Sports, climate change and the conflict in Ethiopia dominated Twitter conversation about Africa between September and November

These topics were among the most prominent conversation starters on Twitter in September, October, and November 2021. We analysed the platform for three months to determine what was trending, which topics created a buzz and what was said whenever Africa was mentioned.

Sport led conversations in 16 countries, with soccer commanding the most attention due to the Fifa World Cup 2022 qualifiers,  turning #WCQ2022 into the most used hashtag in the three months that inform our analysis. #WCQ2022 trended in Tunisia, Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Equatorial Guinea. Zambia, Angola and Madagascar. #Cricket trended in Seychelles, Malawi and Lesotho, while #T20WorldCup led conversations in Namibia and South Africa. Namibia and South Africa are the only African countries participating in the competition. The popularity of sport-related hashtags is consistent with the reports we published in June and July - Africa is passionate about sport.

Justice, democracy and peace were the common thread that inspired leading hashtags in Ethiopia, eSwatini and Libya. The Tigray region in Ethiopia erupted into conflict in November 2020 when Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) and the Ethiopian government first picked up arms. Tigray inspired trending hashtags in 10 countries. #StopTigrayFamine dominated conversations in Ethiopia and Kenya. #UnityforEthiopia trended in Congo and Djibouti; followed by #StopTurkeyDroneSale, #StopBombingTigray, #TPLFoolingSudan, #TPLFTerroristGroup, #AtrocitiesByTPLF, and #TigrayCantWait in Morocco, Eritrea,  Sudan,Mali, Liberia and Niger.

In Libya and eSwatini, peace joined the conversation using #EvacuateRefugeesFromLibya, to bring attention to the plight of Eritrean asylum seekers in Libya, and #EswatiniProtests, about the ongoing pro-democracy protests in eSwatini.

Climate-related hashtags trended in three countries. Climate change was the talk of the world at the COP26 conference held in Glasgow in October and November - leading to #COP26 trending in Sierra Leone and Mozambique, while #SaveCongoRainforest trended in the DRC. Interestingly, the most liked #COP26 tweet wasn’t about Climate. It was about soccer and published by President Hakainde Hichelema to congratulate Zambian soccer player Fashion Sakala Junior on scoring a hat trick for the Glasgow Rangers that COP26 kicked off. It had 12844 likes.

Job-related conversations trended as #Somalijobs and #Newjobs trended in Somalia and Tanzania. The fourth most popular topic is music, with #Music and #GhanaMusic dominating conversations in Nigeria and Ghana - perhaps a sign that the holiday and party season has started?

We also looked at the Top 10 most liked tweets to get a sense of conversations that generated the most interest about Africa and any of its countries. The new Covid variant, Omicron, caused a stir, featuring in three out of then most-liked tweets. Omicron dominated conversations about the latest strain of COVID-19 that was first identified in Botswana and sequenced by scientists in South Africa. While news about the variant was quickly followed by travel bans and restrictions targeting Southern African countries, health authorities in the Netherlands revealed that the variant was detected before South African scientists detected it. The most liked tweet, by @JoshuaPotash, stated: “If you're seeing that Omicron is from South Africa, this might help.” It was a comment on a tweet praising South Africa’s world-class sequencing technology and had more than 225k likes. It shows how Twitter can be used to call out stereotypical or harmful narratives.

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And what did we learn this quarter? If want to start a conversation that trends across Africa’s Twitterverse: share spicy opinions about sports, assume your position on Tigray and talk about climate.