In 2015 Africans used Twitter to celebrate their cultures, air their grievances or just share a good joke
The best hashtags include #IfAfricaWasABar, #147NotJustANumber and #MugabeFalls
2016 off to a viral start with #TheYearWeMispronounceBack
IF you’ve ever been on the receiving end of trolling tweets, you’ll know Twitter can be a cruel place. But the social network also provides a platform for disparate voices, helping to amplify them and create online communities. Africans on Twitter have long used 140 characters to celebrate their cultures, air their grievances or just share a good joke and it seems record numbers of people joined in.
From #IfAfricaWasABar to #MugabeFalls, here are the very African hashtags of 2015.
Twitter got creative after a video of Zimbabwe’s then 90-year-old president, Robert Mugabe, falling down stairs started making the rounds in early February.
Although the president’s security detail apparently attempted to suppress images of the incident by forcing photographers at the scene to delete it, pictures spread through the Twitter-sphere and the image was soon turned into memes and shared using the hashtag #MugabeFalls.
In no time at all the nonagenarian was riding waves, in a Beyoncé music video, on Dancing with the Stars and running away from a hippo.
From humor to tragedy. On 2 April Kenya witnessed its deadliest terror attack since 1998 in April when 148 students and staff at Garissa University College were killed in an Al-Shabaab attack. Wanting to humanise the victims and make sure they were remembered, Kenyan activist Ory Okolloh started the hashtag #147notjustanumber (referring to the original death toll) on Twitter.
Other people quickly joined in sharing their grief and details about the murdered students, aged 19 to 23.
Africa is not on a country and by June, Africans on Twitter were fed up of a media narrative many felt suggested it was.
The hashtag #TheAfricaTheMediaNeverShowsYou proved to be popular and instead of the usual images of death, destruction and disease, Africans could show off their food, flora, fauna and cultures.
On 30 June the hashtag #BeingFemaleInNigeria carried all the frustration young Nigerian women felt about the everyday sexism that they experienced.
After a reading of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s essay ‘We Should All Be Feminists’ in a small book club in the nation’s capital Abuja, the idea was born.
The first tweet sent by book club founder Florence Warmate said: “#Beingfemaleinnigeria someone asked me why you want to get a PhD? You won’t get a husband”.
Other people joined in and the tag was trending in Nigeria by the afternoon.
Some Twitter users highlighted the daily sexism that they face while others discussed their experiences of patriarchy in Nigeria.
The hashtag #IfAfricaWasABar started trending after a simple question was posted to Twitter by writer Siyanda Mohutsiwa. It asked: “If Africa was a bar, what would your country be drinking/doing?”
Soon, people across the continent - and across the world - started sharing their astute and often humorous analogies of the geopolitics of the continent.
When asked what inspired the question, Mohutsiwa explained on Twitter, “I thought it would be a fun way for Africans to laugh at themselves and each other by putting geopolitics in a comedic light.”
The summer is often the “silly season” in news and that seems true too on Twitter. #NigeriansAtHogwarts suggested what the school of witchcraft and wizardry would look like with a Nigerian student population.
Nigerian graduate student in London Wale Lawal started the craze with this tweet: “J.K. Rowling didn’t say it but there are Nigerian foreign students at Hogwarts. As a Nigerian, you learn that your patronus is your mum.” Much hilarity ensued.
#FeesMustFall sobered up the Twitter conversations in October.
The hashtag was a reaction to the South African government’s planned increase in university tuition fees - a hike of up to 11.5%. The protests began University of Witwatersrand and spread around the country as other university students joined in.
In the midst of their protests, students took to social media to voice their frustration and to rally supporters.
In his first few weeks in office, president John Magufuli announced big changes to how federal money was to be spent in Tanzania - from canceling Independence Day celebrations to limiting foreign travel.
Unsurprisingly, the internet made light of the frugal new president with the hashtag #WhatWouldMagufuliDo? People on the social network created memes inspired by Magufuli’s thriftiness, sharing ways others could possibly save money.
2015 was a stellar year for African hashtags and the trend looks set to continue in 2016. The new year has only just started but another tweet from South Africa has already gone viral.
The hashtag #TheYearWeMispronounceBack was started on New Year’s Eve with the tweet “2016 is the year for acting like you don’t know how to pronounce white peoples names”.
It has since been retweeted over 8,000 times, as other black South Africans share their exasperation at their names being mispronounced.
Get your gifs, puns and pictures ready, with no shortage of news stories and ingenuity, 2016 looks set to be another busy year on Twitter.