What languages are used in top social media in Kenya and South Africa?

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What languages are used in top social media in Kenya and South Africa?

Hello! Thanks for your question about the languages used in top social media in Kenya and South Africa. The short answer is that in South Africa, English home speakers is the most dominant across the top social media platform (Facebook, WhatsApp, YouTube, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram), with users representing over 60% across the major platform, followed by the Afrikaans home speakers with about 39% users. Details is attached in this spreadsheet. In Kenya, Swahili speakers ranked number one among Facebook users while Twitter users have the highest number of English speakers. Please find below a deeper dive into the research.


To respond to your request, I first focused on obtaining information on the languages spoken by each country. I looked at government database, reports and articles to find this data. Next, I researched the top social media platforms in each country and demography of the users. I searched to find any existing data on languages used in for each social media platform. Unfortunately, no directly compiled list exist. However, after an extensive search, I found other information from reliable sources which to come up with my finding.


According to report, South Africa has eleven official languages. isiZulu is the most common home language spoken by 22.7% of the population. English ranks fourth with 4.8 million home speakers representing 9.6% of the population. In contrast, the larger community which is mostly multilingual, use English in communicating socially, commercially and officially.

Swahili is the national language in Kenya while English is the official language. There is also about forty-two indigenous languages spoken in Kenya majorly in the rural areas. Then, there is the “sheng”, an unconventional slang that contains a blend of Swahili and English, commonly spoken in Kenya’s capital, most especially among the urban youths. (Kenya information). Kenya is multilingual, and it is mostly common for people in the cities to speak more than one language.


According to statistics from consumer barometer, 63% of the South African population are internet users. Another report breaks down the percentage of internet users by the languages spoken. If we assume the internet users are also the social media users, it is therefore safe to apply the same proportion to the number of social media users.

Below is the of the percentage of South Africa internet users and by extension, its social media users, broken down by language spoken.

English:     65.33%
Afrikaans   39.00%
isiZulu:        11.62%
isiXhosa:    7.22%
Setswana:   6.42%
Sesotho:     6.36%
Sepedi      5.58%
Xitsonga:     2.17%
Tshivenda:   1.95%
SiSwati       1.66%
isiNdebele   1.19%

I have attached in this spreadsheet the languages used in Facebook, WhatsApp, YouTube, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram in South Africa alongside their number of users.

An article from LinkedIn reported that Kenya has approximately 22 million Internet users, a rise of 4% in the last two years.

Nearly a 100% of the Kenyan population speaks Swahili. In 2009, Facebook officially launched a Swahili version to address its large users that speak Swahili. Swahili ranks third behind Arabic and English as the most spoken language in Africa.

Kenya came 4th in Africa as the most active Twitter users in 2015 with about 76 million geolocated tweets. Furthermore, about 77% of those tweets from Africa were in English. Arabic was second at 7% followed by French at 4%.

About 60% of social media users are youth between the ages 20 years to 44 years. English is the primary language of instruction taught in post-primary schools. Therefore, social media platforms such as WhatsApp, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube will be predominately English speakers.


To wrap up, South Africa English speakers is ranked first with 65% in social media users followed by Afrikaans with 39% users. In Kenya, Swahili speakers are rated number one among Facebook users while Twitter users have the highest number of English speakers. Finally, there are as many English speakers as there are in Swahili that uses the top social media platform in Kenya.
I hope this information is helpful to you!

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