Social Media and Politics in Africa

Democracy, Censorship and Security

Edited by Maggie Dwyer and Thomas Molony


Demonstrates how social media is transforming political engagement in Africa using unique case studies from across the region.

The smartphone and social media have transformed Africa, allowing people across the continent to share ideas, organise, and participate in politics like never before. While both activists and governments alike have turned to social media as a new form of political mobilization, some African states have increasingly sought to clamp down on the technology, introducing restrictive laws or shutting down networks altogether.

Drawing on over a dozen new empirical case studies – from Kenya to Somalia, South Africa to Tanzania – this collection explores how rapidly growing social media use is reshaping political engagement in Africa. But while social media has often been hailed as a liberating tool, the book demonstrates how it has often served to reinforce existing power dynamics, rather than challenge them.

Featuring experts from a range of disciplines from across the continent, this collection is the first comprehensive overview of social media and politics in Africa. By examining the historical, political, and social context in which these media platforms are used, the book reveals the profound effects of cyber-activism, cyber-crime, state policing and surveillance on political participation.

Author Bio

Maggie Dwyer is a Lecturer at the Centre of African Studies, University of Edinburgh. She also serves as an associate editor at the Journal of Modern African Studies. Her previous works include Soldiers in Revolt: Army Mutinies in Africa (2017).

Thomas Molony is Director of the Centre of African Studies, University of Edinburgh. He has previously served as an international election observer for the European Union Election Observation Missions in Kenya, Tanzania and Malawi, as well as serving as a parliamentary adviser on ICT in developing countries. His previous works include Nyerere: The Early Years (2014).

Table of Contents

  • 1. Mapping the Study of Politics and Social Media Use in Africa - Maggie Dwyer & Thomas Molony
  • 2. ‘Igu sawir gone too far’? Social media and state reconstruction in Somalia - Peter Chonka
  • 3. ‘We are not just voters, we are citizens’: Social Media, the #ThisFlag Campaign, and Insurgent Citizenship in Zimbabwe - George Karekwaivanane & Admire Mare
  • 4. Social Media and Protest Movements in South Africa: #FeesMustFall and #ZumaMustFall - Tanja Bosch
  • 5. Enemy Collaborators: Social imaginaries, global frictions, and a gay rights music video in Kenya - Brian Ekdale
  • 6. Between Excitement and Scepticism: The Role of WhatsApp in Sierra Leone’s 2018 Elections - Maggie Dwyer, Jamie Hitchen, & Thomas Molony
  • 7. Chaos and Comedy: Social Media, Activism, and Democracy in Senegal - Emily Riley
  • 8. Social Media and Elections in Nigeria: Digital Influence on Election Observation, Campaigns, and Administration - Nkwachukwu Orji
  • 9. From FM radio stations to Internet 2.0 overnight: information, participation and social media in post-failed coup Burundi - Jean-Benoît Falisse & Hugues Nkengurutse
  • 10. Cybercrime and the policing of politics in Tanzania - Charlotte Cross
  • 11. A familiar refrain: Political discourse and Facebook use in Mombasa, Kenya - Stephanie Diepeveen
  • 12. Inside the #OperationUsalamaWatch echo chamber: Twitter as site of disruption or elite conversation? - Alisha Patel
  • 13. From Whispers to the Assemblage: Surveillance in Post-Independence East Africa - Denis Galava
  • Postscript: Research Trajectories in African Digital Spheres - Bruce Mutsvairo & Kate Wright


‘Methodologically innovative, rich in data and analytically profound. This is one of the most important studies of social media in Africa in recent times.’
Dr George Ogola, Associate Professor of Journalism, University of Central Lancashire

‘Brilliant, rich and much-needed! Dwyer and Molony have done a fantastic job of bringing social media to the core of the present, and future, of African politics.’
Dr Toussaint Nothias, Post-doctoral Research Fellow, Stanford Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society’

‘Moving beyond technological utopianism, this exciting edited collection provides much-needed nuanced analysis of the way in which social media both challenge and reproduce power relations.’
Dr Wendy Willems, Associate Professor, Department of Media and Communications, London School of Economics and Political Science


Publication Date: 15 July 2019
312 pages

Product ISBNs: Paperback: 9781786994974
Hardback: 9781786994981
eBook ePub: 9781786995001
eBook PDF: 9781786994998
eBook Kindle: 9781786995018

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