to find and share relevant information and to purchase (cheaper) products online. 34 % indicated the lack of relevant content or inappropriate content as a barrier for internet usage. And yes, that’s true. Especially in South Africa there are a lot of subjects and niches which are not yet covered on the internet.

One thing is for sure: The internet market in South Africa is growing. This provides a lot of opportunities not only for users but also for companies and marketers who want to sell products or services via the internet and discover the web as an important and worthwhile marketing channel.

According to Arthur Goldstuck from World Wide Worx, the South African Internet user base grew 25% in 2011 to 8.5 million user at the end of 2011. The study also forecasts that this strong growth would continue during 2012, and the Internet user base would pass the 10-million mark by the end of the year.

“These findings are a powerful signal that the demand for online content in South Africa is likely to explode in the coming years,” says Justin Zehmke, Executive Producer of howzit MSN. “The spotlight will not only be on online media, but also on social networking and electronic services in general. As the market grows and matures, we are likely to see a diversification in the landscape that will create space for successful niche media, a greater choice in information sources and a maturation of online services.”

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4 Responses to South Africa’s internet landscape thrives and prospers
  1. Nils
    August 12, 2012 | 1:02 pm

    Hi Klaus,

    Thanks for the pingback.
    Think you got the post you linked to a little wrong though. It’s not a representation what South African Internet users do online but rather reasons what’s holding South Africans back to shop online.

    I find generally interesting that the Internet penetration in South Africa is rather low compared to countries like Nigeria and Kenya. Is that really only high costs and limited accessibility or maybe also general missing curiosity?

    • Klaus
      August 12, 2012 | 6:54 pm

      Hey Nils,

      Thanks for your comment. I did get the intention of your post but the anchor text in my article was a little bit misleading. I changed it to make clear what readers can expect from your article.

      Yes, the low internet usage in RSA is an interesting and estonishing fact. The fourth graph (“Non-User Barriers to Internet Usage”) states that 45 % don’t use the internet due to a lack of interest/time. So I would agree that the missing curiosity is definitely an important reason for the low penetration. And I think that many potential users don’t really know what the internet can be used for and what advantages it offers apart from E-Mail, Online Banking & Co.

  2. Lesley Junghans
    August 15, 2012 | 7:59 am

    Hurrah, that’s what I was exploring for, what a information! existing here at this webpage, thanks admin of this website.

  3. Eric
    March 19, 2013 | 6:58 am

    Very interesting facts… what i have gathered from your report is that more people in South Africa have easy access to the internet through their smart phones than computers which i find very interesting because i am mobile marketing consultant. thanks for the info!