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Scramble for young SA voters sparks app standoff

21 January 2014
Samuel Mungadze Senior ICT Writer

THE scramble for the youth vote is pushing political parties to take their campaigns to various digital platforms ahead of the national election.

On Monday‚ the African National Congress (ANC) joined the growing trend of cyber electioneering with the launch of its MyANC app‚ which it said would help it interact with South African youths.

The governing party joins Agang SA and the Democratic Alliance (DA)‚ which already have similar applications to interact with younger voters.

The ANC first successfully piloted the application in the Western Cape before yesterday’s announcement of its countrywide availability. The MyANC Western Cape Mxit app has more than 400‚000 subscribers.

According to the ANC‚ a large portion of the Western Cape subscribers were in the age group 17-25.

The DA has 200‚000 subscribers nationally while Agang has 50‚000. Other political parties are active on other platforms‚ including the popular social networking websites Facebook and Twitter.

ANC spokesperson Jackson Mthembu said through the introduction of the app the party was showcasing its strong commitment to connect with the South African youth. "The MyANC WC Mxit application has proven to be highly successful and we are pleased to offer its benefits to the rest of the country .”

A study on SA Social Media Landscape 2014‚ released in October by World Wide Worx and Fuseware‚ gave a breakdown of users on these platforms across the country. It showed that Facebook had 9.4-million active users in SA‚ up from 6.8-million users in the year before.

Mxit‚ the previous market leader‚ has remained stable at a little more than 6-million users as it felt the effects of competing instant messaging services‚ including WhatsApp and 2Go‚ as well as from the growth of social networking on phones.

Twitter saw the highest percentage growth among the major social networks‚ from 2.4-million to 5.5-million‚ showing a 129% growth in 12 months.

Eldrid Jordaan‚ advisory board member at Mxit‚ said information and communication technology was going to play a major role in the forthcoming election. "I think technology is crucial‚ the youths are starting to engage with political parties.

"The apps are a phenomenal tool to start engaging with them. The MyANC has been a success in Western Cape‚ which is why they launched it nationally.”

The need to attract youthful voters has seen South Africa political parties slugging it out on different digital platforms in recent months.

In the earlier part of last year‚ Julius Malema’s Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) was the fastest-growing party in the country. It had the highest number of Facebook likes (46‚269) and its Twitter page‚ which was three months old in September‚ had 23‚578 followers.

But the EFF appears to have slipped to the second-fastest growing party after the Democratic Alliance. From September to November‚ 11‚365 new people liked the DA’s Facebook page‚ taking the total number of likes from 30‚878 to 42‚243‚ a growth rate of 36.81%. EFF’s page grew at a rate of 22.69%. It had 10‚500 new likes over the period.

Despite the DA’s page growth at a faster rate than that of the EFF‚ Mr Malema’s party is still the most popular political party on Facebook‚ with more than 60‚000 likes. Facebook likes and Twitter followers for the Congress of the People and Inkatha Freedom Party were too few to be compared with other parties.

Mxit CEO Francois Swart said the new platforms would be important in the political conversation across South Africa in an election year. © BDlive 2013

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