Malawi on the road to 2014: Facebook, Smartphones, Internet and White Smoke

Preamble:

As Malawi edges closer towards 2014, it is increasingly becoming clear that the 2014 Elections fever has already gripped Malawians and is creeping into every tier of Malawi society.

In public places, public transport and even in the privacy of their homes, Malawians are keenly following and debating developments – local and international – on matters to do with elections.

And with the white smoke that recently engulfed Nairobi, more and more Malawians are now in introspection mode, pondering options on road to May 2014.

Busy bees:

Busiest are political parties and their followers. They are now talking conclaves, conventions if you will, for those that have yet to pick flag bearers; with the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) going into their “Sistine Chapels” this month.

While campaign rallies, disguised as development rallies, are the order of the day for the ruling Peoples’ Party (PP); opposition parties are not missing a trick. Whistle-stop tours, rallies and what have you, are as we speak, providing entertainment to entertainment starved Malawians.

Enter Facebook:facebook-

This write up focuses on the exchanges happening on social media, especially the Facebook. There are, on all pages to do with Malawi, several hundreds of posts each day, broadcasting the successes – real and perceived – of the current government.

These, of course, are not going unchallenged. They are met with bare-knuckled analyses and on a good or rather on a bad day, one comes across vulgarities that in all honesty, cannot attract potential followers.

May be the odd would-be-follower who revels in vulgarities could be “baptised”, but happily, there are not many of these.

Again, reports are rife that at the State House, special assistants on government payroll, are flooding the social media via blogs, twitter and more so the Facebook. I could mention names here, but this in the interest of civility, is not necessary.

Any Malawian with a Facebook account knows what and who I am talking about.

The United Democratic Front (UDF), DPP and of late, even MCP now have “official” Facebook pages.  And not to be left behind, just like the State House agents, those manning or womaning these pages seem to be working 24/7.

It was these developments, that led me to go on a quest to find answers to the billion dollar question:  is a Facebook campaign in Malawi appropriate, cost effective or worth investing on?

Eureka!

Ladies and gentlemen, the one and only, Wise One from the East is humbled and pleased to report that the answer to this pertinent question now lies within your scroll – if you are on a smartphone or within the reach of your finger if you are using a mouse, on your computer.

Scroll down!

Currently, there are188,900 Facebook Monthly Active Users (MAU) in the Malawi. Malawi is ranked, internationally, on number 132 in the ranking of all countries.

Further, social networking statistics show that Facebook penetration in Malawi is 1.22% compared to the country’s population, and 56.09% in relation to number of Internet users.

On top of this, the total number of Monthly Active Facebook Users (MAU) in Malawi declined by more than -16,160in the last 6 months probably due to the prevailing economic challenges at household level. (Monthly Active Users measures the number of people who have been active on Facebook during a 30-day-period.)

Now, let us digest this.

The Malawi Voters Roll – 2009:

In May 2009, voter statistics in the presidential elections, were as below:

  • Registered Voters: 5,871,819
  • Total Votes (Voter Turnout) 4,595,902 (78.3%)
  • Invalid/Blank Votes:   117,028
  • Total Valid Votes: 4,478,874

The 2009 results at this level are as in Fig 1 below:

Bringing into this equation, the total number of Facebook users as per Socialbakers.com shows the following:

  • Even if the current entire Facebook Community (188,900) votes had been added onto John Tembo’s, Kamuzu Chibambo’s, Stanley Masauli’s, Loveness Gondwe’s,  James Nyondo’s, or Dindi Gowa Nyasulu’s votes; these peoples’ individual votes would not have surpassed the overall winner Bingu wa Mutharika.
  • In the case of the runner up, John Tembo, he would have increased his tally to 1,554,572 and still be very far from Bingu wa Mutharika.

Now get this:

  • Even if, on top of John Tembo’s votes, had been added all the other contestants’ votes plus 188,900 (the Malawi Facebook community of today) he would have still lost the election with a big margin his tally being 1,554,572 + 188,900 = 1,743,472.

White smoke over Malawi in 2014:

What does this tell us? It tells us at least three things, But before we look at these we have to take into account the fact that:

  • the number of voters since 2009 has increased; and
  • that no matter how noisy the Facebook community is, it cannot influence the overall result.

The reality is that political parties and candidates wasting their resources on Facebook have, with respect to the road to 2014, another think coming.

Secondly, the one for whom white smoke will rise in May 2014 in Malawi should take his or her campaign to the districts and not waste resources, human, financial or otherwise, on Facebook agents or on phone/internet bills.

Finally, the only winners of Facebook and Internet wars, institutions over which white smoke is blowing even as we speak, are the mobile network and internet operators who, while making a huge dent in parties campaign arsenals and the State House budget and disfiguring the State House phone bill, are making a huge killing.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Wise One from the East rests.

P/s: For any bilateral discussions, free counselling and advice on the road to 2014, Wise One from the East is available on Facebook!

What irony!

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