East Africa’s digital mothers

Posted on August 24, 2015 12:02 am

I was stuck in traffic centipede listening to Wiz Khalifa’s We Dem Boyz when I saw a billboard claiming that more than 45% mums in East Africa have ditched traditional channels like radio, newspapers, television, and magazine in favour of the Internet, according to a recent survey conducted by an online parenting publication.The electronic billboard mounted in the middle of the city, displayed research that looked at 5,000 mothers – 1000 each in Uganda, Kenya,Tanzania and 500 each in Burundi and Rwanda and discovered that all increased their Internet use once they became mothers.That’s good news for marketers in East African region trying to sell their products as it seems these mothers are constantly on their smartphones checking email, visiting parenting sites, and chatting with other on social media. About 24 per cent spend at least one hour daily on the Net while a massive 8 per cent spend more than six hours.Gone, it seems, are the days when East African mums in need of expert parenting advice would turn to their own mothers, other family member or friend. Instead, 28 per cent of Ugandan mothers head straight to a parenting website.Others use a search engine while another group prefer Facebook. Parenting websites are also topped the poll with Kenyan and Tanzanian mothers, with more than a third of mums choosing them for support.

A female friend working with a local television station in Uganda who I sought her views, says she prefers to search for advice and useful information from the Internet as the older generation’s suggestions are rarely relevant to today’s world.She is also consults a teacher, family coach at a Kampala club and as a mother of two, says that while there is a wealth of information in cyberspace, she still prefers to consult other mothers, pointing out that they usually have first-hand knowledge. This is particularly useful in terms of dealing with special children, such as those with autism. “Groups that form on the social networks allow mothers to share a great deal of interesting information. It’s not just about posting cute pictures of newly born babies.The Television journalist find social media very helpful in that it provides information in real time. I think the social media play a major role in how children are raised these days,” she added. Proof of the Ugandans love for social media was given when the survey asked mothers what they would do if they had an extra hour a day. While many did respond they’d spent it with their families, 36 per cent indicated they would be online considerably higher than their Kenyan and Tanzanian mums at 7 and 3 per cent respectively.Unsurprisingly,Facebook is the dominant social networking platform in terms of users in East Africa with 78 per cent of mums interviewed admitting the are on Facebook though a striking number of users are now diversifying to such platforms as Twitter and Google Plus.

“For East Africans, WhatsApp is also the dominant player in the online message space with 65 per cent of mums interviewed now users, followed by Viber with 19 per cent,” said one of the researchers when I sought to purchase a copy of the research.He did points out that Kenyan mums prefer to chat with other mums on the Internet instead of face-to-face. A quarter of Kenyan mothers say they log in to Facebook groups and web boards several times daily to chat with other mums, but 72 per cent never meet their network friends in real life.An IT expert who works with a non governmental organisation in Arusha and who recently delivered a baby boy finds the WhatsApp group the most convenient channel for working mums with little time on their hands.”New technology makes it easier for the Tanzanian mum to surf the web on the go, chat with other mums via social media sites, get parenting advice and shop. That means she’s active online throughout her waking hours,” agrees the mother married for five years now. Another female friend based in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania says she doesn’t bother with department stores anymore as she can find everything she wants online and at a cheaper price. “From diapers to bicycles, I find information then shop online. And today I don’t even need to do a lot of research to find the best deals. The other mothers on the social networks tell me,” she says.

Contador Harrison