Africa’s mobile users stick with WhatsApp

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Anna Collard, MD of KnowBe4 Africa.
Anna Collard, MD of KnowBe4 Africa.

Although Africa’s mobile users are growing more and more concerned about mobile risks and identity theft, they are still using their favourite messaging platforms and applications.

This was revealed by a poll carried out by KnowBe4 that surveyed over 700 smartphone users in Nigeria, Mauritius, Egypt, SA, Kenya, Ghana, Morocco and Botswana.

The KnowBe4 Mobile Users in Africa report gauged the opinions of Africa’s mobile users on the recent decision by WhatsApp to update their terms and conditions and share metadata with the rest of the Facebook group of companies.

The survey found that not only did the majority of the respondents across Africa intend to continue using WhatsApp but also that their favourite alternative to WhatsApp was Facebook Messenger.

The recent WhatsApp privacy policy has spurred public discussions which resulted in more consumer awareness about their privacy rights as well as brought more visibility to alternative tools such as Signal, Telegram, and others, says Anna Collard, SVP Content Strategy & Evangelist Africa at KnowBe4.

"Facebook Messenger, which was listed as the top alternative chat app, collects much more data than WhatsApp."

Anna Collard, KnowBe4 Africa.

“It is interesting to see that while most mobile users are concerned about their online privacy, Facebook Messenger, which was listed as the top alternative chat app, collects much more data than WhatsApp. This indicates that there may be a lack of understanding about the actual risks and implications of the new policy.”

The imminent WhatsApp privacy policy update did highlight some changes though, with nearly a quarter (24%) of respondents saying they were no longer allowed to use WhatsApp for work and 62% claiming they were ‘somewhat concerned’ or ‘very concerned’ about the new privacy policy.

Only 7.7% of respondents said they had, or planned to, cancel their WhatsApp accounts, with this number rising to 15% among South Africans respondents.

For the majority, convenience of the platform outweighed concerns about privacy risks; with over half saying they had concerns but would continue using WhatsApp, even though they may have signed up to use other messaging tools.

Just over a quarter of respondents had heard about the planned privacy terms changes but did not understand what the risks were.

For those also using alternative messaging tools, Facebook Messenger emerged on top, with more than 80% electing to use this platform too. Some 56% also used Telegram, 12% Signal, and 10% or less used Discord, Threema or alternative messaging platforms.

Collard says what is interesting, is that compared with the 2019 KnowBe4 African Report, respondents were even more worried about cyber crime. In 2019, 37.86% were worried, and in 2020, the number had risen by 10% to 47.61%.

Unfortunately, there is limited awareness of how to avoid risk, and the implications of data privacy terms and conditions. “This indicates a need for further education and awareness initiatives to enlighten the public about risks on social media and messaging platforms,” says Collard.

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