What does the Ghana Prison Service have in common with the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) in Kenya? Both organisations advertised job opportunities, turning “Prison Service” and “IEBC” into the most searched words on Google in the respective countries.
Kenya is among the six African nations going to the polls in 2022 to elect a president. The election has already turned into a hotly contested race, with the current deputy president William Ruto breaking away from the ruling Jubilee Alliance to join the United Democratic Alliance. He’ll face off with Raila Odinga, who’ll be running for the fifth time. But last month, what Kenyans wanted to know about the elections as if they could work at IEBC.
Meanwhile, Zambians voted for a new president, Hakainde Hichilema, on 12 August, turning “elections” into a trending search. In other politics, Uganda flipped the script on the narrative about refugees in Africa. The country offered to host Afghan refugees after the Taliban ousted the government. The first group of 41 Afghans arrived on 25 August, and Ugandans responded by asking Google for more news on “Afghan refugees”. However, things were not so hopeful in Niger, where “attack” trended after 37 people were killed by suspected militias.
We’ve been reporting Google Trends since June, and it was clear from the onset that unemployment is a big issue around Africa. August wasn’t the exception as “jobs” once against led searches in 12 countries, including in Tunisia which has a 17.8% unemployment rate. Interestingly, “jobs” didn’t lead searches in South Africa, Namibia and Nigeria, which are the top three countries with the highest unemployment rates globally.
“Standard Bank” led Goggle searches in Namibia – but only because people use the search engine to access the bank’s online portal. “Curfew” led searches in South Africa, which is still under COVID-19 lockdown and is currently on level 3 lockdown. The restrictions on movement include a national curfew between 10 pm and 4 am. “Section 492” led searches in Nigeria.
It was triggered by a series of tweets stating, “If you send a girl cash for transport to come over and she decides not to visit you and fails to refund you that money, you can refer to Section 492(i) of the Criminal Codification Act and file a case of theft under false pretence, and she can be jailed for up to 7 yrs, report.” We asked Google to tell us more about “Section 492 Nigerian law”. The law doesn’t exist. Additionally, the tweet and the Google searches it inspired are a fluke that first made rounds in South Africa in September 2020 after the exact message circulated widely on Facebook from what appears to be a doctored profile of the South African Police Service.
Covid-related searches featured in six countries. “Vaccination” led searches in Madagascar, where less than 2% of the population has been vaccinated, and Togo, where 90% of health care workers have been inoculated. “Covid-19 testing” trended in Benin and Cape Verde, while Mauritanians wanted to know about “Coronavirus”.
Money, how to spend it and increase it, inspired searches in eight countries. Sports betting related searches trended in Chad, Mali, Lesotho, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Gambia. “Prices” led searches in Tanzania, Morocco, and Mauritius. Tanzanians wanted to spend on Samsung Galaxy, iPhone 7-plus, and Bitcoin. Moroccans looked at car prices while Mauritians looked for a combination made for social media - smartphone (Samsung Galaxy) and Burger King. When Mauritians went for savoury, Egyptians tantalised their sweet tooth with doughnuts, turning “Krispy Kreme” into the leading search after the U.S chain opened its first store in Cairo.